Conor Wagner ’24 planned to major in biology in college, but he enjoyed his chemistry classes so much that he shifted gears to a biochemistry & molecular biology major—a perfect combination of his academic interests. He plans to one day become a physician, and last spring he gained rare insights into medical care when he took a Mosaic course that included a group trip to the Netherlands. There, along with fellow students in the class and their professor, he spoke with a variety of professionals who treat, advocate for and work with end-of-life patients, along with a funeral director. And he discovered the ways in which culture informs end-of-life decisions and care.
Clubs and organizations:
Pre-Health Club, Swimming Club, Outdoors Club and Biology Majors Committee (student representative).
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling.
Good Will Hunting.
Best thing about my Dickinson experience:
The academics and the wonderful professors that I have had the pleasure of getting to know. I can truthfully say my academic experience at Dickinson has been nothing short of excellent. My professors have been kind, understanding, helpful and incredibly knowledgeable. I have never struggled with comprehending complex topics because of their phenomenal methods of explaining them. They have also always made time to meet with me and other students whenever we might have questions, even if that means rearranging their schedules. Every class I have taken at Dickinson has challenged me in one way or another, and it’s pleasing to look back and realize how much I have learned and grown from them.
Best thing about my major:
It allows me to explore many different areas of science and how they all work together with one another, specifically biology and chemistry. I went into college knowing I wanted to major in biology. However, after taking the intro chemistry classes, my passion ignited for chemistry and how it works within biology, and I decided to declare biochemistry and molecular biology for my major.
Favorite place on campus:
It is difficult to choose a favorite among the numerous wonderful classes I have taken at Dickinson, but if I had to pick only one, it would probably be Vertebrate Biology (BIO 334) with Professor of Biology Chuck Zwemer. It was by far the most rigorous course I have ever taken, in terms of the sheer amount of information you have to digest and commit to memory. However, it is also the most rewarding, as I obtained a much better and bigger picture of the complex anatomy and body systems of many different types of vertebrates.
It is incredibly difficult to choose a favorite professor at Dickinson, as I have had so many phenomenal ones, but at the top of my list would be Professor Zwemer, Associate Professor of Biology Kirsten Guss (BIO 216), and Visiting Lecturer in Chemistry Christine O’Neill (CHEM 133).
On studying abroad:
Last spring I had a chance to take part in a Mosaic called Managing Death and Dying in Cross-Cultural Perspective, which included a weeklong research trip to the Netherlands over spring break. The course explored the philosophy, ethics, culture and economics of health care during the end stages of one’s life in the United States and abroad, both through readings and interactions with experts in medicine, ethics and policy. During our time in the Netherlands, we spoke with many healthcare providers about their experiences with and perspectives on the end stages of life and how the treatment of it differed from that in the United States. The highlight of the experience for me was getting the chance to speak with nursing students from a university in the Netherlands about topics such as the end stages of life, euthanasia and palliative sedation. I really valued these interactions because I was able to relate to the students, who were roughly my age and in my same field of study, and compare and contrast healthcare in our respective countries. I find much more value in sitting down and exchanging information face-to-face than I do from reading a book or watching a video.
If I could have dinner with anyone, living or dead, it would be …
… Steven Spielberg.
As I kid, I wanted to be …
… a film director/screenwriter.
I plan to attend an allopathic medical school after Dickinson and become a physician. I’m not sure what specialty of medicine I want to practice yet, but I know it will be something in primary care, as I greatly value interacting with patients firsthand and continuing to develop meaningful relationships with them over time.
Most important thing I’ve learned so far:
Relationships with family and friends are much more important and meaningful than any grade or academic achievement. These past few semesters I have been hyper focused on my academics and grades to the detriment of the personal relationships in my life. After talking about this with some close friends, I realized that while academics are important, you should never value them over the people closest to you.
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Published October 21, 2022