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An interview by Allison M. Hargreaves '02, October 9, 2000
I recently had the honor of interviewing a fascinating individual who is an alumna of not only Dartmouth College (class of 1983), but also Dartmouth Medical School (class of 1988). Maureen Bunce knew ever since she was a young girl sitting in seventh-grade biology class, and even before that, that she wanted to be a doctor.
Despite the fact that Maureen had her career planned at a young age, she took advantage of the fact that Dartmouth offered her the opportunity to explore her many other interests. She had the luxury of taking all of the science courses needed for medical school as well as pursuing other subjects. Graduating with a major in French, Maureen decided not to apply to medical school immediately, but to take a year off. During that year, she studied music, did some sailing, and traveled. She had always anticipated going to medical school in a big city, but realizing her love for a more rural atmosphere, she found Hanover, and Dartmouth Medical School with its somewhat older, broader, and more diverse student body, to be a good fit.
Currently, Maureen is trained in family medicine and has a private practice specializing in integrative medicine. Following her residency at Brown, she had some truly amazing experiences, including spending five years in the southwest practicing on Navajo and Zuni reservations, as well as working with a homeopath in Switzerland. She finds the most rewarding aspect of her work to be "the privilege of working with people on a really deep level and hearing their stories in a way that very few people get to hear them." For Maureen, among the most frustrating aspects of practicing medicine is dealing with the bureaucracy - in particular insurance is a problem. However, Maureen is optimistic: "I think the phoenix is going to rise from the ashes...I think there are changes taking place in medicine and the medical system, and those have to continue..it's inevitable that they will continue."
One of the topics that came up frequently during our interview, is whether medicine is truly scientific in nature. Maureen has heard medicine referred to as a "pseudo-science" and insists, with good reason, that this is not the case. Maureen describes medicine as very much science-based with the added complexity and interest of dealing with human beings. She cites her scientific training as an undergraduate as a significant influence on the way she practices medicine today both in the actual training as well as in temperament. She uses her scientific training to decipher medical literature, to apply her practice to individual patients, and to discover more about how and why homeopathy works. In addition to practicing medicine, Maureen has developed an increasing interest in research. She would like to pursue investigative studies of alternative therapies: "Although I've always been a busy clinician, I see myself carving out time for that in the future."
Maureen recalls two primary role models in her pursuit to become a doctor. Inspired by her family doctor and a good friend's mother who was an ophthalmologist, Maureen grew up knowing she could achieve her dream of becoming a physician: "It never occurred to me that I couldn't go to medical school. . .it never occurred to me that women couldn't be physicians." Although her career path was mapped early, Maureen remembers what it was like to be an undergraduate at Dartmouth. She recalls her phobia of math during her first year, and her frustration at being unable to do everything she was interested in doing. When asked what words of wisdom she has to impart upon prospective women scientists, Maureen replied with the following: "As for my advice to students who are interested in science (or anything else, for that matter): do what you love."
Maureen has a clear view of her future as a physician: "I see myself working to help other physicians as well as patients make decisions about intelligent use of the whole spectrum of therapies that are available...it's not a passing fad and I think that we all need to work together to integrate alternatives as well as to use evidence-based investigation to decide what's working and what doesn't." I found Maureen Bunce to be a fascinating individual working in an intriguing medical field.
Maureen can be contacted via e-mail by students interested in talking to her: Maureen.Bunce@Dartmouth.edu.
Last Updated: 10/19/10