Zoe Barnett, pursuing a double major in Spanish and Biology, Health & Society (B.S. ‘23), currently is wrapping up a productive undergraduate career and is beginning the process of applying to medical school.
Zoe said she always knew she wanted to be a doctor.
“I truly can’t see myself doing anything else. The classes that I have taken here at Michigan over the last four years, combined with my experiences working directly with patients, have only confirmed that I’m on the right path ” Zoe remarked.
Zoe began her Spanish study in middle school, and then went on to complete Advanced Placement Spanish classes in high school.
At U-M, Zoe continued her study of Spanish, first as a Spanish minor, and then as a Spanish major, after a class presentation by Professor Lorenzo García-Amaya inspired her to pursue that route. She noted that the three course difference between the Spanish minor and major requirements made her decision an easy one, as the additional courses fit into her schedule and as she looked forward to gaining further practice communicating in Spanish.
She noted that she found her Spanish coursework provided a good balance to the STEM-heavy coursework required of her pre-med path.
“In my Spanish classes I enjoyed speaking with my classmates and accessing a different part of my brain,” Zoe said.
She highlighted the strong connections she sees between her two majors.
“Having the ability to speak Spanish is such a valuable skill, especially going into the medical field,” Zoe said.
This January, Zoe began a position as a Patient Care Assistant on an oncology floor at Saint Joseph Mercy Hospital. In her role, she helps patients in a variety of ways from taking vital signs, measuring blood sugar, assisting with ambulation, providing palliative care, and acting as a source of emotional support.
When assisting patients, Zoe said she has seen how current medical interpretation systems available to help patients and medical professionals communicate can, at times, pose challenges and leave gaps in understanding. She said she looks forward to being able to converse directly with patients and their families who speak Spanish, in order to provide the best care possible.
“Communicating medical information can be challenging even when both the provider and patient speak the same language. The addition of a language barrier just adds another obstacle to an already complicated process, so if I can make that communication easier, I feel like I’ll be doing my job,” Zoe said.
As she completes her last semester at U-M, Zoe is involved with a number of organizations that connect with her interests and goals. She is a Research Assistant at the Orthopedic Rehabilitation & Biomechanics (ORB) Laboratory in the School of Kinesiology, conducting ACL injury research. She is President of the student acapella group, The Compulsive Lyres. She also is Rush Chair of pre-medical fraternity Phi Chi, helping to recruit new members. Additionally, Zoe is a volunteer Bilingual Support Assistant in the Ann Arbor Public Schools, helping an elementary school student for whom English is a second language.
Looking back on her Spanish coursework, she highlighted the classes that she took with Professor Kate Jenckes as among her favorites, including a Latin American poetry class.
“I absolutely loved her classes,” Zoe said. “She made reading literature super-engaging. I really improved in my ability to read challenging texts in Spanish and gained a lot of confidence through her classes.”
Zoe also noted that she really enjoyed Professor Teresa Satterfield’s Spanish 385: The Language of Reggaeton class. She noted that the class combined her passions for both music and Spanish, and that she now can identify components of and beats within Reggaeton music that she wouldn’t have been able to before.
When asked what advice she would give to students considering studying Spanish in RLL, Zoe said she encourages students to actively participate in class discussions and to practice their Spanish skills whenever possible.
“You’ll get out of your Spanish classes what you put in,” she said.
Up next for Zoe is a gap year before starting medical school. In the coming year, she plans to continue her work assisting patients, finish her medical school applications, and is hoping to have the opportunity to travel to Spain to expand upon her Spanish speaking abilities.