Bridging music and medicine

Music for pre-health program lets students pursue both of their passions 

Other universities told Xander Boggs he’d have to choose between music and medical school. The University of Florida encouraged him to do both. 

Through UF’s one-of-a-kind Music for Pre-Health Professions degree, Boggs will earn a bachelor of music while taking all of the math and science courses he needs to apply to med school. 

“Music is my driving force. I really wanted to keep it in my life,” says Boggs, a first-year student who plays cello, piano, guitar and bass and wants to be an emergency-room doctor. “That’s the main reason I chose UF.” 

UF is the only institution accredited by the National Association of Schools of Music to offer a bachelor of music combined with another field. Pre-health isn’t the only option: Music students can graduate with a Master of Science in Management or Entrepreneurship or pursue a second bachelor’s degree — engineering is a popular choice. Music and pre-health students also have the option to earn a Music in Medicine Certificate or a Master of Arts in Arts in Medicine.

“I know for me I wouldn’t be happy just focusing on STEM,” Boggs said. “Music gives me a break from the stress of STEM classes. When I’m feeling stressed out, I can practice cello or write a song.” 

He believes music will make him a better doctor.

“Music is all about the communication of emotion. It’s all about recognizing other people’s feelings and what they’re trying to say without words. With medicine, you have to have that same compassion. Music brings out understanding within me to help to understand the world better, which will help me relate to my patients and treat them better.”

School of Music Advisor and Director of Music Admissions Mutlu Çitim-Kepic says music can also help a medical-school applicant stand out from the crowd.

“There are a large number of dropouts after the first year of medical school, but that is less true for music majors,” she says. “They’re self-disciplined self-starters. Playing in ensembles prepares them to work well in groups. They have the skills not just to get in, but to finish.” 

When Boggs arrived at UF, he was no stranger to hard work. A National Merit Scholar who attended Edgewood Jr./Sr. High School in Merritt Island, Fla., which the Washington Post named one of the country’s most challenging high schools, he balanced AP classes with lacrosse, student government and orchestra. Still, his first semester at UF was an adjustment.

“Organization was a very big challenge for me. I didn’t use a calendar in high school. When I got here, I thought, ‘Wow! Things are going to have to change.’” 

Calendar acquired, the UF Honors student and Lombardi Scholar is managing 19 credit hours this semester. “People will tell you it’s impossible, but it’s definitely doable,” he says. “You just have to put the time in.”

Photos by Brianne Lehan, video by Lyon Duong/UF Photography. Story by Alisson Clark April 16, 2019