The New York Times recently published an article about a unique program offered at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City called the “Humanities and Medicine Program”. Labelled the “best kept secret” in medical school admissions, this program admits selected students who study the humanities as long as they maintain a 3.5 GPA. No MCAT. No organic chemistry. No physics.
Surely, some will see this as innovative, even revolutionary. I have no doubt that applications to the program will soar. There is no doubt that the MCAT and science classes are the greatest impediment to gaining entry to medical school by the vast majority of students who are not accepted to medical school every year.
The Humanities and Medicine program is innovative, for sure. But innovation is not always good.
In my years of medical school at the University of Pennsylvania, I have not once used organic chemistry, physics, or calculus. However, I am without at doubt a better medical student as a result of taking these courses as an undergraduate. Doing well in these courses required hard work. I had to learn to study effectively and efficiently. Undergraduate physics taught me how to approach complex problems more effectively than any other course that I have taken. When taking organic chemistry, I developed methods that allowed me to memorize large quantities of information. I use both of these skills on a daily basis in medical school.
I recently took both USMLE Step 1 and Step 2, 8 and 9 hour exams, respectively. When studying for these exams, I jumped back to the strategy that I used to study for the MCAT (which was back in the days when the MCAT was 8 hours too). Knowing that this method had worked successfully for me in the past, I had no reason to doubt it as a medical student.
If I had studied the humanities and avoided these difficult undergraduate courses and the MCAT, would my medical school experience have been different? I think so. I took many humanities courses. I enjoyed them and surely gained useful skills from them. But taking more of them, to the exclusion of science courses, would have added very little, at least in terms of medical school preparation.
Prepera readers: Join the discussion. What do you think about changing the requirements for medical school admissions?
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