Pre-med students balance experience

By Maureen Klewicki, Staff Writer

For Teah Caine, staying on top of all the premedical requirements she needs to apply for medical school can be tough.

“The biggest challenge is doing it all at once,” said Caine, a junior in communication sciences and disorders. “There is never a point where you can stop between work, studying for science classes, volunteering and researching.”

Students planning to apply to medical school have to complete more classes and requirements than the average graduate school applicant. Besides two years of chemistry, a year of physics and two biology classes, students must show multiple hours of extracurricular activities, volunteer work, experience working with patients and physicians in a medical atmosphere and research with another professor.

“Students need four years in each (required) area,” said Shane Hawthorne, a senior in biology and president of the U’s premedical honor society, Alpha Epsilon Delta. “You can do a little less with the research, but you want to show consistency.”

Medical school acceptance boards review hundreds of applications every year.

While most premedical students choose science majors that overlap these requirements, the U’s 2008 medical school class showed majors in art history, English and even social science.

“If you’re not a science major, the classes are very difficult, premed(ical) classes are a lot more trying than normal courses,” Caine said.

Along with completing the premedical courses, Libo Wang has worked as a surgical orderly and an anesthesiology technician to make himself a more competitive applicant.

“Admission to the U Medical School is pretty competitive. Premed is focused on a wide variety of areas,” said Wang, a senior in biology.

U students also require four letters of recommendation, including one from a non-science professor, one from a researcher, one from a physician they have worked with and the final from someone who has overseen their volunteer work.

In order to be accepted to the U Medical School, students need to make themselves competitive applicants, said Chris Nelson, spokesman for U health sciences.

Nelson said that of about 1,300 applicants in 2008, 102 were matriculated. With such a large applicant pool, by the time it’s narrowed down to 300 or 400 students, everyone has a competitive GPA and MCAT score.

Hawthorne said the premedical honor society organizes activities to help new students interested in medical school learn about requirements and how to fill them.

The society arranges for Jill Baeder, coordinator for the Undergraduate Studies programs, to meet with students about where and how to find research opportunities, funding for research and recognition for their work.

Baeder is also in charge of the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program, which funds students with strong research proposals with $1,200 for their first semester and $600 during the second.

Hawthorne said the society also goes to Capitol Hill to show the Utah State Legislature their research efforts and hopefully encourage the Legislature to continue giving money to undergraduate research.

To determine which of the remaining applicants will be admitted, the committee looks at extracurricular activities, Nelson said. In assessing an applicant, the committee weighs GPA and MCAT scores at about 10 percent each, while extracurricular activities determine the remaining 80 percent, he said.

However, if students complete the premedical requirements at the U, the chances of getting into the U School of Medicine are significantly increased when compared to out-of-state students. Out of about 100 students admitted, a minimum of 75 slots are reserved for Utah residents.

“The guideline is 75 slots for Utah residents, eight to nine for residents from Idaho and roughly 12 spots for everyone else,” Nelson said. Since Utah taxpayers provided the U Medical School with almost $29 million of funding in 2008, students living in Utah are given priority.

Educating residents, who might practice in Utah, is the state’s way of rewarding the taxpayers, Nelson said.

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Erik Daenitz

Daniel Andrade and other pre-med students agreed that one of their biggest challenges is juggling work, study, volunteering, and research all at the same time.