Rewriting the pre-med requirements

A move is underway to revamp the pre-med curriculum for undergraduates, according to the Wall Street Journal. Right now the requirements include calculus, biotology, general chemistry, organic chemistry and physics. Organic chemistry is a “weed out” course; it’s main benefit is to give students a taste of what med school is like and to reduce the number of applications that med school admissions committees have to sort through.

A joint committee of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the Association of American Medical Colleges is creating guidelines for science classes to be taught to pre-med and medical students. Look for more biochemistry and genetics, which play an important role in modern medical practice but are under-taught to aspiring doctors. The committee may also recommend courses in statistics in order to help docs interpret studies.

Some commentators, such as Harvard Medical School Dean, Jules Dienstag are also calling for more focus on the social sciences and humanities to improve soft skills.

I’m happy to see the emphasis on statistics. I’d also like to see doctors have a greater understanding of economics and business so that they can understand the financial forces at work in medicine. I actually don’t think it needs to be an undergraduate requirement. Ideally medical school would incorporate an applied “business of medicine” curriculum that would focus on health care policy, microeconomics, applied statistics, and psychology. The goal would be to give doctors a better understanding of the insurance, pharmaceutical, medical device, and diagnostics companies they’ll be dealing with.

September 17, 2008

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