The landscape of combined baccalaureate–MD programs has changed substantially in the last two decades but has not been documented in detail. The authors review the current state of these programs and discuss opportunities for future study of their evolving role and potential impact.
In 2011, using a definition of baccalaureate–MD program built on prior research, the authors reviewed Association of American Medical Colleges sources and medical school Web sites to identify and characterize 81 active programs. In addition, they surveyed the 57 medical schools offering those programs; 31 schools with 39 programs responded. The resulting database inventories the number and distribution of programs; institutional affiliations; missions or goals; length; size; admissions criteria; curricula; and retention requirements.
Since the inception of combined programs in 1961, their number and curricular length have increased. Pressures that spurred earlier programs remain evident in the goals of today’s programs: attract talented high school or early college students, especially from diverse backgrounds; prepare physicians to meet societal needs; and offer an enriched premedical environment. Baccalaureate educational activities achieve program goals through special courses, medical experiences, community service, and learning communities tailored to students’ needs. Admission and retention criteria are comparable to those of traditional medical schools.
Combined baccalaureate–MD programs have evolved along several paths during the last half century and have enriched the baccalaureate experiences of medical students. Shifting expectations for the selection and education of future physicians warrant focused research on these programs to document their effectiveness in addressing those expectations.