To the Editor:
We write to describe an approach that potentially solves many of the problems of premedical education discussed by Kanter in his May 2008 editorial1 and in the article by Gross et al.2 These problems include outdated and excessive premedical coursework requirements, heightened concentration on science courses to increase the likelihood of performing well on the MCAT, pressure to maximize grade point averages (GPAs) to gain a competitive edge when running the admission gauntlet, and premedical advising focused on getting students into medical school rather than nurturing the full breadth of competencies needed to succeed during their subsequent training.
Over one third medical schools have adopted a baccalaureate–MD program option that offers admission to capable high school students and addresses many of the cited ills of premedical education. The AAMC admissions guidebook notes that one of the main purposes of such programs is “to permit highly qualified students to plan and complete a broad liberal arts education before initiating their medical studies.”3 These programs frequently obviate the need for MCAT-specific coursework by dispensing with the MCAT as an admission requirement or by modifying performance thresholds. They also ameliorate the pressures to maximize GPAs and to focus the college years on gaining admission.
While baccalaureate–MD programs target many of the problems identified by Kanter and Gross et al, it is not clear if the graduates of such programs are more likely than traditional premedical program graduates to become the “creative and independent thinkers who have the capability and passion to tackle the most important problems in medicine” whom Kanter seeks. Our suspicion is that graduates of the two types of program are not clearly distinguishable, and here at the Northeastern Ohio Universities Colleges of Medicine and Pharmacy we are undertaking a study to test that hypothesis. If there are no meaningful differences, then we will need to look elsewhere to determine why (or if) premedical education is not fulfilling its potential to appropriately prepare the next generation of competent and caring physicians.
Robert H. Eaglen, PhD
Research associate professor and scholar in residence, Office of Academic Affairs, Northeastern Ohio Universities Colleges of Medicine and Pharmacy, Rootstown, OH 44272; ([email protected]).
Mark A. Penn, MD
Senior vice president for academic affairs and executive associate dean, Northeastern Ohio Universities Colleges of Medicine and Pharmacy, Rootstown, OH.
1 Kanter SK. Toward a sound philosophy of premedical education. Acad Med. 2008;83:423–424.
2 Gross JP, Mommaerts CD, Earl D, De Vries RG. Perspective: After a century of criticizing premedical education, are we missing the point? Acad Med 2008;83:516–520.
3 Medical School Admission Requirements, 2008–2009. Washington, DC: Association of American Medical Colleges; 2008:59.