Physicians serve a broad range of medical functions. They diagnose disease, prescribe treatment, supervise patient care and participate in the improved delivery of health services. Many physicians branch off into basic and applied medical research, teaching or administration.
There are two types of physicians: M.D.—Doctor of Medicine—and D.O.—Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine. M.D.s also are known as allopathic physicians. While both M.D.s and D.O.s may use all accepted methods of treatment, including drugs and surgery, D.O.s place special emphasis on the body’s musculoskeletal system, preventive medicine, and holistic patient care. D.O.s are most likely to be primary care specialists although they can be found in all specialties. About half of D.O.s practice general or family medicine, general internal medicine, or general pediatrics. (bls.gov 2008-05-08)
There are approximately 150 medical schools in the United States, and students typically apply to about 12 schools. It is important that students plan their coursework to satisfy the prerequisites for several different medical schools.
Students interested in pursuing a medical career should:
- Consider academic success when choosing a major. While a bachelor's degree is necessary to be a competitive applicant, medical schools are not concerned with your specific major. In pursuing an undergraduate curriculum, include the courses required for admission to medical school.
- Check with the admissions office for each school of interest in order to determine the school's specific prerequisites and admissions requirements. Complete specific prerequisite courses including two years of chemistry, one year of biology, and one year of physics.
- Make sure you research which schools you wish to apply to in order to know their requirements, as well as their curriculum.
- Gain experience through paid employment or by volunteering in a doctor's office or hospital. Qualified medical school applicants will be able to demonstrate an interest and an awareness of current medical and social issues as well as show a solid understanding of the daily practice of medicine.
- Become familiar with the American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS) site. To be considered for admission, most medical schools require students to apply through this web-based application service. The application process takes over a year. After sending in one's primary application, the school will ask selected students to fill out a secondary application. If a student passes the second evaluation, they will be asked to visit the school for an interview. A student could find out they were accepted to a medical school as late as July, a year after beginning the application process. There are resources available for students at every stage of the application process at the AAMC Tomorrow's Doctors website.
- Take the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) prior to starting the last year of undergraduate work. This test is required for admission by most medical schools.
- Review the SLED Testing and Education Reference Center for MCAT test preps. You will want to choose Graduate Schools after clicking on Testing and Education Reference Center.
- Familiarize yourself with the WWAMI program, available at UAA and is a partnership between Alaska and the University of Washington.
- Take advantage of any coursework or experience that may enhance your application. Admission to medical school is competitive. A minimum GPA or MCAT score may be stated, but attaining the minimum does not guarantee admission (stated minimum GPA may be a 3.0, but the average GPA of those actually admitted can be as high as 3.75).
- While medical schools do not require a specific undergraduate major, they generally expect applicants to have a foundation in biology, chemistry and physics. Medical schools, however, often look for a diverse body of students, so a non-science major could be to your advantage.
- There is a pre-med society at UAF. They can be reached at www.uafpremed.org or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Courses required for admission by most medical schools**:
|Title||Semester Credits||UAF Course(s)|
|General chemistry with lab||8||Chem 105X, 106X|
|General biology with lab||8||Biol 115X, 116X (formerly Bio 105X, 106X)|
|Organic chemistry||6-8||Chem 321, 322 (also Chem 324 if lab required)|
|Physics||8||Phys 103X & 104X or Phys 211X & 212X|
Courses RECOMMENDED by many medical schools (varies by school):
|Human anatomy and physiology|
|Biol 111X, 112X|
|Additional biology such as microbiology, vertebrate zoology, genetics, embryology, cell physiology, comparative anatomy and biochemistry|
|Biol 303, 317, 342, 362, 417, 418, 425, 444, 461, 465, 481|
|Comm 131X or 141X|
|Engl 111X, Engl 211X or 213X|
|Stat 200X or 300|
|One course in addition to Statistics; Calculus is recommended by many schools.|
|UAF core courses|
**Admission requirements vary by school. While this table was compiled by researching many medical schools, it is important to check the admission requirements for each school that you are interested in to be sure that you will meet all of the prerequisites required by that school. A course listed as recommended here may be required by your school of choice.
Professional medical education consists of four years of graduate level study. Typically, the first two years of medical school are composed of classroom instruction and laboratory work; the second two years consist of clinical rotations. However, several schools are changing their curriculum to include clinical work alternating with classroom work throughout all four years. Make sure you research which schools you wish to apply to in order to know their requirements, as well as their curriculum. Medical school graduates have to do an internship/residency in order to practice as a physician. In order to be a family practice doctor it requires 3 years, while surgery is a minimum of 5 years (or more, depending on one's specialty).
A UAF degree in Biological Sciences or Biochemistry requires many of the same courses required for admission to medical school. However, medical schools encourage students to complete a field of study in which they are most interested in (while meeting the medical school's prerequisites). Pre-med students may want to consider a double major, or a major and minor combination which will incorporate diversity in their curriculum (see list of degrees). Students considering a career in medicine should see an Academic Advisor or a departmental advisor for assistance with program advisement, exploration of professional schools and licensing requirements.