March 5, 2013

The end of pre-med? Medical school welcomes 'non-traditional' students

Daily Briefing

    In a major shift away from traditional admissions requirements, the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in 2015 will admit half its new class through its FlexMed program, which does not require a premed program or the MCAT, NPR's "Shots" reports.

    The FlexMed program—which offers early admittance to medical school for humanities undergrads who lack traditional premed requirements—"was designed to attract humanities majors to medicine who would bring a different perspective to education and medical practice," says Dennis Charney, dean of the medical school.

    Students are accepted to the FlexMed program in their sophomore year and do not have to take the MCATs or a full slate of premed classes. However, they are required to maintain a 3.5 GPA and take a year of biology or chemistry before graduation, as well as a few science and math classes. Students who do not take enough advanced science as undergraduates will be required to attend summer school for biology, biochemistry, and genetics.

    On Wednesday, the school announced that it will expand the program to cover half the students in its incoming classes. Over the past 25 years, the school has accepted a quarter of its incoming students through a program that offered early admittance to humanities students who lacked the traditional premed requirements.

    Charney says students will be tracked through medical school and their careers to examine any differences in the types of fields they pursue, the research they perform, or the leadership roles they assume. "If we show that we attract a really innovative group of students, then I think [other medical schools] will follow our lead," he told "Shots."

    According to "Shots," support is growing to revamp medical school requirements. In addition, a 2009 report from the Association of American Medical Colleges and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute argued that medical schools could gain flexibility by emphasizing scientific proficiencies, instead of focusing on specific courses.

    The Icahn School's move "is just the leading edge in response to this national report," says Donald Barr, who studies premedical education at Stanford University. He notes that other school—including the University of Pennsylvania's Perelman School of Medicine—are beginning to follow Icahn's lead by relaxing their requirements (Zielinkski, "Shots," NPR, 2/28).

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    1. Current ArticleThe end of pre-med? Medical school welcomes 'non-traditional' students

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