“Physicians and surgeons diagnose and treat injuries or illnesses. Physicians examine patients; take medical histories; prescribe medications; and order, perform, and interpret diagnostic tests. They often counsel patients on diet, hygiene, and preventive healthcare. Surgeons operate on patients to treat injuries, such as broken bones; diseases, such as cancerous tumors; and deformities, such as cleft palates.
There are two types of physicians, with corresponding degrees: M.D. (Medical Doctor) and D.O. (Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine). Both use the same methods of treatment, including drugs and surgery, but D.O.s place additional emphasis on the body’s musculoskeletal system, preventive medicine, and holistic (whole-person) patient care. D.O.s are most likely to be primary care physicians, although they can be found in all specialties.” (Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2018-19 Edition, Physicians and Surgeons, on the Internet (visited October 19, 2020).)
Students typically attend medical school after completing a bachelor’s degree, as it is an admission requirement at nearly all medical schools. Both MD and DO programs require four years of classwork and clinical clerkships. Following medical school, both MD and DO physicians complete three or more years in residency (specialized clinical training).
Example Four-Year Academic Plan With Gap Year
Most popular path for Brockport students
Post-Graduation Timeline: Letters of reference should be submitted to the PPH Committee by June 1st. Students should aim to take the MCAT in late spring or early summer, with an application submission in mid-June and PPH Committee Interview in late June/early July. Med School interviews begin in early Fall for admission entry the following year.
Example Four-Year Academic Plan; No Gap Year
Accelerated Application Path
Application Timeline: Letters of reference should be submitted to the PPH Committee by June 1st after the third year. Students should aim to take the MCAT in late spring or early summer between 3rd and 4th year, with an application submission in mid-June and PPH Committee Interview in late June/early July. Med School interviews begin in early Fall for admission entry the following year.
b Many medical schools no longer require/recommend calculus (especially Calculus II), but many science majors do, and by including these courses you may keep open the option of eligibility for admission at all medical schools. Taking these courses also demonstrates strong quantitative ability and the willingness to take the most rigorous courses. Statistics is now required/recommended by most schools, and it is tested on the MCAT. Some majors require a specific statistics course, so check with your academic advisor.
c Medical schools may not require advanced biology courses, but in the past, Brockport students who have completed the equivalent of BIO 315 and BIO 302 have done much better on the biological sciences section of the MCAT than students who have completed only BIO 201 and BIO 202. Students with room in their schedules may also want to consider taking Anatomy and Physiology courses and Microbiology, to ease the first year of medical school.
d While psychology and sociology courses are not required for all medical schools, topics from psychology and sociology are 60% and 30%, respectively, of the content of one section of the MCAT. To be well-prepared, students should seriously consider taking these courses. Consult with your pre-medical advisor for more information. You may also consider the Pre-Professional Health Minor.
e Most medical schools do not require calculus-based physics (PHS 235/240), and algebra-based physics (PHS 205/210) meets requirements for nearly all schools. However, taking calculus-based physics (which require Calculus I and II) demonstrates strong quantitative ability and the willingness to take the most rigorous courses. Also, some majors (chemistry, biochemistry, and physics) do require calculus-based physics.
f Most medical schools require 6 credits of writing courses; another writing intensive course may satisfy this requirement, but courses with codes other than ENG may be questioned.
g BIO 310 is required for the biology major and would probably meet the requirement of most medical schools of a course in biochemistry. However, CHM 467 and 468, a 2-semester biochemistry sequence, better prepare students for the breadth and depth of the biochemistry questions on the MCAT, as well as the biochemistry course during the first year of medical school.
Notes: Some medical schools may have slightly different prerequisites—see “Medical Schools Admissions Requirements” and web sites of individual medical schools for more information. Medical School admissions committees may not recognize AP, CLEP, community college credits or study abroad credits as fulfilling these science and mathematics admissions requirements; and generally, schools do not accept online courses in the sciences. Pre-Med is a program, not a major. A student should choose to major in a field he/she is passionate about and in which they will excel. The health professions requirements are also the foundation courses for a major in Biology, Biochemistry, or Chemistry.
Academic Guidelines: GPA and MCAT
Competition for places in medical school is keen, and admissions committees are able to choose from among many talented students. The median cumulative GPA and MCAT scores for the entering classes at the four SUNY Medical Schools are shown in the table below.
|Chem & Phys MCAT
|Bio & Biochem MCAT
|Psych & Soc MCAT
How Competitive is it?
|Percent Science Majors
|Buffalo, NY* / Total
|1937 / 4360
|637 / 770
|159 / 182
|Upstate Syracuse, NY* / Total
|2033 / 4350
|547 / 725
|140 / 160
|Downstate Brooklyn, NY* / Total
|2378 / 6142
|906 / 1296
|174 / 207
|Stony Brook, NY* / Total
|2018 / 5164
|415 / 757
|88 / 136
*NY signifies New York state residents
The Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) is required for admission to both allopathic (MD) and osteopathic (DO) medicine programs. It is a standardized, computer-based exam that tests critical thinking skills, as well as knowledge of the behavioral and natural sciences. It is typically taken after the pre-medical courses, both natural and social science, have been completed. Preparation for the MCAT consists of self-study and taking MCAT practice tests, or participating in a formal MCAT test preparation course. The MCAT has the following four sections: Biological and Biochemical Foundations; Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems; Psychological, Social and Biological Foundations of Behavior; and Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills. Students whose academic records fall significantly below the GPA and MCAT averages are less likely to be accepted to medical school. Enrollment in record-enhancer post-bacc or master’s degree programs may be one option for these students to become more competitive applicants. These students may also want to consider one of the many, varied allied health professions.
- Gain an understanding of the medical field and the role that physicians play in it through volunteer or paid work in a healthcare setting (involving patient contact), and through shadowing physicians. Exploration of the field helps students make a more informed decision regarding their suitability for a career in medicine, while admissions committees feel that experience in medical settings gives applicants a more realistic impression of the day-to-day responsibilities involved in the practice of medicine.
- Participate in organizations that serve others, within or outside healthcare.
Participate in leadership opportunities, such as serving as a peer mentor; becoming a leader in a Brockport
student club; or through participation in Brockport’s Leadership Development Program.
Consider exploring research opportunities with science faculty members. Credit for research can be arranged
for BIO 424, 493 or CHM 399, for example. Research experience as an undergraduate is a plus but do it only if you are interested. Having this experience is not a deal maker—although many successful applicants have participated in a research project.
Non-Academic Guidelines for Admission
Although academic accomplishment is important, vet schools place a high priority on other aspects of your experiences, as documented in your application. (For example, for the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, 50% of the evaluation is based on GPA, but the remaining 50% is on non-academic factors.In particular, most veterinary medical colleges place heavy consideration on a candidate’s veterinary and animal experience. Formal experience, such as work with veterinarians or scientists in clinics, agribusiness, research or some area of health science, is important, as is less formal experience such as working with animals on a farm, ranch, stable or animal shelter. For some schools, the average number of hours of experience in both veterinary settings and animal settings was well over 1000 hours. Students must demonstrate ambition and an eagerness to work with animals. The admissions committee is often looking for a student to have experience in multiple settings (both small animal and large animal, for example).
Additional important non-academic factors include good character, excellent interpersonal skills, a deep commitment to animal health care, evidence of leadership potential, and service to others. Here are some possibilities.
- Participate in organizations that serve others.
- Participate in leadership opportunities, such as serving as a peer mentor; becoming a leader in a Brockport student club; or through participation in Brockport’s Leadership Development Program.
- Consider exploring research opportunities with science faculty members. Credit for research can be arranged for BIO 424 or CHM 399, for example. Research experience as an undergraduate is a plus but do it only if you are interested. Having this experience is not a deal maker—although many successful applicants have participated in a research project.
Diversity in Medicine
Medical schools seek to recruit a diverse class of students, including students from groups underrepresented in medicine, students who have been disadvantaged by socioeconomic factors, students with disabilities, and first-generation students. For example, the AAMC is encouraging African American, Latino/a, and Native American students to apply, as these groups make up 25 percent of the population, but only 12 percent of medical school graduates. Students may find information and support at Aspiring Doctors. There are summer programs (such as SHPEP) to help college students who would bring diversity to medicine prepare for application. Individual medical schools also sponsor summer enrichment programs. Students should contact their pre-medical advisors, and individual medical schools, for more information.
The Application Process
Applications for allopathic medical schools are submitted through the centralized, online American Medical School Application Service (AMCAS). Applications for osteopathic medical schools are submitted through the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine Application Service (AACOMAS). Applications should be submitted in the early summer preceding the year for which a student is seeking admission. Since many medical schools have rolling admissions, it is in a student’s best interest to apply as soon as possible after the cycle opens around June 1st. Submitting your application close to the deadline for regular admission means you are competing for far fewer spots. Students applying to allopathic medical schools should consult Medical School Admissions Requirements for school-specific application information.
Letters of Evaluation and the Committee Letter/Interview
Applicants typically obtain letters of evaluation from science faculty members, faculty members from the applicant’s major department, research supervisors, volunteer coordinators, etc. Additional letters may help to present a broader perspective of you as a student or person (for example, from faculty of other academic departments, coaches, activities outside the college setting). Some osteopathic medical schools require a letter from a DO. Information about the non-academic character of a student can be especially useful, as academic information is already in the application. Information sought from evaluators is described in the “AAMC Guide for Writing Letters of Recommendation”, found under “content” in the Blackboard group for Pre-Professional Health students. Feel free to provide it to your letter-writers.
Many schools require or strongly recommend a “committee letter” in addition to these individual letters. At Brockport, obtaining a committee letter requires an interview with members of the Pre-Professional Health Advisory Committee, following a process described in the Blackboard group for Pre-Professional Health students. The committee letter of evaluation is based in part on an interview with you. The interview is used both to evaluate you as a candidate for medical school and to coach you on your interview performance. In order to get a committee letter, the committee requires that all letters be sent directly to the committee chair (and that the letters include at least two from science faculty and one additional letter, preferably from an experience in a healthcare environment). All letters should be accompanied by the Letter of Evaluation Form that can be downloaded from the Blackboard group for Pre-Professional Health students, then completed and given to your evaluator. Letters of evaluation for students seeking a committee letter should be sent with the form by mail (US Postal Service or Campus mail) or email to the address/email at the bottom of the form.
Medical School Interviews
Medical schools usually require personal, on-campus interviews, but many have transitioned to virtual interviews since the pandemic. Schools contact selected candidates to arrange the interviews. Interviews vary by school; applicants should check with the schools to which they have applied for the interview timeline. The interview is an important part of the selection process, and candidates should prepare well for it. Some schools are using newer formats, such as mini multi interviews (MMI) for their interviews. Students should check with their Pre-Health advisor for information about this format. Practice interviews are available through the Career Services in Rakov Center, should a student desire additional practice.
Criminal Background Checks
The AMCAS and AACOMAS applications ask applicants whether they have been convicted of a felony or mis-demeanor, as well as whether they have been subject to disciplinary action while attending college. The applicant has the opportunity to describe what was learned through the experience. This information is communicated to the medical schools. Students should make careful decisions throughout their undergraduate years, since incidents of drug and/or alcohol use or possession, academic dishonesty, and others, can have negative consequences for a medical school application. Most medical schools conduct a Criminal Background Check on all admitted students, and some require forms from Student Affairs regarding college-level disciplinary actions. Students found to have been dishonest on their applications are not admitted or are dismissed. The lesson from this is that you must disclose everything in your application: the consequence of not disclosing is greater that the consequence of disclosing! Your postings on social media websites (e.g. Facebook) may also be checked.
- Explorehealthcareers, a website that provides reliable information about many possible careers within the area of health.
- Association of American Medical Colleges
- American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine
- Pre-Professional Health
Pre-Professional Health group on Blackboard for current students. Contact Preprofessional Health at email@example.com to be added to the group. Include your goal of veterinary medicine in your email, so that you are placed in the correct subgroup.
Dr. Laurie Cook