For many in the George Washington University (GW) School of Medicine and Health Sciences (SMHS) Post-Baccalaureate Pre-Medicine Program’s first cohort of students, the path to becoming a doctor continues this fall, with eight of the 10 members heading to, or already in, medical school.
The program, directed by Lisa Schwartz, EdD ’10, assistant professor of integrated health sciences at SMHS, launched in 2015 with a cohort of 10 students. It’s designed specifically for “career changers,” explained Schwartz — students who received a bachelor’s degree in an area other than the life sciences, but whose passion for medicine couldn’t be quelled.
The Post-Baccalaureate Pre-Medicine Program includes 12 months of classes and then a “gap” or “glide” year during which the students apply to medical school. The program gives students the educational foundation they need to enter medical school — classes such as general chemistry, organic chemistry, biology, physics, biochemistry — and helps with navigating the rigorous medical school application process with top notch advising.
“Our first cohort came from diverse educational backgrounds,” said Schwartz. “Some had degrees in economics or finance, some were psychology majors, and some were music majors or English majors. It was a real mix.”
The yearlong program is a rigorous and accelerated one, she added, and while some programs across the nation integrate their students into the undergraduate program, at GW they are taught in classes dedicated to them. This distinction allows these dedicated students to learn in an environment that’s controlled for a higher level of learning.
The students in GW’s first Post-Baccalaureate Pre-Medicine Program cohort took a leap of faith on the institution, added Schwartz, since the program was brand new. “[W]e had no graduates who had gotten into medical school, so they took their chance on us and we took our chance on them, and it worked out really well.”
One student was admitted to the SMHS MD program through GW’s linkage program while still completing her post-baccalaureate certificate. Although the linkage option does not guarantee acceptance — students must apply and be admitted, with the condition that they finish the post-baccalaureate program and score well on the MCAT — it does allow students to bypass their gap year. Many prospective students are drawn to the post-baccalaureate pre-medicine program because of its linkage with the GW MD program, said Schwartz.
In addition, seven other students in the first cohort were admitted into medical schools, including GW, Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, University of Florida, University of Central Florida, Virginia Commonwealth University/Medical College of Virginia, SUNY Downstate, Dell Medical School/University of Texas at Austin, The Ohio State University, University of New England, Western University of Health Sciences, and University of Maryland. Several students had offers from multiple schools.
Another student decided to extend her glide year and didn’t apply for medical school, while one other is on waiting lists for two medical programs. While students are in their glide year and not yet accepted into medical school, they continue to receive support, resources, and advising to help them navigate the application process, added Schwartz.
“Support doesn’t end when the program does,” said Schwartz. “It’s really about supporting them until they reach their goal of getting into medical school.”
Nationally, about 40 percent of applicants to medical schools are accepted, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges.
The acceptance rate, about 90 percent, for the first cohort of the Post-Baccalaureate Pre-Medicine Program “speaks not only to the caliber of the students, but their academic preparation and [the excellence and dedication of] our faculty,” Schwartz said.