Purpose: To investigate the performance outcomes of medical students with social sciences and humanities (SSH) premedical education during and beyond medical school by reviewing the literature, and to contextualize this review within today’s admission milieu.
Method: From May to July 2012, the lead author searched the PubMed, MEDLINE, and PsycINFO databases, and reference lists of relevant articles, for research that compared premedical SSH education with premedical sciences education and its influence on performance during and/or after medical school. The authors extracted representative themes and relevant empirical findings. They contextualized their findings within today’s admission milieu.
Results: A total of 1,548 citations were identified with 20 papers included in the review. SSH premedical education is predominately an American experience. For medical students with SSH background, equivalent academic, clinical, and research performance compared with medical students with a premedical science background is reported, yet different patterns of competencies exist. Post-medical-school equivalent or improved clinical performance is associated with an SSH background. Medical students with SSH backgrounds were more likely to select primary care or psychiatry careers. SSH major/course concentration, not SSH course counts, is important for admission decision making. The impact of today’s admission milieu decreases the value of an SSH premedical education.
Conclusions: Medical students with SSH premedical education perform on par with peers yet may possess different patterns of competencies, research, and career interests. However, SSH premedical education likely will not attain a significant role in medical school admission processes.