A handful of medical schools are now admitting students with NO background in hard sciences and who haven’t taken the MCAT into their normally competitive medical schools. The student typically applies in his or her junior year and then agrees to major in the humanities or social sciences instead of sciences. The theory behind admitting non-scientists into medical schools is that the future doctors with humanities backgrounds will have a better bedside manner- if past classes are any indication- more of the students from the alternative admissions programs go into different kinds of medicine such as Psychiatry. `
It’s interesting to note that many of the participants in this kind of program have a similar success rate in medical school to their classmates who have the usual scientific background. In addition, I also found it interesting to note that of the participants, roughly one in three of the students had at least one parent who was a doctor; it’s hard not to speculate that parental pressure is the true reason for the non-science types to go into a field that is largely considered science-based.
One of the most noted schools offering an alternative way to enter medical school is the Mount Sinai Medical School program in Manhattan which admits about 35 students without a traditional background a year into its medical school. The students must maintain a 3.5 GPA in order to be admitted into the program. One of the strangest things about the program is that students aren’t required to take the MCAT as the MCAT scores are usually a large factor in determining how medical schools are ranked and are also seen as one of the best predictors of how students will perform during medical school. Despite the lack of MCAT scores, a recent study showed that most of the participants in the program did about as well in their classes as those who had taken a more traditional admission route.
As a lay-person who needs the services of a doctor on occasion, I’m a tad bit skeptical about a doctor without a science background. Even a Psychiatrist doles out quite a few prescriptions on a daily basis and I think a basic understanding of the chemistry behind the medicine would be an extremely valuable asset. I’m also leery of talking to a physician who may have been pushed into pursuing a medical degree by an over-zealous and over-achieving parent eager to make their child into something that he or she is not.