For Melisa Quiroga-Herrera, ’18, her double major in leadership studies and biology and her minor in healthcare studies weave together her interests in medicine and social activism.
“Many times we view science as the solution for the health issues we face, but without leadership, we would not have the implementation needed to resolve public health problems,” explained Quiroga-Herrera, who hopes to take a gap year between college and graduate school to work with a program that addresses infectious diseases in Latin America.
The new Science Leadership Scholars Program is designed for students, who, like Quiroga-Herrera, want to apply their background in leadership studies to their scientific pursuits. The co-curricular program is a collaborative effort from the Jepson School of Leadership Studies and the School of Arts and Sciences.
“So many of today’s challenges require graduates who can combine leadership expertise with a strong background in the sciences. We thought it was only appropriate that the Jepson School and the University of Richmond should develop a program to help students get out in front of these challenges,” said Dr. Terry Price, senior associate dean for academic affairs at the Jepson School.
The program was unfolded during the fall 2015 semester, and the students met for the first time on January 28, in conjunction with the Jepson Leadership Forum presentation by James Hamblin. Students participated in a welcome reception and dinner with Hamblin and met with the program advisor, Jepson School assistant professor Dr. Jessica Flanigan.
“The skills we emphasize in the Jepson School, such as critical thinking and ethical reasoning are a perfect complement to the skills that students develop by majoring or minoring in the sciences,” said Flanigan. “I hope that students develop their ability to see the implications of scientific research beyond the lab and to think seriously about the social and ethical dimensions of science.”
As the program continues to develop, students will participate in lectures and field trips and will conduct research to fuse their work in the sciences with leadership.
Harper Robinson, ’18, a biology major and leadership studies minor who plans to pursue a career as either a pediatric specialist or surgeon, was interested in the program as a way to integrate her coursework and to connect with a community of students with similar interests and plans.
“In the healthcare field, understanding leadership, rather than biology or chemistry alone, allows for positive interactions between doctors and patients, as well as among doctors. Studying leadership does not solely mean learning to be a leader but also entails learning how to understand people and their actions and decisions in general. The Science Leadership Scholars Program and Jepson will give me the skills necessary to thrive as a medical professional,” said Robinson.
Leadership studies has been increasingly emphasized in not only the medical community but also the scientific and public health communities; Flanigan notes examples of new leadership development courses for physicians at Harvard Medical School and a recent article in the science journal Nature that stressed the importance of understanding leadership.
“Scientists, physicians, and health workers make ethical decisions and take on leadership roles even if they have never taken a course in leadership or ethics,” said Flanigan. “Rather than making ethically fraught decisions with their eyes closed, we think it is important for people with a scientific background to see and understand the social and political implications of their work.”