Chloe Burris ’18
University of North Carolina School of Medicine
Wheaton Major in Anthropology
Currently lives in Raleigh, NC
"My liberal arts experience at Wheaton taught me how to channel curiosity into purposeful action for the glory of God and good of others."
When Chloe Burris ’18 first entered Wheaton College, she thought she’d major in Biology like many other pre-med undergraduate students do.
Anthropology Professor Dr. Brian Howell’s “Introduction to Anthropology” class changed her mind.
“We learned to ask questions, how to observe, write, and apply theory that may lead to a completely different conclusion or area of study than the original question intended, and to acknowledge and examine our own biases as student observers instead of trying to erase them,” Burris says. “It was a completely new way of learning about the world around me, and I was instantly intrigued.”
After completing the course, she switched her major to Anthropology.
Last summer on a trip to Puerto Rico with her medical colleagues, Burris had the opportunity to put her anthropological knowledge to direct use. Tasked to create interview questions for the residents of rural communities that the team hoped to connect with, Burris brought to bear her skills with qualitative research.
“From my experience with anthropology, I had learned a thematic analysis of interview transcripts would be more appropriate [than a quantitative method] and, even with a relatively small sample size, could provide a wealth of information,” she says.
After the trip, Burris transcribed the interviews and set to work drawing out similarities and contrasts between the interviewees. From there, she was able to identify several key areas that were useful for future communication or potentially more in-depth studies.
Burris has also found that her Wheaton experience outside the classroom helped prepared her for future vocation. While at the College, Burris served as a Resident Assistant and later as an Assistant Resident Director. Her experiences in Smith Traber Hall planning community-building events or mentoring other students helped Burris see the importance of empathy, hospitality, and simply being present—skills that she uses now in her work as a medical student.
“Walking into a room as an RA, you never know what the exact situation will be,” Burris says. “I learned to pray for humility to listen, eyes to see, and wisdom to speak with grace before entering a room, and this is something I still practice before walking in to meet a patient.”
Now as Burris enters her third year of medical school, she is increasingly seeing the ways that her liberal arts experience at Wheaton equipped her for her future as a doctor.
“I have learned that the work of a physician is just as much about listening, communicating, and understanding context as it is memorizing, diagnosing, and treating,” she says. “My liberal arts experience at Wheaton taught me how to channel curiosity into purposeful action for the glory of God and good of others.”—Emily Bratcher