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Thursday
Jun032010

What do majors have to do with anything?

Nothing, absolutely nothing.

There is no requirement for you to be a biology or chemistry major to get into medical school. You have your standard biology, chemistry, organic chemistry, physic, etc. requirement, but nowhere does it say that you are required to be in a science major. One of my biggest pet peeves is people saying that you can’t get into medical school unless you’re in a hard science major, I like many other premeds am a hard science major (biochemistry and molecular biology, yes one major), but I unlike some of my colleagues do not believe that you have to be a science major to get into medical school.

I have written extensively on my personal blog about how being a science major without a genuine interest in the field can be a pathway to prolonged torture. Unless you absolutely love biology, chemistry, or any of the other hard science fields, please for the love of all that is good, do not major in them. Why people like me that are actually in the major because we love the area, really hate your whining and complaining, when we are stuck together in an advanced majors lab with 5-6 other people. I don’t want to hear you whining about how this will never help you in your future.

Your undergraduate years are a time for you to explore other areas and to do something you love, if you’re into musical theater like our colleague Jon, then by all means pursue it and make sure that you finish your premed prereqs. I’m sitting here in one of those little coffee shops with the French press coffee and fancy names studying for the MCAT, the guy sitting in the table next to me is doing the same. What’s his major…far eastern studies, why he loves the field, and loves to learn more about eastern cultures. His GPA is great and he has finished all of the premed prereqs, I don’t think he’s going to have a problem getting into medical school.

Why? Because he has something he can talk about, he can show that his passion and has tons of stuff to talk about during his interview. How passionate are you about your science major?  If you can’t sit there for hours talking about your major and how much you love it, you don’t love it enough.

So all of you premeds that are going to be starting college in the fall, take a leap, pick something you are interested in and follow your passion. Just make sure you have time to fit in all of your pre requisite classes. Do something you’ve always wanted to, and please don’t torture yourselves for the rest of your undergraduate career.

One of the biggest arguments I get against doing another major is well most medical students were science majors. This is based on a flawed interpretation of the numbers, a large proportion of medical school applicants are science majors, and hence it follows that a large proportion of medical students will have been science majors. It doesn’t mean be a science major. Pick a major that you can succeed in, do well maintain a high GPA, and you’ll be fine.

I know what you’re saying but I already picked my major, how can I change now? Don’t change your major, but do what I do, I take a random class out of my major every semester, I’ve taken a medical sociology class, a art appreciation class, biological forensics, and tons of other interesting classes. I try to make sure I have a random class in my schedule every semester; it allows me to broaden my horizons and learn more about other fields. It also gives me a ton of interesting stuff to talk about in conversations and in interviews.

What do you guys think about choosing majors in relation to being a premed student? Post in the comments and let us know.

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Reader Comments (10)

Mohammad, I have to agree with you; if you hate science, don't major in science. I've actually found that most other majors (literature, philosophy, music....) are flexible enough to allow for the premed classes, because people always have to take elective credits to graduate.

To the hard science people: we don't have to stay in the sciences. For example, I am minoring in Spanish, not because its only a good career move, but because I love the language and want to learn it. Even the hard science majors allow for some kind of non-science, and non-required classes.

June 3, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterThe Freshman

A really great neurosurgeon at Long Beach Memorial that we happen to be friends with majored in English, took the prereqs, and hopped his way into medical school. That's just one example of someone using another major. This kinda follows along with Jon's post in that if you don't like something, then don't do it. There are plenty of other majors that will get you into medical school and if I remember correctly, you don't even need a degree to get in (just most have a degree).

Please, if people are reading this comment and post, listen to Mohammad. Do what you love, find something your passionate about, and do something that you could talk about for hours. I know tons of people in the science major right after lecture or lab or out of school setting they don't want to hear the word science or anything that has to do with it. I could literally talk about it for hours even if the person didn't know about it, I would love teaching it to them or discovering more about it. The major you pick or even the direction you take in life should be something that you're passionate about, something you could wake up every day and be happy that you're doing it.

Again, Mohammad, great advice. I do the same thing. I usually pick two science classes (I'm very slowly working my way to three, probably next Spring) and at least one other course so I can learn about something other than science. The great thing about these courses is that usually they aren't as hard so that makes a lot of the stress go away instead of just taking 5 science classes and they usually understand that pre-med is a lot of work and you have a 100 different other things to do.

June 3, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBrian

Totally agreed Mo. Like you, I'm a hard science major (Bio), but I'm minoring in Drama (no big surprise there, right?). I learned quickly that, as much as I love Bio, taking tons of hard science classes every semester just isn't fulfilling enough. I go to a big liberal arts school that has SOOO much more to offer, so I take advantage of it whenever my schedule allows.

For all you freshman entering college in the fall, and for any student scheduling classes, listen to Mo and TAKE SOMETHING RANDOM...that you're interested in, of course! Not only will it be a nice break from the norm, but you might fall in love with the topic. On top of that, it may actually prove useful in your application process and medical future.

I, for example, took American Sign Language and Deaf Culture, LOVED the class, and am now on track to take the subsequent advanced classes. I felt proud (and sort of lucky) being able to check off American Sign Language as a language I know/am learning on the AMCAS application. Also, it opened the door to a potential direction I might travel in my future medical training.

June 3, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJon

Nice, nice post, Mohammad. Look for a reply from me in the form of a PMH debut tomorrow!

June 3, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterErin

My friend just sent me the link to this blog. This is one of the very topics I've been struggling with. I love to write. I could literally talk about it all day. But when I began to consider pre-med, I didn't know how to reconcile my love for writing. So I've been floating in limbo, because I could hardly stand the thought of replacing my beloved major with something like biology. I knew I would be miserable. So, that makes up my mind for me!

Also, I agree completely about taking courses outside of your major. Even with a journalism/mass communications major, I took a random, interesting class each semester like "Basic Counseling Skills", "Child Psychology", or a foreign language. I didn't need these, but they provided diversity among all the heavy classes, and opened other arenas of interest for me.

Loved this post! Thank you!

June 16, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSarah

@Sarah

Firstly thank your friend from me for sending you this link. Secondly a very good friend of mine is a literature major and a premed student at a top 10 university, he just published his first book (sold out on amazon in a week). No where does it say that you can't be a literature, journalism, etc. major and not be a premed.

Although I will say being a biology or a science major does make it considerably easier to take upper div science classes that med schools like to see.

June 16, 2010 | Registered CommenterMohammad

@Sarah

I'm sure you can write patient history in poetry or in iambic pentameter, makes you unique, :D

June 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterThymur A. Chaudhry

@ Sarah

English/Literature sounds like a great major for someone like you. And if you are looking for inspiration you might try reading "Body of Work" by Christine Montross. Besides being a great book, I remember something that Katrina Firlik(a neurosurgeon) wrote in her reivew "How lucky we are that a poet decided to become a physician."

June 25, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJai

It's great to hear pre-med students thinking "outside the box" in this appropriately phrased blog. After changing my major 5 times as an undergrad., navigating through personally "meaningful" courses (philosophy, literature, psychology, etc...), I learned how to define "life" and, subsequently, gained an "intuitive" understanding of a purposeful role as a clinical pharmacist / medical science educator / adviser (mainly pre-med). After more than 2 decades of practicing in the most diverse clinical & teaching settings, I'm confident that my undergrad. excursions from the basic science pathway in the humanities ultimately proved to be the most essential prerequisites for a rewarding and highly-rated performance standards I serve in patient care and academic settings. I benefit from "bonding" with my patients and students and enhancing their care and training in well-integrated and practical clinical pharmacology & pathophysiology discussions, which focus on transforming our presently rigid managed care protocols into guidelines for cost containing rather than a simple "to-do" list for strict and literal consultation purposes.

The most dire problem in medicine today, besides the general lack of ethics and depletion of valuable resources in "special interest" business areas, is poor training in integrating a rational basis for therapeutics. Our problem isn't in retrieving essential medical information with technology hand-held internet devices with portals to national medical libraries. Our problem, which medical school grads extend into their professional careers, is in mismanaging health care with their innocent one-dimensional thinking approach in the "assessment process". In other words, rather than "understanding" the mechanism(s) of multiple pathogenic pathways in a patient presenting with "concomitant disorders" (which is mainstay in America), we tend to treat each disease process separately as though it's incapable of exerting influence on other organ systems in the same body. This "treatment modality" is performed without fully understanding the "overlapping mechanisms" of the disease process(es) and and the potential "overlapping mechanism(s) of action of the drug(s). The outcome, more often than not, is a false assurance that positive measurable outcomes in treatment of one disorder will somehow correlate with an optimal outcome of the other disorder. Applying assessment skills and treatment plans in patients with concomitant disorders is generally the basis for weak competency and faulty patient care outcomes. Why? Because our emphasis in undergrad. studies (the basic sciences), perpetuatually reinforces a "memorization" pattern of cognition rather than a comprehensive, applied skills approach to the wider and more complex, multidimensional integration of physiology, pathophysiology, and pharmacology.

The purposeful prospects of relating these disciplines in a single course in "therapeutics" provides the right perspective in proper assessments and effective "comprehensive" treatment outcomes.

The interesting correlates in studying literature, philosophy, human behavior (i.e., psychology, sociology), etc... grants the same benefits; namely, looking beyond the immediate superficial level in the eager prospect of discovering a rational basis for why things are the way they appear. Exploring a patient's past medical history as well as predisposing factors in social and genetic considerations, cultural patterns, and influences posed by concomitant disorders and treatment approaches, will always provide the great thinkers in medicine with the power of applied knowledge and the gift to genuinely heal their patients and allow them their Constitutional rights to be pursue happiness with a healthy mind and body.

If we don't train our undergraduate pre-health students with comprehensive "applied skills" and offer them meaningful lessons in life, our health care system in America will just get worse as ethics is over-ruled with expedient protocols and tenured-track, contractually protected faculty, perpetuate their mundane parroting and meaningless routines, without being challenged by their peers with a demanding standard of merit performance funded by high students' tuition rates.

If you really want to understand why our country is at risk of "bankruptcy", you only have to look as far as the way we practice medicine in America. Check out the links below on YouTube in the provocative documentary "Cost of Dying" (60 Minutes production - 20 mins total in 3 episodes). I'm confident it will be one of your most meaningful lessons in studying medicine.

Brain Ascani, turned me on to this blog. He and his colleagues are serving humanity with their "Pre-Med Hell" blog ....

Cost of Human Dying: (Parts 1, 2, and 3 --> 20 mins total).

Part 1:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tP3TYsNciB0&feature=related

Part 2:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OFHNr1rcCqE&feature=related

Part 3:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B3Wo-xo1ZRE&feature=related

August 10, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterEzra

wow, that was heavy. And very true.
You spoke to my heart, and made me think twice before I get myself into Pre-med classes.

I am so glad we have doctors like you, who think out of the box and a broad general spectrum, and looks at things from the patient's perspective, not only to treat the desease, but to understand the patient's culture and approach to life in general.

This assures me that I definitely should pursue this route without hesitation and scary thoughts. My age should not hold me back, because as you (MDs) say, my biological age is not what my chronological age is. I feel very active, young and energetic.

Kudos to you Doc. and thanks so much for the whole insight you gave us here on this blog.

Nan.

April 10, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterNan

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