Sept. 22, 2014

Adam Farley

Medical school is ruthlessly competitive, brutally demanding and highly prestigious.

Last year there were approximately 10,000 applicants to the CU medical school in Denver. 184 of them were accepted.

The odds of a 21-year-old college graduate immediately being accepted into medical school, however brilliant or hardworking they may be, are very close to zero.

In order to provide students with sufficient experience to stand out in the massive pool of applicants, in 2013 UCCS introduced the biomedical science option for pre-med students. Starting in 2015, the Medical College Admission Test will expand and the social sciences will comprise about a quarter of the test.

According to the 2014- 2015 Biomedical science major sheet on the Student Success Center website, some humanities, social science, oral communication, cultural diversity and global awareness classes are required, and students can select from a list to fulfill these requirements.

Wendy Haggren, senior instructor in the department of chemistry and biochemistry, helped to design the pre-med option under the biochemistry degree plan, and the plan is tailored to what medical school admissions offices are looking for.

But a pre-health option is also available under the Chemistry B.A. pre-health degree plan and the Biology B.S. human option.

Haggren explained that they created the program “scientifically.”

Haggren and her colleagues attend seminars where medical school representatives tell her and advisors from all over the state exactly what they’re looking for.

“You know you have to have good grades, you know you have to kick butt on the entrance exams. What else are they looking for?” she said.

Haggren works with other departments to include the relevant classes that would best serve students trying to get into medical school.

However, the key factor for applicants is oldfashioned experience such as a certain amount of hospital volunteer hours, which accounts for the average age of accepted applicants at the CU medical school this year: 27. It also explains why the pre-med option in biochemistry is very lab-heavy.

Jerry Phillips, attendant professor and director of the UCCS Science Center, is not involved with the program but speaks highly of it.

“This is a fine program to provide a broad base for students interested in learning more about the underlying biology of human systems and human function,” he said. “With care on the part of the student, [it] can be used to meet pre-med options.”

Phillips indicated the degree fulfills minimum requirements but not necessarily the preferred ones.

He says medical schools “highly recommend” one year of biochemistry, as opposed to one semester, and that the medical school in Denver would prefer students take calculus-based physics rather than algebra-based physics.

In a fiercely competitive field, professors warn that simply meeting the requirements doesn’t make you stand out. To be one of 184 selected from 10,000, standing out might need to be considered a minimum requirement.

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