Rachel Hughes '15

Author: Andrea Martinez Dominguez

Rachel Hughes

Graduation year: 2015

Majors/Minors: Science Pre-Professional major, Gender Studies minor


I was placed in Intro to Gender Studies as a first-semester freshman at Notre Dame. I had no previous exposure to anything gender studies related in high school, and coming from a fairly conservative town in Cincinnati, OH, I was extremely nervous about what "gender studies" actually meant. After one class with Professor Palko, and then a meeting in her office where she told me that I was picking up a minor, my entire perspective changed. As a science major, most of my classes consisted of memorization, lab write-ups, and huge textbooks. While I loved my science classes here and feel so grateful that Notre Dame prepared me so well for medical school, my gender studies classes offered relief from my seemingly never-ending cycle of science electives. We read ACTUAL novels, led and participated in passionate discussions, and watched movies (IN CLASS!). I wrote papers on everything from the hook-up culture at Notre Dame to Gossip Girl. I was able to pursue public health research in the summer between my junior and senior year with help from the Boehnen Grant. This research helped start a free STD testing program at a pregnancy help center for women in Cincinnati. I learned so much about access to healthcare, discrepancies in treatment for women (especially of a certain SES class), and how to effectively navigate the public health sphere -- all extremely valuable insights to have before pursuing a career in medicine. When it came time for my medical school interviews in the fall of my senior year, every single interviewer asked me to tell them more about my Gender Studies minor. I was more than happy to oblige - Gender Studies has taught me so much about communicating, working with, and helping people -- skills that are crucial for a physician to have, yet no science class can teach. I feel well-prepared to tackle "challenging" issues with future patients because in Gender Studies classes, no topic of discussion is off-limits, no matter how personal or taboo it may seem, and we all have learned to discuss such topics confidently, appropriately, and honestly. I really hope at some point medical schools will make Gender Studies part of their curriculum, even if it's just one class, because gender is everywhere, and such a prevalent topic of debate in our world today. I definitely would not hesitate to say that adding a Gender Studies minor was the best academic decision I made in my undergraduate career.