Michael G. Barkowski

Medical Student, Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine
Saint Vincent College, Class of 2012
Michael G. Barkowski Headshot

​​Along with many of my peers, I remember my medical school interview distinctly and will not forget the experience soon. But what I found memorable was not what I anticipated going into the interview that morning. We spoke very little about medicine, or even the broader field of science. Instead, we spent over a half an hour conversing about Mister Rogers and Arnold Palmer—we spent time talking about the Pittsburgh Steelers and horse stables! Not your usual medical school interview from what I am told. We spent the vast majority of my interview talking about these topics because the undergraduate institution I attended was Saint Vincent College, a Catholic, Benedictine, liberal arts institution in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, and home to all of these at one point or another. 

During the following year, in a discussion with a residency director about residency applications and the process of matching and all of the work entailed to choose a future specialty in medicine, I was struck by his perspective from the other side of the desk during an interview. Residency programs around the country receive applications in the hundreds, if not thousands, with very similar didactic year grades and board scores from each applicant. What they want to know, however, is if you will fit into their team. Nobody wants to talk about medicine every moment of the day, and so, when that time comes, what else will you bring to the team? Again, for me, this is where Saint Vincent College and its liberal arts education entered into the equation.
In addition to my biology degree and the medical school prerequisites that I completed during my studies, I also majored in Catholic theology out of a desire to learn more about my own beliefs and further explore the relationship between faith and reason that is too often painted as antagonistic. Both my science and theology courses were put into a much larger context through the history, literature, philosophy, art, and social science courses that were part of the liberal arts core curriculum. As my time at Saint Vincent drew close to the end, I found myself fantasizing about another four years to study physics and political science—so in love was I with learning. Such a love of learning and the ability to find inspiration in other areas of study are by-products of the liberal arts education that Saint Vincent gave to me.
Knowledge in a vacuum, however, serves little, if any, purpose. Saint Vincent College afforded me seemingly limitless opportunities to not only take what I learned in the classroom out into the world, but also to find my own classroom in the world. After I learned about social justice, Catholic social thought, and public health in the classrooms in Latrobe, I traveled to Calcutta, India, and to Taipei, Taiwan, to serve the poor and put that knowledge into action. After I learned about physiology and anatomy, distributive justice, and how humankind understands suffering, I rotated for five weeks in hospitals around Latrobe and Pittsburgh placing these topics into an appropriate context. Saint Vincent College did not just prepare me for medical school. Due to its Catholic, Benedictine and liberal arts identity, Saint Vincent College taught me why I am called to be a physician and what kind of physician my patients will need. The gift of such an extraordinary education that has left the world open to me is one for which I will be forever grateful. 

Michael Barkowski is currently enrolled in medical school at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine and is pursuing an MA in health care ethics at Saint Joseph’s University (PA). He was a biology and theology double major at Saint Vincent College, where he participated in service trips to Taiwan, Calcutta, and Nicaragua and attended World Youth Days in Germany, Australia, and Spain.