Medical schools require a dense core content in the background of the “hard sciences.” Dense in biology and chemistry, two semesters of physics, and biochemistry strongly recommended.
Now, if you’re reading this blog, you are probably familiar with the fact that I haven’t been a traditional pre-medical student from the start. My undergrad concentration was in nutrition with minors in biology and sociology, and on top of those things, I took the required pre-medical coursework (that coincided well with the chemistry portion of a nutrition degree). ANYWAY. Along my degree-concentrated coursework, I found specific courses more beneficial than others. Here you will find some of the courses I strongly recommend taking alongside your degree ~ not only to benefit you if you’re going into the medical field, but also to get the most out of your college experience. 🙂
Many medical schools prefer that you have a statistics course anyway, but if you have the option to, I strongly recommend it. I took sociological statistics (sociology minor here), and having that under my belt, especially early on in my undergrad, helped me to understand academic journals and studies far better than I would have without it. Knowing what the p value is in a study and when to draw conclusions about data is pretty important when trying to make sense of academic work. This is part of what sets us apart from claims, fads, and trends that have no validity.
Any ethics/philosophy course will give you a great new perspective on things, but if your school offers a medical ethics/ethics in healthcare course, I strongly recommend this. In my course, our professor assigned readings on “hot” topics such as abortion, intersex individuals, in vitro fertilization, and plenty others. But it didn’t end here; we had civil, professor-lead discussions on various perspectives regarding these arguments. It helped me to think about these complex issues not only from a different perspective, but in a way that challenged the way I thought about these issues. It lead me to the belief that there is not “right” answer to each of these problems and that each case is unique and should be decided on individually. My professor was a phenomenal communicator and never influenced my opinion throughout the semester. He now teaches a similar course at the medical school.
Yeah, yeah yeah, I have a degree in nutrition. And there is a lot I want to do with my degree with intentions of going into the medical field. And I’m a huge advocate for nutrition for simply the general public. My biases aside, on the first day of my first nutrition course my professor stated that less than 25% of practicing physicians have ever taken a basic nutrition course (if you want to know more about why I chose nutrition as my college degree, click here).
Patients go to their doctors for advice for being well, and many of us know that diet/nutrition is a large portion of this. While physicians are not considered nutrition experts, having a foundation in nutrition will help in the future. And not only that, nutrition science is dense in chemistry and biochemistry; you never know what might help you down the road in those more difficult courses. It helped bridge a gap between just knowing the chemistry and actually putting it to application (hint hint, they’ve helped me a lot ;)).
My job has exposed me to the majority of my medical terminology knowledge (one of the many reasons why I believe in the importance of clinical experience as an undergrad), but taking a basic medical terminology course may help you bridge the gap between the terms and “real life.” My school offered a 1-credit-all-online-at-your-own-pace medical terminology course and I’m really glad I took it. Despite being exposed to it from work, I learned a lot.
Anatomy & Physiology
Again, not required for entrance into medical school, nor for the MCAT. Many of my biology friends ended up taking anatomy as an elective their senior year, but my degree required I take both of them my sophomore year. Having a deep understanding of both A & P helped me with my other upper-level science courses I took down the road and helped the other things make more sense. Not to mention, my school was one of the few undergraduate schools in the country to offer a human anatomy based lab. Yes, our school was fortunate enough to receive our anatomy education on human donors. This gave the experience a whole different perspective that I will never forget.
My nutrition degree curriculum required I take a 100-level introduction to counseling course and as much as I dreaded it, I got so much out of the course. My professor gave us skills on how to interact with patients/clients and how to lead a counseling session in different ways. We practiced things from motivational interviewing to specific language that helps our patients feel more cared for. This included not using the phrase “at least…” but rather, “that must’ve been hard for you” or “you’re so brave for what you’re going through.” Not only do I recommend this to those that want to go into medicine, but for really anyone who wants to become more of an empathetic individual 🙂
My mentality with college was that I was in a great time in life to explore and take advantage of the opportunities you’re give in that period of time – you’re not likely to be able to take some of those classes ever in life. I also took some sociology courses (deviant behavior and research methods) that had nothing to do with my degree that I still reference often!
I have friends that took ballroom dancing, metalworking, painting, ballet, yoga, and several others. I also had friends that took aviation courses (and subsequently got their private pilot’s licenses) because… why not? So my advice to you, besides these specific courses I recommend (if you’re in the healthcare field), get out there and explore the other options while you’re in college! Why not? Thanks for reading!