The Long Road to Med School
By Samantha Spicer
Last time I reviewed the ins and outs of a career in the legal world as a lawyer. This week I’m going to switch gears completely and talk about a career in the medical field as a doctor. I sat down with Dr. Matthew Ward, pre-med advisor and professor of chemistry, to gain some insight into what it takes to become a doctor.
From the beginning, the biggest pieces of advice he has for new freshmen is to get connected with your advisor right away and other faculty as well. The reason for this is because they will be your number one resource when it comes to getting letters of recommendation for medical school. Dr. Ward also advises to volunteer in a hospital as early and often as you can. He also suggests reading for pleasure as well for school. I was a little surprised when he made that recommendation, but his explanation makes perfect sense. The reason for this is reading improves your vocabulary, which will improve your ability to do well on the MCAT exam.
That leads to the number one factor in deciding whether or not you get into medical school- the MCAT exam. Unlike the LSAT, which I discussed last time, with the MCAT exam there are certain courses you need to take before you can even sit for it. The MCAT exam tests the basic sciences and reading comprehension. This is different than the LSAT, which tests specific skills but not legal content. There are also various prep courses that can be taken to prepare you for the MCAT and various books written to help students study. Preparation for the MCAT exam should start as soon as you start the sciences, according to Dr. Ward.
The next most critical factor in whether or not you get into medical school is your GPA and resume, but mostly your GPA. There is really no set major that is “best” for medical school. Here at Daemen our path is with bio-chemistry, but any major will work. What students should keep in mind, however, is that certain courses need to be taken to sit for the MCAT exam. So don’t think just because you’re an English major you don’t have to take chemistry. If you don’t you won’t be eligible to sit for the MCAT exam.
Dr. Ward does have something to say about science in particular, however. To quote Dr. David Pratt, a physical chemistry professor at the University of Pittsburgh where Dr. Ward attended graduate school, “If you graduate with a science degree you can do anything you want, because science teaches you how to think.” What that quote means is every job requires critical thought; science not only requires it but demands it! What Daemen students should take away from that is take your science courses seriously. I know from experience that is true, and even if you decide science isn’t what you want to do, if you take those courses seriously those skills will stay with you and serve you well in all aspects of life.