Lack of pre-med track ensures diverse medical students

By
  • Judy Beniak, director of the Health Careers Center
December 10, 2012

This letter is in response to the “Feeling sick from no pre-med program” editorial from Dec. 4. As director of the Health Careers Center for the University of Minnesota, I agree with the editor that students do feel a lot of pressure about being on the “right path for their career.” That pressure can be even stronger when a student thinks about a professional degree in health, such as medicine. However, the article presented inaccuracies that I would like to
address.

It is true that there is not just one pre-med pathway — such as a pre-med major — offered on campus. Nationally, one pathway is not considered optimal in preparing for medicine. There are a wide range of specialties in medicine that require diverse knowledge that no one major can deliver. Over the last few years, the American Association of Medical Colleges  and the University have assessed the number of majors represented in their incoming medical school classes, which is now near 50, including majors from physical sciences, the social sciences and humanities. This is a good thing. Consider the diversity of skills, qualities and knowledge needed in medicine; having a student body with broad knowledge is essential.

Overall, the University offers a great deal of student support for pre-med students. Ten years ago, the University created the Health Careers Center as a one-stop student service center to serve pre-health students. The Health Careers Center has customized application preparation tools and career counseling. Pre-med students can enroll in a Future Physician course series. This course series engages students in an opportunity to meet physicians and reflect about that career choice. While a significant number of students come to the University thinking they want to be a physician, over half of those students will eventually choose a different career. These Future Physician courses give students the information and experiences they need to make a solid decision about their future and their undergraduate experience.

Selecting prerequisite courses for medical school is supported by an extensive network of academic advisers in all of the collegiate units on campus. Choosing elective courses that reflect a student’s interests help that student build an effective portfolio to be considered for medical school admission. In short, a pre-med student needs to be the architect of their own pathway to medicine.

The field of medicine is rapidly changing. Physicians need to be able to organize and reorganize information quickly, make critical decisions on available information and function in high-stress situations. Being part of a complex university community gives students the skills they need to be quality physicians as they navigate a dynamic work environment as
professionals.

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