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Medical Education FAQ [1/2] ( FAQ) [v2.6]
Section - 1. The Journey to Medical School -- Before Applying

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1.1) What is an MD?

  An MD, or Doctor of Medicine, most simply is a person who has
  graduated from a medical school.  An MD can have many and varying
  roles in the community.  First, an MD is a caregiver, a person turned
  to by members of the community in times of physical, psychological or
  emotional weakness.  MDs treat not only the body but also the mind and
  the spirit, often delving into the emotional, psychological or social
  reasons behind a physical illness.  MDs treat people in inpatient
  settings, in the operating room, outpatient clinics, and in emergency
  room visits.

  Not all MDs, though, deal with patients in such a direct manner.
  Pathologists deal with diseased tissues taken from the patient as well
  as clinical laboratory and blood bank settings.  Radiologists deal
  with images of the patient produced and enhanced by various imaging
  technologies.  Some MDs choose to concentrate their efforts solely on
  research, developing new equipment, vaccines, drugs, or discovering
  the underlying causes of disease.  MDs can devote their time to
  teaching, both in a classroom setting (in a medical school, for
  example) and in the community (teaching preventive methods to
  community members, teaching CPR or first aid, or administering

  Becoming an MD opens up to you a vast number of possibilities for
  using your medical training.  MDs serve the community in many more
  ways than just seeing patients, prescribing drugs, or performing
  surgery.  If you say to yourself, "I'm not a people person, so I'd
  make a lousy doctor," keep in mind that there are ways to use your
  interest in medicine to benefit the community without seeing
  patients on a day-to-day basis.

1.2) What is a DO?

  Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine (DOs) are the legal and professional
  equivalents of Doctors of Medicine (MDs).  They are licensed to
  practice medicine in all 50 states and use all conventionally
  accepted therapeutic modalities such as surgery, radiology, and
  drugs.  They are eligible to enroll in all federal programs, managed
  care and insurance plans, serve as commissioned medical officers in
  all branches of armed services, and serve as public health officers,
  coroners, insurance examiners, and team physicians.  In other words,
  they practice complete medicine and surgery.  Only DOs and MDs can
  do this.

  DOs represent about 5% of the country's physicians and provide care
  for approximately 10% of the patients.  This is because higher
  proportions of osteopathic medical graduates enter into primary care
  residencies after graduation compared to their MD counterparts.

  Andrew Taylor Still, MD founded osteopathic medicine in the late
  1800's in response to what he thought was poor medical practice at
  that time.  He based osteopathic medicine on the following

   1) The structure of the body and its functions work together,

   2) The body systems have built-in repair processes which are
   self-regulating and self-healing in the face of disease.

   3) The circulatory system provides the integrating functions for
   the rest of the body.

   4) The musculoskeletal system contributes more to a person's health
   than only providing framework and support.

   5) While disease may be manifested in specific parts of the body; other
   parts may contribute to a restoration or a correction of the disease.

  The preparation and training of DOs is nearly identical to the
  training of MDs.  Admission prerequisites and curricula are very
  similar.  DOs can sit for the MD boards if they are interested in
  pursuing a MD residency after graduation.

  The primary difference in their education is that DO students
  complete an additional 200-300 hours of training in osteopathic
  manipulative medicine (OMM).  OMM is a modality used primarily to
  treat musculoskeletal problems and overlaps in its scope with
  physical therapy and manual medicine techniques.  Also, DO schools
  place more emphasis on producing primary care physicians than do
  some MD schools.  This means that during their clinical years,
  students at DO schools spend more time rotating through primary care
  specialties such as family medicine, pediatrics, obstetrics and
  gynecology, internal medicine, and psychiatry.  Nevertheless,
  specialty training isn't out of the question for DOs.  Many DOs seek
  and obtain residencies in surgical and non-surgical specialties.

  For more information, see the American Association of Colleges of
  Osteopathic Medicine at <>.

1.3) What are the prerequisites for medical school?

  All medical schools require a baccalaureate (BA, AB, BS, or
  equivalent) degree, with rare exceptions.  The usual course
  prerequisites for both MD and DO schools are:

    1 year of Biology or Zoology (with lab)
    1 year of Inorganic Chemistry (with lab)
    1 year of Organic Chemistry (with lab)
    1 year of Physics (with lab)

  Some schools require english, humanities, calculus, or biochemistry
  as well.  Check the book "Medical School Admission Requirements" (cf
  1.4) for each school's particular requirements.

  The one year of Physics need not be calculus-based, although many
  colleges offer only the calculus-based class.

  There is disagreement over whether prerequisites may be taken at
  community or junior colleges.  To be sure, contact the individual
  schools to which you plan to apply.

  Many students finish their undergraduate degrees without completing
  the medical school prerequisites.  Some of these students choose to
  take the courses at their local public college or university, while
  others enroll in more formal "post-baccalaureate" programs, where the
  classes are taken full-time over approximately a year.

1.4) What is the MSAR?

  The book "Medical School Admission Requirements," or "MSAR," is often
  considered the premedical student's "bible."  Published by the
  Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), it contains
  information on premedical requirements for each of the MD schools in
  the US and Canada, as well as information and statistics about
  admissions, financial aid, and minority student issues.  Many
  questions not answered in this FAQ will be answered in the MSAR.  It
  is revised each April, so make sure you get the most recent edition.
  You should definitely get this book if you are considering medical
  school.  You can buy a copy at your local college bookstore, from an
  online bookstore, or direct from the AAMC at:

1.5) State school or Ivy League for undergrad?

  In general, whether you attend a well-known school or a relatively
  invisible school is not important.  What is important, however, is
  doing well at whichever school you decide to attend.  One thing you
  may want to keep in mind is that doing well at a prominent
  institution goes a lot farther than doing well at a lesser-known
  state college.  Choose what you are most comfortable with, not what
  you think the medical schools want to see.

1.6) Which major should I choose?

  According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, a
  premedical student may select any major he or she chooses, provided
  that he or she completes the prerequisites for medical study (cf
  1.3).  The most important thing is to select a major you enjoy, as
  this would allow you to master the subject.  Medical school
  admissions committees want to see students who master their major
  fields of concentration in college, and many medical schools enjoy
  receiving applications from students who have studied areas outside
  of the sciences.  Acceptance statistics broken down by major are
  provided in the MSAR (cf. 1.4).

1.7) Is admission to medical school competitive?

  Medical school admissions has always been competitive, as there are
  always more applicants than there are seats.  In recent years,
  however, admissions has become even more competitive as the AAMC has
  logged a record increase in applications which hit a peak of
  approximately 45,000 applications during the 1995-1996 cycle, which
  represents a ratio of about 3 applicants for every medical school
  seat.  Since then the number of applications filed has slowly

1.8) Do I have to do research?

  Absolutely not, but doing research does help to demonstrate
  analytical skills in scientific investigation which are helpful for
  practicing physicians.  There are many medical students who have
  never stepped inside a lab outside the prerequisite lab courses, but
  at the same time, many people feel that with increased competition
  for medical school seats, research experience is a much-needed notch
  on the applicant's belt.

1.9) Do I have to have clinical experience?

  Gaining clinical experience as a premedical student is rather
  important as it can show that your decision to want to go to medical
  school is well-rooted, and not coming out of left field.  Gaining
  clinical experience, however, means different things to different
  people.  Simply volunteering at your local hospital may not be
  sufficient, as these volunteer opportunities often have you do tasks
  very unrelated to medicine (e.g. filing, faxing, copying).  Look for
  "Health Career Opportunity Programs," or other such internships
  designed for premedical students, so that your valuable premedical
  time is not wasted in a second-rate program.  If your school has a
  "premedical internship" program, take advantage of it.

1.10) How old is too old?

  It may not be too late.  Students in their 30s and 40s are admitted
  to many medical schools.  Anecdotes about students in their 50s have
  been posted on  When making your plans, keep
  in mind that the shortest amount of time from entering medical
  school until exiting the shortest residency (general internal
  medicine, general pediatrics, or family practice) is 7 years.

1.11) How high does my GPA need to be?

  Perhaps every premedical student has heard tales of the 3.9 GPA Phi
  Beta Kappa applicant getting into every medical school he or she
  applied to, and of the 2.5 GPA student applying to medical school
  without a prayer, but there is a little more to the GPA issue than
  just getting above a certain mark.  GPAs will vary depending on the
  competitiveness of your school, so if you attend a world-renowned
  institution such as Harvard, your GPA will be calculated based on
  competition with an intense student body.

  If you attend Acme State University, where there is a major in
  bartending, your GPA will be calculated based on competition with a
  slightly less intense student body.  Generally, however, a 2.3 at
  Harvard is still pretty bad and probably not as good as a 4.0 at
  Acme State, and we can guess that perhaps the Harvard student is not
  going to get into medical school.  So what are the generalities we
  should look at when determining whether our GPAs are good enough for
  medical school?  Some premedical advisors say that if your GPA is
  3.3 at a good school, you have a 20% chance for admission.  Others
  will say having a 3.5 to 3.6 is the requisite GPA, but if you keep
  it as high as you can, you should have no problem (so try to keep it
  above 3.3!).

1.12) I completed college without finishing the pre-med requirements, 
      and I want to apply to medical school.  What do I do now?

  There are a couple of options.  You can enroll at a local college or
  university as a non-degree student and simply take the
  prerequisites.  Additionally, you might consider enrolling in a
  formal post-baccalaureate pre-medical program offered by many of
  colleges and universities in response to an increasing number of
  students changing careers into medicine.  A comprehensive list of
  "post-bacc" pre-med programs can be found at

1.13) What are some good sources of information about medical
      school and medicine?


   Lewis Thomas, MD
   Sherwin Nuland, MD
   David Hilfiker, MD
   Perri Klass, MD
   Oliver Sacks, MD
   Robert Marion, MD
   David Ewing Duncan


   There are many books on this subject (too many to list), and
   quality varies widely.  For an exhaustive list, try doing a search
   on "medical school" at an online bookstore.


   The PBS television show NOVA aired a documentary about the training
   of seven medical students at Harvard Medical School, following them
   from anatomy lab through residency.  Highly recommended.  "MD: The
   Making of a Doctor" may be ordered from WGBH-Boston, item #WG2207,
   by calling 1-800-255-9424.  It costs $19.95.

   An update on the "Making of a Doctor" physicians was recently
   completed, called "Survivor MD."  It is a 3-hour special and can be
   ordered from WGBH at the number above for $29.95.

   "Official" sites on the World Wide Web (many of these are referenced at
   other points in the FAQ):

   Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) <>
   Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME) <>
   National Board of Medical Examiners <>
   Federation of State Medical Boards <>
   United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE)
   American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine (AACOM)
   American Medical Association (AMA) <>


   The Usenet newsgroup for discussing medical school and medical
   education is  Medicine is discussed in the* hierarchy of newsgroups.

User Contributions:

Report this comment as inappropriate
Dec 17, 2011 @ 12:12 pm
am a neurosurgery residence in Russia .i want to get an advice from u.Did i still have the chance to be a surgeon in US ?what am i surpose to do .should i stop the residence and prepare for USMLE,or i should continue and write USMLE after it all.. will i be accepted in US medical programme

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Top Document: Medical Education FAQ [1/2] ( FAQ) [v2.6]
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