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The College of Arts Sciences

Helen Tosteson: 'I value the shifts in perspective that different classes offer.

Sun, 04/23/2017

Helen Tosteson

Biology and Society

Lyme, NH

What was your most profound turning point while at Cornell?

My sophomore year was a series of turning points. That fall, on a whim, I decided to take a course called Introduction to the History of Medicine, taught by Professor Suman Seth. Professor Seth is a brilliant lecturer, and the material was so fascinating that I didn’t want to stop learning about it once December came around. Winter break is usually too long, but that year I had some new literature and a new goal to get me through: apply to the Biology  Society program. That spring I was accepted. This major has added so much meaning and depth to my Cornell experience. And this year I have been lucky enough to write a thesis with Professor Seth as an advisor.

What accomplishments/activities are you most proud of while at Cornell?

I can recount some tales of meaningful activities, although I wouldn’t call them accomplishments. Last summer the Patient Care Advocate Team (PCAT) program, an internship run through the Public Service Center, became one of the most challenging and fascinating activities that I have participated in at Cornell. Our primary goal was to improve the general quality of life within Cayuga Medical Center's (CMC) Inpatient Center. Meeting this goal required a surprising number of desperate searches for the right flavor of jello. My time at CMC also revealed a side to medical care that I could not have grasped from any of my classes. I was briefly immersed in an environment where mundane duties seamlessly blended with emotionally intense moments, and I realized the huge weight of responsibility that each hospital employee holds, no matter their position in the medical hierarchy.

What do you value about your liberal arts education?

I value the shifts in perspective that different classes offer. This liberal arts education has allowed me to take courses like Comparative Anatomy and History of Western Science within the same semester. As it turns out, those classes actually add a great deal of depth to each other. I value this process — understanding and appreciating different academic forms of thinking, and allowing them to build on one another. I’m so lucky and grateful for this liberal arts style education, it’s such a privilege.