Friday, May 3, 2019

Humanities getting into Med School

Article Written By: Nikhita Nandy


A humanities major may just be the key to med school admission

Recently, obtaining a degree in the humanities has received considerable attention by many medical schools.

According to a scholarly article by Pacific Standard Magazine, only 3.5% of medical school applicants have a humanities background, yet their acceptance rate is higher than the overall rate of other majors. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges and Princeton Review the four most popular pre-med majors include biological sciences, social sciences, physical sciences and humanities.

Some of the most popular Canadian universities with medical schools like University of Ottawa and McGill University appreciate applicants with diverse backgrounds. This opens up an interesting debate of whether humanities majors are better critical thinkers than science undergraduates.

According to the University of Ottawa Medical School statistics, liberal art majors definitely have the comparative advantage of great communication skills. Having taken courses on literature, philosophy and ethics; they have consequently developed both the theoretical and interpersonal skills required for the medical profession. The humanities encourages students to have a more holistic understanding of medicine with emphasis on adopting better communication skills and promoting critical reflection.
Medical school doesn’t have a prerequisite major. However, it is interesting to wonder why so many people almost exclusively choose the life sciences as a pre-medical school degree. Perhaps,  the idea of obtaining the “typical” life sciences degree is glorified amongst high school and university students. This conception seems to be the prevalent one amongst students, suggesting that it is the societal pressures that drive their decisions in choosing the right undergraduate program.

Some of these societal pressures include cultural barriers. In some cultures, an ingrained concept that medicine is the only high-paying and noble career is drilled into a child’s mind from childhood. This further perpetuates the idea that doctors should be placed on a pedestal as people view them to be most intelligent and respectful professionals anyone can trust.

Another factor is the worry of being ill prepared for the MCAT with a humanities degree; students may fear they may not be prepared to write the exam as they have not learned the right subject material. This proves to be the primary reason for those pursuing a life science degrees - they believe they can obtain the prerequisites mandatory for medicine. However, according to many medical admission boards, what people don’t understand is that medical school doesn’t require any prerequisites, all they need is a high grade point average and extraordinary extracurriculars. Also, students must understand the importance of pursuing a degree in an area that is of genuine interest to them and not something that enables them to write a standardized test.

All things considered, it is important for students to understand that completing these general science degrees will not guarantee them a spot in their preferred medical school. Medical school admission statistics have shown that pre-medical students who have taken courses they enjoy are more likely to obtain higher grade point averages than students who pursue programs that consist of courses they don’t find interesting. Thus, as suggested by Princeton Review, when considering potential undergraduate degrees to pursue for medicine, explore programs that would not only offer courses you enjoy, but one that provide you with an indispensable skill set required for the medical field.

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