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Danielle Atwood

Degree: BS in History and BS in Biology with minor in Sociology
When did you graduate? 2009
What were some of the most rewarding/influential classes in your major? I took every class that Dr. Lucas, Dr. Foote, and Dr. Jones offered while I was at UCA… History of witchcraft, American women’s history, Civil War and Reconstruction, Europe 1914-1949 (there are probably more). While the material was incredibly interesting, I think it was the excitement over the material and the passion to teach that these professors conveyed that really drew me in. If I could go back and take these again, I would in a heartbeat!
Where did you live? The Links at Cadron Valley
What groups did you belong to? Phi Alpha Theta Honors Society, UCA Young Democrats, UCA Ambassador, National Scholars Honor Society, Society for Neuroscience, UCA Pre-Med Society, Sigma Alpha Lambda Honors Society, American Medical Student Association, UCA Humane Society, 2009 Who’s Who in American Colleges and Universities
Did you participate in any experiences outside the classroom in your major field? I volunteered for History Day the last three years of my time at UCA. It was incredibly rewarding to see high school students who were just as passionate about history as I am. Being in science, I got a lot of flack for loving history, so it was nice to be around people with a similar passion for all things history. I also volunteered with Phi Alpha Theta at local museums for special events.
What other experiences did you have that enriched your time as a student at UCA? My senior paper for Seminar with Dr. Lorien Foote was an in-depth continuation of a paper from a previous course on Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show and the portrayal of women and minorities as opposed to their roles in society at the time. For that, I went to the Western History Collections at The University of Oklahoma during spring break my senior year. Nerdy yes, but I had a blast. I spent days in the archives rifling through William Cody’s personal affects. I even got to hold his wallet and checkbook as well as read personal letters in addition to the documents from his production. By far one of the most memorable projects I have completed.
What did you plan to do with your degree? I always planned to go to medical school and was good at science classes, however I never found them nearly as fulfilling or exciting as history courses. I knew that I wanted to pursue a degree in history, but needed so many science courses for medical school that I felt I should get a science degree too instead of just a minor. So when I went to the general advising center as a freshman, they told me that I could not double major in History and Biology and expect to do well enough to get into medical school. They told me that I should focus solely on science and hope for the best. I am not someone who responds well to being told no, so I took that as a challenge and immediately signed up as a double major. I am glad I did not listen, as I do not think I would have been happy taking only science courses. Plus now I know what I would have missed out on, and that would have been such a shame. The history professors at UCA were above and beyond my favorite professors (along with 1 anthropology professor) and the most influential upon me.
How are you using your degree? I graduated with an MD/PhD from UAMS in 2017, and started a 5 year Orthopaedic Surgery residency.
What disciplinary skills do you use most often in your current job? My history degree provided me with a strong foundation for critical thinking, investigative writing, and a love for storytelling. Even in science, people do not realize that you will continue to write A LOT of papers (although they will never be as great as a good history book!). In my opinion, it is obvious and easy to tell those people who have experience and a strong foundation in writing from those that do not. I am thankful to have gotten the chance to hone that skill on some of the most interesting topics. I also learned to navigate a library with efficiency that I think is a lost skill these days. There is something special about sitting down with a pile of books, simply feeling and smelling them as they impart their knowledge to you. Perhaps even more important, was the critical eye I developed for sources and references that helps in any field.
What are your plans? What will your degree allow you to do/accomplish as you move forward? Hopefully, I will one day be done with school and training! But I am a lover of learning and there is something in me that yearns to be a perpetual student. I hope that one day when my work schedule is settled down, and I am an attending surgeon that I might be able to take more history classes and earn a masters or PhD (long shot). I have even entertained the idea of getting a JD. Whatever my path, I am grateful for my History degree and it is something of which I am very proud. I love surprising people when they ask what my Bachelor’s degree is in. It has provided me a deep appreciation for those that came before us and paved the way, and an understanding of current events and how history always plays a role, whether people acknowledge it or not.
What is the most surprising/unexpected thing you learned about yourself during your time as a BS student at UCA? History affects everything going on in our world today. The most surprising thing I learned about myself is that there was more than just my small self-centric world. I learned about brave women who fought for my right to vote, and the men and women who sacrificed their lives so that each person in this country could have a level playing field and an equal chance at the ‘American Dream’. In all of this, I learned that I cared about more than my little world that I had been stuck in during high school. That there was so much more. That we all have a voice, that voice matters, and we should use it.
What advice would you give someone who wants to get a BS in history? My plans were not typical of history majors as I planned to go to medical school, but not once did I feel treated differently by anyone in the history department. Instead, I was welcomed and treated as a student that mattered and that was valued. The UCA history department provided, by far, one of the best experiences in all my years of education. I would encourage anyone considering medical school to consider a history degree if you are passionate about it. You do not have to double major, nor major in the natural sciences to pursue a medical degree. I know many people who pursued liberal arts degrees and did incredibly well in medical school. Stay true to yourself and do not let people tell you what you can and cannot do. I think having an alternative degree provides eye-opening experiences and brings a richer appreciation to medical school. I would recommend that if history interests, go for it. You won’t regret it. There is so much to learn from history that getting any degree in any field of history can only benefit you in the long run!