Before developing a passion for medicine, senior Daniel Swanson always thought that he would be an engineer.
“My family is mostly engineers, so there was a lot of pressure to be an engineer. As a child, all I wanted to be was an engineer,” said Swanson, a native of New Brighton, Minn.
A science preprofessional and economics double major, Swanson got his first spark of interest for medicine when he was in Boy Scouts. He always volunteered to be the first aid officer. “You can kind of have an inkling that you want to be a doctor, but really as a grade school student, or even high school student, it’s hard to have formative experiences that point you firmly toward medicine,” Swanson said.
It was not until Swanson reached the end of high school that his interest for medicine turned into something more. Swanson had the opportunity to observe a deep brain stimulation procedure that instantly cured a man who had Parkinson’s disease for 25 years. “That was a turning point in developing my passion for medicine, because I saw the transformative power of what medicine can do for people,” Swanson said.
Since then, he has not looked back. After his first year at Notre Dame, Swanson had an internship with a neurosurgeon and was able to be in a clinic with patients every day. After his sophomore year, he participated in Notre Dame’s Center for Social Concern’s Summer Service Learning Program (SSLP), and worked with terminally ill, low-income HIV patients. “Even though I did not have much experience with that population, that summer affected me because it showed me the human aspect of medicine—the people behind the disease,” Swanson said.
The following summer, Swanson found himself around the world in Kabale, Uganda, working with a mobile healthcare clinic. Several times a week, Swanson visited rural communities and provided healthcare services to about 500 people per day.
Swanson is pursuing a double major in economics, and loves the intersection of economics and healthcare. “I think today’s physician has a lot of demands. And one of those demands is understanding insurance policies, deductibles, and copays because that is today’s healthcare market,” Swanson said. Swanson believes that many physicians, through no fault of their own, do not receive that type of training. “I think those are really important things to learn if you want to relate to patients because that is what they are going through,” he said.
After graduating from Notre Dame, Swanson intends to attend medical school, with hopes to eventually enter the field of neurosurgery. However, he’s continuing to keep his options open.
Swanson’s advice to other prospective medical school students is to be unique. For Swanson, that characteristic is his interest in economics. Whether that be a foreign language, biochemistry, or anything else, Swanson encourages those who want to go to medical school to find something that interests them and do something special with that, because it makes a difference in the application process.