Why one medical school admits liberal arts students—without making them take the MCAT

Traditional requirements 'exclude people from medical school that we desperately need,' dean argues

A pilot group of students at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai come from humanities backgrounds and never took the MCAT—and their numbers are poised to grow, Julie Rovner reports for NPR's "Shots."

Since 1987, the school has offered a path into medicine for humanities majors from top liberal arts colleges through the HuMed program. Now, officials are revamping and expanding that into FlexMed by opening the program to applicants in every major from every school. Eventually, an estimated 50% of the medical school's incoming classes will be part of FlexMed.

Students apply sophomore year of college and are expected to continue their non-science studies for the remainder of their undergraduate career. Mount Sinai provides more pre-med courses for the students over the summers and does not require them to take the MCAT.

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HuMed originally began to offset worries that medical school applicants were too similar and "too single-minded," writes Rovner. The program's Nathan Kase, then-dean of medical education, firmly believed "you couldn't be a good doctor and a well-rounded doctor ... unless you really had a good grounding in the liberal arts," says David Muller, the current dean of medical education.

The science classes typical of pre-med tracks "exclude people from medical school that we desperately need," says Muller.

Studies show HuMed students are just as successful as their traditional peers, says Rovner, and they are more likely to go into primary care or psychiatry—both high-need areas.

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"I think the cross-fertilization of ideas that goes on ... ultimately everyone benefits from it," says Harsh Chawla, a third-year traditional medical student (Rovner, "Shots," NPR, 5/27).

The takeaway: Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai is increasingly accepting students with backgrounds in humanities—without requiring them to take the MCAT.

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