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M.D.: The Doctor of Medicine

The Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) covers a wide range of functions in the maintenance of health including diagnosing disease, supervising care of patients and the delivery of health care. Although most physicians provide direct patient care, some choose to pursue research, administration, teaching or a combination of all of the above. Physicians practice in a variety of settings: private practice, group practice, hospitals, or laboratories. The general areas of practice include family practice, general internal medicine, and general pediatrics with subspecialties in OBGYN, psychiatry, cardiology, neurology, general surgery, surgical specialties, emergency medicine and support specialties (anesthesiology, pathology, radiology).

Personal Characteristics and Future Outlook. As an art and a science, medicine necessitates critical thinking skills. People skills are essential as well as an ability to communicate (both oral and written), maintain calm in the midst of crises, work well with other members of the health care team and time management skills. Beyond the demands of the position, a physician’s responsibilities require maturity, integrity, honesty, emotional stability and a concern for the welfare of others. Physicians, only one aspect of the health care team, have the opportunity to work with nurses, physicians assistants, therapists, technician ns and other doctors.

Preparation. There are 125 medical schools in the United States. Most of the admissions offices require basic courses in the sciences and math to apply. In general, this entails at least two semesters of English, general biology, general chemistry, organic chemistry, general physics and the respective laboratories. Some schools also attach a mathematics or computer science requirement to this list. Despite required classes, schools do not insist on a specific major cours e of study. In fact, students with non-science majors increase diversity among the medical school classes. Therefore, schools encourage their application.

Most medical schools have a four-year curriculum of basic sciences in the first two years followed by clinical exposure for the last two years. This format has evolved as schools realize the valuable experience gained by first and second year students who gain exposure to clinical settings early in their medical education. Many schools have now built this early experience into their curriculum. US medical schools now foster problem-based learning as an essential curriculum feature. Departing from traditional lecture based courses, schools offer students the chance to team up and develop their diagnostic skills before reaching a clinical setting.

How to Get into School of Medicine

Application components of successful matriculates contain a Bachelor of Science or Arts, with a competitive GPA, good scores the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT), and involvement in extracurricular and volunteer activities.

Admissions. Medical schools seek students who will make good medical students, competent, caring physicians, and productive members of society. Professors, basic scientists, clinicians, administrators and often medical students sit on admissions committees. This committee reviews five features in the applications: 1) academic record, 2) MCAT scores, 3) letters of recommendation (your HPEC file from the University of Scranton), 4) personal statements, 5 ) the impression made in your interview. Committees also look for volunteer experience, exposure to a clinical setting and extra-curricular activities.

A good academic record indicates motivation and ability; however, the number has less value than its context. The committee recognizes the entire package of course load, extra-curricular involvement, and other time commitments such as a part-time job.

The MCAT, an essential feature of your application, often sets a standard with which t o "weed out" applicants. Given twice a year in the spring (April) and the summer (August), medical schools suggest that students take the MCAT one-year prior to matriculation (spring of junior year, summer before senior year).

Applications through the American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS) are usually available in May and can be submitted no sooner than June 1st for matriculation into the next medical school class. This application is available in an electronic format. Not all schools participate in AMCAS. To obtain applications from these schools, you must call or write to them and request application materials.

Acceptance. After medical school admissions committees review your primary application, they send you secondary applications. Following review of the secondary application, the most promising candidates receive interview invitations at the school. It could be several weeks until the applicant hears from the medical school after an interview. Usually students will receive either a notification of acceptance, rejection or placement on the wait list. Most schools require a refundable deposit to hold your seat in the class.

Special Programs. Many schools offer a joint M.D./Ph.D. program. Some offer joint M.D./M.B.A. or M.D./J.D. degrees. For more information on these programs, contact the schools that interest you since programs vary from school to school.

Conclusion. Although the process of applying to medical schools can s eem daunting, the most successful pre-medical students remain focused, motivated and maintain a positive attitude throughout the experience.


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