By the time Michael Attas was a junior at Baylor University, he was already the lead author of a published scientific research article in the medical field. Not only did his experience writing the article influence him to go to medical school instead of a Psychology graduate program, but it placed him years ahead of his peers in research experience and prestige. Now the Chief of Cardiology at Hillcrest Baptist Medical Center, a Medical Humanities professor at Baylor, and an Episcopal priest, Dr. Attas continues to take seriously the call to be a lifelong learner.
Since coming to Baylor, Dr. Attas has been very involved in helping students to have a meaningful undergraduate research experience. Dr. Attas helped begin the Medical Humanities program at Baylor, in which students may receive a minor. A proposal to add a Medical Humanities major at Baylor is currently under review. The Medical Humanities major would be the first of its kind in the United States and would most likely attract top pre-medicine students from across the nation. In addition, Dr. Attas has directed numerous theses on such topics as ethical and legal problems in clinical practice and biomedical research, as well as philosophical, historical, literary, and religious dimensions of medicine and health care. Dr. Attas says that he enjoys mentoring thesis writers because he loves watching the transformation of a student's mind as he or she learns to think in new ways. "The students in the Honors College are amazing. It moves me to see their minds being challenged, growing and expanding," Dr. Attas says. "I learn as much as they do."
For Dr. Attas, undergraduate scholarly research is important to those who decide, as he did, to commit to being lifelong learners. Admitting with a smile that he is "an idea junkie," Dr. Attas explains that it is essential to train the mind to process new information, and that this is what the undergraduate experience is truly about – not the memorizing of facts and figures, but teaching the mind to creatively process knowledge.
"The experience of participating in medical research and authoring a scientific paper that I had as an undergraduate was not typical at that time at Baylor," says Dr. Attas. Now, however, Baylor is unique in that the opportunities to perform critical research are nearly as plentiful as the number of faculty members committed to the mentoring process. Dr. Attas advises Baylor students to take advantage of these opportunities because he has seen first-hand the impact they have had on students in the past. Dr. Attas' desire to guide undergraduate students as they write theses or tackle the difficult issues surrounding religious and ethical matters in medicine serves as an ideal model for students who also seek to challenge their minds and their perspectives while studying at Baylor.