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Pre-Med Vs. Liberal Arts: “Don’t Know Much Biology”

Study painting, drama or the “soft” social sciences and you’ll probably be a pretty good doctor anyway. Mt. Sinai School of Medicine has been doing it for years and compared students in a special liberal arts admissions program to its traditional pre-med students.

For years, Mt. Sinai has admitted students from Amherst, Brandeis, Princeton, Wesleyan, and Williams colleges based on a written application with personal essays, verbal and math SAT scores, high school and college transcripts, letters of recommendation, and personal interviews. No MCAT is required.

Students need to take one year of biology and one year of chemistry and maintain (swallow hard) a “B” average. They later get an abbreviated course in organic chemistry and medical physics.

Researchers compared 85 students in this program to their traditionally-trained peers and reported results in Academic Medicine. The liberal arts students struggled more early on with the sciences, their gross anatomy coursework, and the Step 1 exam. But by the end, they equaled their peers and were highly successful in university hospitals, and in psychiatry and pediatrics, often taking more prizes and awards at graduation.

Authors wrote, “Although students in this program have more academic difficulties in the preclinical years, they excel in the clinical/community setting and have greatly enriched the medical school environment. This program demonstrates that success in medical school does not depend on a traditional premed science curriculum.”

Singer Sam Cooke would have been a great doctor. Just listen to all the pre-med subjects he knows nothing about.

*This blog post was originally published at ACP Internist*


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