Choosing a Health Profession
Allied Health Program
How to Prepare
Doctor of Medicine (M.D.)
A career in medicine offers a variety of career choices. Most physicians choose to treat patients full time, while others choose to teach, conduct research, and manage hospitals and clinics. Physicians that choose to practice full time are trained to examine patients, gather medical histories, perform necessary diagnostic tests and prescribe and administer treatment. In addition, physicians are trained to counsel patients on their medical illness or injuries, as well as preventive healthcare to promote a healthy lifestyle.
Physicians are often separated in two main groups, Primary Care Physicians and Specialists (or Subspecialists). Primary care physicians include general internists, general pediatricians and family physicians. These physicians are trained to provide a wide range of services to adults and children. If a patient requires further treatment, a primary care doctor will refer them to a specialist. Specialists (or subspecialists) concentrate on a particular type of illness, system or part of the body, such as neurology, orthopedic surgery, radiology and surgery just to name a few. These doctors often treat patients that have been referred to them by a Primary care physician or by another specialist.
It is important to gain some experience working with patients in a clinical setting as you prepare for a career in the health professions. Successful applicants demonstrate to medical schools that they have investigated their chosen profession and are aware of the benefits as well as the drawbacks that it presents. This is beneficial for your own development, as it allows you to be sure that you will enjoy working as a doctor. Medical schools want to see applicants that have indicated true enthusiasm about medicine and sought out opportunities to learn more about the field. Although many pre-medical students have a difficult academic course load, most volunteer positions require only a minimal time commitment, some as little as three hours per week. Find a service organization or program and stick with it, a commitment to serving others is vital for admissions to medical school.
Research is not required for admission to medical school, although it is a valuable way of enhancing your classroom learning. Many students learn unexpected things about what sorts of daily activities they like and dislike though research experiences. Tulane University's status as a top-tier research institution means that students at all levels have the opportunity to conduct research. Whether or not you want to be a researcher in the future, you miss an important part of what Tulane and the academic experience have to offer if you elect not to explore an undergraduate research experience. Additionally, students who work closely with a professor doing research often have strong letters of recommendation written on their behalf. Visit Tulane’s Research for Students webpage for more information.
Summer is a great time to do research, explore the clinical setting, or do an internship. You can continue volunteer work, or even get a job. You can study abroad or take summer courses to increase your options during the school year. Essentially, what you do during the summer doesn’t have a great deal of weight in your application, unless you participate in something of profound importance. Summer time is not something that can hurt too much, but it can definitely help.
Medical Schools welcome students with any major. Students need not major in one of the sciences in order to gain acceptance into a medical school. Indeed, more and more medical school matriculants are majoring in the humanities and social sciences. Students should choose a major because they find the coursework engaging and exciting, not because they think it will impress a medical school. Students are far more likely to end up with strong grades in courses that they love.
Required coursework for medical school can be completed alongside any major, and requirements must be completed before matriculation but not necessarily before application. Your GPA (especially the biology-chemistry-physics-mathematics GPA) is significant; you should aim for a competitive GPA by the time of application.
Applications for Medical School are submitted online through the American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS), which is the only centralized application process that allows applicants to complete one central application form and apply to participating medical schools. The majority of medical schools are AMCAS participants; please look at the AMCAS website for a list of participating schools. Students are encouraged to apply at the earliest possible date, which varies by school.
Every student who applies for entrance into a U.S. medical school must take the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) and medical schools give considerable weight to the exam. For extensive information on the MCAT, including information on how and when to schedule a test, test site locations, ordering practice tests and more, see the AAMC MCAT website.
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