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Medicine is a profession made up of many different specialties and fields. Each subset of medicine has it's own character with varying levels of patient contact, procedures, hours and academic involvement. No matter what your personality, there is likely a medical field to compliment it.
So why does medicine often get a bad rap? The training can be hard and several high profile medical specialties with the toughest hours and schedules get the most press. Today many of the old medical stereotypes are falling by way side as medicine as a profession grows to realize the importance of personal life in helping create more well rounded physicians who can relate to their patients. Do not believe what you see on TV. Medical dramas are nothing like real like medicine.
The road to becoming a physician begins in your undergraduate education. Most medical schools require you to obtain a bachelors degree before you apply for admission. However none require that this degree be in a scientific field. In fact many english, art history and theater majors can be found in medical school. Instead there is a set of prerequisites that each applicant must complete. These vary from school to school and you must make sure you complete the requirements for all schools you wish to apply to. The most common requirements are one year of chemistry with lab, one year of biology with lab, one year of physics with lab and one year of organic chemistry with lab. A few schools also require one year of english and one year of math. While you may have AP credits for some of these courses it is to your advantage to take them, or a higher level course, at your undergraduate college so that the admissions committee can be sure you are at college level.
What if you decide to become a physician after you graduate? Have you missed the boat? Absolutely not. There are many post-baccalaureate programs that specializes in offering premedical courses and helping you prepare your application.
What does medical school entail? After undergrad, those who have successfully applied to medical school will complete four years of medical training to obtain their MD degree. The first two years are largely classroom based with some clinical interaction mixed in. Some programs have trimmed away the first two years of lecture to give you six more months of research or clinical activities.The third and fourth year consist of "clerkships" in which you explore various fields of medicine and help hospital house staff care for patients. These years often involve long hours and stressful exams. Let's face it, you are attempting to learn all of medicine in four years. That's a tough job.
Towards the end of your third year of medical school you will decide which specialty you would like to pursue and send in your national residency matching program application. At the beginning of fourth year you will attend interviews at programs to which you have applied. Then you will rank these programs in order of your preference. They will rank all the applicants they have interviewed as well. A computer will then "match" programs and applicants. In the third week of March the results of the match are revealed.
What happens after medical school? Once you graduate medical school you will attend the residency program to which you have matched. These programs usually run from 3-4 years. Some programs require a "transitional" year before you begin. If this is the case you will have to match to both a transitional year program and your desired residency program. For some physicians who would like to further specialize there is a fellowship matching program that takes place in the middle of residency and is similar to the residency matching system.
After all this you will be a fully trained and licensed physician. It is a long journey but the difference you can make in somebodies life is unbeleiveable. The best way to decide is medicine is right for you is to experience it firsthand. Volunteer at your local hospital, shadow a physician. Get involved!
The first main exam you must take on your journey to becoming a physician is the MCAT. The Medical College Admissions Test should be taken by undergrads before they begin to fill out their applications. It is taken on the computer and consists of a section on the physical sciences a section on biology and a section on verbal reasoning. These sections are graded on a scale of 1-15 making the highest composite score possible a 45. There is also a writing section which is graded from J-T, with T being the highest possible score. Medical schools use these scres to help distinguish applicants. There is no "passing" or "failing" score but generally applicants who receive a 29 or below will have greater difficulty gaining admission to a medical college.
The next exam you must take is the USMLE. The United States Medical Licensing Exam is taken in three steps. The first step is taken after year two of medical school. It is a computer based test with blocks of questions about the medical sciences. It is an entirely multiple choice exam. The score you received is used by many residency programs to distinguish applicants.You must pass this exam to become a licensed physician.
The second step is taken somewhere near the end of your clinical clerkships. It is divided into two parts. Step 2 CK tests your knowledge and is a computer based testwhile Step 2 CS tests your clinical skills through the use of standardized patient exams.
The third step is taken near the end of residency as it measures your ability to practice medicine unsupervised. It includes multiple choice questions and computer based case simulations.
So you've decided medicine is for you. Congratulations! If your campus has a premedical adviser, you should get to know them. If not, do not despair. You can still apply. The first step in applying is making sure you meet the prerequisite requirements for the schools to which you would like to apply, or can do so by the time you would matriculate. Otherwise, you cannot gain acceptance no matter how great your application looks. The easiest way to scout out medical schools is by perusing the latest MSAR (Medical School Admissions Requirements), a book published by the AAMC. Often there will be one in your advisors office. Web surfing is also a convenient, if less efficient, method.
Your next step is to fill out the AMCAS application, your primary application. This application will go to every schoolto which you wish to apply. AMCAS includes an essay, a copy of your transcripts from every college you have attended, your MCAT score, a personal statement you must write plus space for you to fill in your various extra curricular activities. Recently certain medical schools have been having AMCAS receive and process letters of recomendtion as well. There is a flat fee for filling out an AMCAS plus an additional smaller fee for each school you apply to. Once you submit your AMCAS it will be verified by AMCAS workers and then sent to the schools you have selected for screening. It is important to have your transcripts sent to AMCAS as soon as possible to avoid delays in the processing of your application.
Schools that are interested in learning more about you will then send you a secondary application that is unique to their school. Each school is different andsome secondaries are more tedious than others. Often they ask for information all ready supplied on your AMCAS. Often they include additional essays. They always include a processing fee, which can range from 25-150 $. The secondary will also include information about ow many letters of recommendation you need to have sent in.If the school participates in AMCAS's letter service then they will all ready have the necesar letters provided your recomenders have supplied them to AMCAS. Ifthe school does not then you must have the recomender send the letter directly to the school. Often this is doneby having your premedical adviser receive all your letters. The adviser can then photocopy the letter and send it to as many schools as needed. This lifts a burden from your letter writers. You cannot do this yourelf since the letters are supposed to remain confidential and never seen by the applicant.
Always make sure to give your letter writers plenty of time to hand in their letters. You should also follow up to make sure all leters are submitted. Some people just forget. The best letters are from people who know you well and can rave about you. It is sometimes helpful for writers who know you less personally if you provide them with a summary sheet or resume about yourself.
Schools that like the looks of your secondary application will invite you to an interview. You must dress professionally ont hese interviews and be prepared to talk about yourself, your application and your mtivations for medicine. Most interviews are one-on-one althoug a few schools like to use a panel style interview. In general you will have two interviews per school. Try to mock interview with friends and your adviser to make sure you are prepped.
After the interview you must wait until the schools mail out decisions. At this point you will receive either an acceptance, a rejection or a spot on the waitlist. It is important that waitlisters continue to update schools and express their continued interest. Spots do open up for those on the waitlists as others who have received multiple acceptances turn down schools. If you are on a waitlist you want your name to be the first one pulled for the acceptance list. By May 15th all students must drop all but one acceptance. However, you may remain on as many waitlists as you like. Should you come off a waitlist after promising to matriculate to another school you will now be holding two acceptances. You must relinquish one of the two schools to open a spot for another student.
What about early decision? There are several early decision programs. Not every school has one. You must inquire with the specific school to which you wish to apply about their early acceptance policies. This is an option if you believe you know for sure that you wish to matriculate at that school and feel you have a good chance at gaining admision. If you are not accepted via early acceptance you will be allowed to apply to other schools. Your application will be slightly later than other applicants, but you still have a chance. Early acceptacne is not a method of application recomended for most students. You must weigh the pros and cons carefully.
What about combined undergrad/medical programs? Several schools have the option for a high school senior to apply to their joint undergrad/medical program. In these programs you are guaranteed acceptance to the medical school so long as you meet the undergrad program requirements. There are very few slots of this type and once again, you are lmiteing yourself to one school as once you accept the programs offer (as a high school senior) you are promising not to apply to other schools. Should you break this promise or fail to meet the undergraduate program requirements, you will no longer be gauranteed a spot at the medical school.
There are many specialties within medicine. If you would like to see information on a specific speialty please e-mail [email protected]
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