ER doctor, ASU alum prescribes communication degree for success in medicine

February 6, 2020

When communication alumnus Keith Gould started out at Arizona State University in 1984, he didn’t know if he wanted to be a stockbroker or a doctor and began taking classes in political science and chemistry. But it wasn’t until a friend talked him into taking Communication 101 that he realized he wanted to major in communication.

“My friend told me Communication 101 would be a blow-off course, an easy A,” said Gould. “When I received a ‘C’ on my first test, I thought, ‘Wait a minute, I thought this class was supposed to be easy!’”  Dr. Keith Gould in his office. Download Full Image

Gould then approached his professor and asked what he needed to do to get an “A” in the class. 

“I think he saw my passion for learning because he worked with me and encouraged me to bring my grade up," Gould said. "He even asked me to be a teaching assistant for his class the next semester.”

For a career in medicine, Gould, now an emergency room physician, realized the importance of good communication based on a few negative experiences with doctors while in school.

“Two doctors I had seen for separate issues didn’t take the time to really talk to me, and as a result, the outcomes were less than ideal,” Gould said. “I then realized then the importance of good communication, and knew I didn’t want to practice medicine like them.”

Gould says it was unusual back then for premed students to major in communication. “Now people tell me all the time it was a smart move.”

Gould, who lives in Florida, has twins who are juniors in high school. His son wants to be an engineer, and his daughter wants to be a doctor and minor in art. They are also interested in Barrett, The Honors College.

“I had a great experience going to ASU,” Gould said. “I loved my major. The variety of classes and majors at ASU is another plus that you don’t find at smaller colleges.”

Question: What do you like about your job?

A: I like that I deal with different people all day long and can make an actual difference in their lives. Not only with my medical knowledge to treat them, but also with what I learned in my communication major. Those communication skills enhance my patients' experience in the emergency room.

Q: What was your "aha" moment, when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in? 

A: After my first communication class, I realized I wanted to take more courses. After seeing all that was available, I realized there were many classes that would help me in my future career as a physician. In the past, I had experienced physicians who were rude, arrogant and poor communicators, and wanted to make sure I did not exhibit that same behavior. 

Keith Gould, third from left, recently reunited with three friends from ASU.

Q: What made you choose ASU? 

A: I wanted to go to a large school that had more opportunities for different types of courses. I visited Arizona State and found not only did the school have every imaginative major, but the area was also beautiful and the climate was warm.

Q: What were the most useful classes you took?

A: There were several classes in different departments. My nonverbal communication class was extremely valuable to help me read people's emotions, a skill I rely on daily in the emergency room. Sociology of deviant behavior helps me understand that the way I see the world is not necessarily the same way others do. Medical communication, somewhat self-explanatory, deals with the different ways to help foster communication with patients. Basic communication classes helped me refine my speaking ability and helped me to understand how people can perceive things differently. 

Q: How did this school help prepare you for your current career?

A: By developing my communication skills, I have been able to alleviate some of the problems health care providers often face. When speaking to patients and their families, I can not only convey the medical issues they have, I am also able to discuss possible outcomes and alleviate their fears. This, in turn, makes treatment more effective as they are more likely to follow my advice.

Q: When you were interviewing for your first job out of college, what experiences at this school did you talk about? Internships? Group projects? Study abroad?

A: When interviewing for medical school I was frequently asked why I did not major in science and why I chose communication. I would explain that communication helped prepare me for a career in medicine and would make me a better physician. I knew I would learn to be a doctor in medical school, but not how to communicate effectively. At that time my answers were not well received, as they thought I was just looking for easier courses, despite the fact that I received all “A’s” in my science classes. I discussed with them the different classes I had taken, including nonverbal communication, medical communication, as well as sociology and psychology classes that would help bolster my communication with patients. They eventually did express an understanding of how these classes would be useful to a doctor. Now, I hear all the time from people what a smart move it was for me to major in communication.  

Q: Were you involved in any student organizations or clubs? Or athletics?

A: Alpha Epsilon Delta, the premed honor society, as well as Beta Theta Pi fraternity. I was also involved in student government in various roles and was a student senator from The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

The Gould family.

Q: What advice do you have for students who may be following your path? 

A: Even though there is a lot of pressure to be a science major when you are applying to medical school, this is gradually changing. We are finding that the ability of physicians to communicate effectively with their patients and their families is very important, and I encourage other health care providers to stick with their decision to major in communication. It's better to learn effective communication before medical school because once you are working, it's more difficult to change your work patterns.  

Q: What's something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you, or that changed your perspective? 

A: In one of my communication classes, we were given an assignment to do something unusual and report back on people's reactions. At the time, there was a big fountain near the (Memorial Union) and I talked my roommate putting on our bathing suits and floating in the fountain in inner tubes. I had received permission from ASU to do this class project, but apparently, no one told campus police. Most people watching us float in the fountain laughed at us, and others expressed concern that we were going to get in trouble.  One person ended up calling the campus police, and my roommate said: “I thought you got permission!” They ended up letting us go, once I explained it was for a class. I still have the student newspaper with our picture in it. I was a little disappointed the fountain isn’t there anymore, I wanted to point that out to my family. 

Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life? 

A: The fountain outside the Memorial Union. I would like to sit there and watch everyone passing by and everything that was happening. It was a nice place to relax.

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle? 

A: Clean water. The lack of access to clean water across the world is a huge source of death and disease, disproportionately affecting infants and children.

Manager, Marketing and Communication, Hugh Downs School of Human Communication


ASU digital culture graduate lands dream job

February 6, 2020

Digital culture graduate Andre Maestas landed her dream job as a software test engineer at Unity Technologies, a video game software development company.

Maestas graduated from Arizona State University's School of Arts, Media and Engineering’s digital culture undergraduate program in May 2017 with a focus in graphic information technologies. During her time in digital culture, she took a strong interest in virtual and augmented reality systems and decided to continue pursuing work in the field as part of her final capstone.  Andre Maestas' 2017 VR capstone project being played with Andre Maestas' 2017 VR capstone project being played with (Photo credit: Tim Trumble) Download Full Image

While at the school, Maestas was offered a position in Associate Professor Garth Paine’s Acoustic Ecology Lab working on multiple VR projects made in Unity and focused on making an impact on the world. Her work centered around the EcoRift project, which concentrated on connecting people to the environment and allowing users to experience national parks and various places around the world.

Until recently she was working as a data software test engineer for Experis Game Solutions in Tempe, Arizona. At Experis, Maestas worked as a contractor for Microsoft Studios Quality, a quality assurance organization under the Xbox brand, and spent her time testing several games published by Microsoft. She recently moved to Seattle and begins her new job at Unity this week. She credits her time at ASU for helping her land the job, saying the opportunities at ASU helped her to harness skills in the area of VR/AR systems within Unity.

“I want to thank everyone at (the School of Arts, Media and Engineering),” Maestas said. “There are so many amazing people doing amazing things there. The wide variety of things I learned in the (digital culture) program really taught me how to learn and apply creative thinking to creation and engineering.” 

She said even when studying a topic in classes she didn’t think were going to be interesting by the time the section was over, she had been drawn in and found the topics engaging. 

“It's that kind of variety that's opened doors and my mind to so many creative disciplines,” she said. “I feel it really fed my desire to be creative and to learn new things in an efficient manner. I learned about music and art and dance and engineering and technology. This prepared me not only to do a job or work [with] just one thing but fully how to create and learn and explore.”

Question: Why did you choose the School of Arts, Media and Engineering?

Answer: I was interested in the interdisciplinary nature of the program. I researched a few programs and found AME and was very interested in the courses. When I originally applied to the program my major was called digital culture (tech entrepreneurship). I loved how I could take TEM (technological entrepreneurship management) classes in addition to (digital culture) classes for the concentration. I was always interested in the business of tech, and I felt it would give me additional value and help me one day start my own business. I also took GIT (graphics information technology) courses. The name of my major concentration was changed about halfway through my time at AME. 

Q: How did digital culture prepare you for your career? 

A: Digital culture is a very dynamic program. I feel it provides a very broad range of skills. Most of all this format really taught me how to learn. The courses cover such a wide range of topics that it forces you to be just as dynamic and creative.

Q: Describe a day on the job. 

A: As a data software test engineer my role was kind of hybridized. I owned specific areas of the titles we were testing. I would write test plans on how we would organize testing on my areas. I mostly owned telemetry (data collected from the game, which tracks what's happening) and our tools and technology used to do the testing. On a normal day I would work on creating tools which would streamline our testing processes, manage a pool of test associates who execute test cases and work on playing the game and writing bugs. I also worked closely with the developers and our partners at Microsoft to help navigate and improve the development process from a quality and data perspective.