Young doctors studying

Medicine is a highly respected career which brings many rewards. Physicians and surgeons diagnose and treat injuries or illnesses. Physicians examine patients; take medical histories; prescribe medications; and order, perform and interpret diagnostic tests. They counsel patients on diet, hygiene, and preventive healthcare. Surgeons operate on patients to treat injuries, such as broken bones; disease, such as cancerous tumors; and deformities, such as cleft palates. Career outlook is strong; employment is expected to grow by 18% from the period of 2012–2022.

US Bureau of Labor Statistics and Occupational Handbook

"It is an extraordinary time to be a doctor. You will be entering medicine at a time when the country needs your services most, given predicted physician shortages in coming years, and when national attention is focused like never before on the need to improve health care delivery. It is also a time when our profession is undergoing an exciting period of transformative change, with clinical care becoming increasingly patient-centered and team –based, biomedical research more technically sophisticated and collaborative, and medical education itself evolving into a continuum of lifelong learning."

Darrell Kirch, MD
President and CEO, Association of American Medical Colleges

The physician of the future will value diversity (from personal experience getting out of their comfort zone), be culturally competent, understand the social dimensions of health, will think critically like a scientist, will understand research design, will meet most of the competencies, especially the ability to be resourceful and resilient, and will be a team player. They will be chosen holistically, taking into account their family background.

They may be an MD or a DO

The OSU premed program provides extensive resources to support our applicants through all aspects of their preparation and application, and this is reflected in the high success rate of our students who are admitted to medical schools.

Getting started

Refer to Preparing for Medical School and the Overview of the Premed Pathway (pdf). 

There is no preferred major for premeds. Common majors include those in Science (Biology, Biochemistry/Biophysics, Chemistry and Microbiology), Engineering (Bioengineering, Chemical Engineering, Radiation Health Physics, etc.), Public health and Human Sciences (Kinesiology, Nutrition, Public Health), Agricultural Science (Bioresource Research), and Liberal Arts (Philosophy, Psychology, Spanish, etc.). Medical schools are looking for academic rigor and depth, so choose a major that interests you. 

  • General Chemistry: CH 231/261 series
  • General Biology: BI 211 series
  • Organic Chemistry: CH 331, 332, 337, or CH 334 series
  • General Physics: PH 201 or 211 series
  • Biochemistry: BB 450, BB 451 or BB490, BB 491
  • Genetics: BI 311

For the MCAT you also need Psychology (i.e., PSY 201, 202), Sociology, and Statistics. You might also consider a minor, or the Medical Humanities Certificate. It can be beneficial for students in the more technical majors to enhance their curriculum in this way.

Getting involved

Once you have settled into your academic routine, get involved on campus and in the community. See the volunteer information page. Choose some activities which broaden your perspectives, and work with people who are different from yourself. Research adds a great deal to a medical school application and there are many opportunities to get involved at OSU. However, research does not take the place of clinical experience, which is required in order to be competitive.

Get to know some professors who have taught you in classes, as you will need letters of evaluation (pdf).

Getting good information

Be sure to stay connected with the latest information through the listserv, and the Premedical orientation course in the spring, BI 109.

OSU has a number of advisors who are members of the Premedical Advisory Committee; connect early with your premed advisor and stay in touch.

Getting informed about the profession

Become familiar with the application services AMCAS at the AAMC (Association of American Medical Colleges) and AACOMAS at AACOM (American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine). Learn about professional trends and initiatives at these websites.

There are many opportunities to hear from speakers, so attend lectures when you can. We have physicians who speak, panel discussions, and there are activities at the osteopathic medical school in Lebanon, COMP-NW which you can learn about at www.opso.org. Be sure to note that both MDs (allopathic) and DOs (osteopathic) physicians are fully license to do all specialties. DOs also receive training in osteopathic manipulation.

Getting health care experience

Connecting with physicians and volunteer opportunities in your home community is advantageous, so look for opportunities to do that. Many students continue a relationship with a physician they established while in high school. It is a good idea to keep a reflective journal along the way as you gain experience and make observations.

The Medical Preceptorship matches junior or senior premed students with local physicians.

What's important?

Know what lies ahead

Medical schools want to know if you have a realistic view of what lies ahead in medical school and in the profession. Have you worked around people who are sick, in pain, have no access to medical care? Do you understand the scope of practice of a physician, compared to other members of the health care team, and is that where you see yourself? To learn about the many other careers, see www.ExploreHealthCareers.org

Medical schools want you to know yourself; what are your values, what is important to you?

Teamwork and leadership

Teamwork is very important, so look for opportunities to work in groups where everyone has a role. The trend toward IPE (interpersonal education) is growing. In medical school and residency, it is likely you will interact with other professional students in classrooms and on case studies.

Leadership is also very important, and there are many opportunities on campus including a leadership minor.

Core competencies

The AAMC has been involved in a long term project researching what is important for medical students and premed students to know. They published a report, Scientific Foundations for Future Physicians (pdf), in 2009. This led the way for a revision to the MCAT and to the establishment of Core Competencies for premed students before they enter medical school. These can be a good guide for you, as you evaluate some areas that you need to work on. Note that many medical schools also have their own set of Core Competencies for their graduates (for example, OHSU (pdf)). Many medical schools including OHSU have a competency-based curriculum. Review additional information regarding core competencies here

Diversity and holistic admissions

Medical schools are very interested in diversity and they want people who are culturally competent and sensitive, who show a desire to learn, value and respect others' culture. They want you to work with people who are different from yourself, getting "out of your comfort zone". They are moving toward Holistic Admissions, where they will look at all aspects of your application and pay special attention to your experiences (family background, community service, research, leadership, affiliations, life experiences, and general "distance traveled"); attributes (ethnicity, race, values and beliefs, general identity, maturity, intellectual curiosity, etc.) in addition to your metrics (GPA, grade trends and MCAT). OHSU has always been known for their holistic admissions and they especially value diverse, life-enriching experiences. This is reflected in the average age, 26 of their matriculants compared to the national average of 24. Osteopathic schools have also always looked more broadly at applicants and this is reflected in their wider range of GPA and MCAT scores and life experiences of matriculants.

Professionalism

Professional attitudes and behavior are important and expected.

Criminal background checks are in your future, so always use good judgment.

Along the way, keep in mind that you should be WELL ROUNDED in academics and activities, WELL GROUNDED in knowing yourself and your values, AND WELL SURROUNDED by people who support your goals. Medical schools are quite concerned about RESILIENCY SKILLS; they want to know you can bounce back from a setback. Learn more about resilience at the AAMC.

Getting Ready to Apply

MCAT

Prepare well for the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). Know the format of the questions and take practice tests to work on finishing within the time allowed.

Timing of applications

Consider your timing; while many students apply the summer after their junior year, it can be quite productive to delay the application and take a gap year or two while gaining additional experience. You may review the general application timeline

Learning about the application process

There is lots of advice out there; pay attention to the credentials of those giving it. Are they currently working in admissions at a medical school, or do they work directly with people at medical schools and application services? Unless one of these is true, most of the advice offered will be out of date due to the many recent changes in admissions.

Application seminars given by the Premedical Committee Coordinator/Advisor will always be the most accurate and current source of information and advice about the application process, obtained directly from the medical schools and application services. These seminars are given in November and later winter or early spring terms. They are announced on the premedical listserv. (To join the listserv, send a blank email using your official OSU email account to premedclub-join@lists.oregonstate.edu, and then reply to the email response to confirm your subscription). Once you are in the application process, you will join an applicant-only list where you will receive relevant messages throughout the cycle.

The application

Your personal statement is very important, and expect to do many drafts. Write about your journey up to this point. Include examples that help show that you know what you are getting into, have had experiences which got you out of your comfort zone, and have seen the good parts as well as the challenges in medicine. We will provide assistance in reviewing your personal statement, as will the Writing Center.

The FAQs on the premed website have information about AP policies, medical schools' MCAT policies, paying for medical school, etc.

When choosing medical schools, note that your state of residency will be a factor; state-supported schools give preference to in-state applicants and accept few of any non-residents. We provide assistance in choosing schools. Note that very few medical schools (pdf) accept international students.

Letters of evaluation

Use the Letter Request Form (pdf) when asking for letters.

OSU has a Committee Letter process, and your premed advisor will write a cover letter to accompany the additional letters which have been written on your behalf if you meet the minimum qualifications. See Procedures and Deadlines for Applying for detailed information. It's important to stay connected with your advisor so they can add information about you in their letter, and provide context. 

The College of Science collects letters on your behalf, and they are scanned and uploaded to medical schools.

Prepare well for your interviews. Some schools use a MMI (Multiple Mini Interview) format; others use a more standard format or some combination of the two. An interview workshop exploring ethical scenarios will be presented in the fall, and mock interviews can be scheduled with various faculty as well as the Career Center.

Learn more about the letters of evaluation and the application process here: http://www.science.oregonstate.edu/premed-application 

Summary

  • Choose a major that fits your interests and skills
  • Take advantage of the many resources on campus to help you succeed in class
  • Once your routine is established, get involved in campus and community activities, and attend lectures and meetings, paying special attention to opportunities which put you in touch with people who are different from yourself.
  • Take advantage of the many resources for premed students: listserv, BI 109, premed advisors, speakers, application seminars, etc.
  • Make good connections for letters
  • Pay attention to every detail throughout the application process

Bottom line

All of these need to be excellent
  • Academics
  • Clinical Experience
  • Understanding of medical issues/ awareness of trends and concerns and medical ethics
  • Community service
  • Teamwork and leadership
  • Understanding of multicultural and social issues which affect health
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Scholarly work (research, or something else with depth)
  • Diverse life experiences/ communication skills/ maturity