January 22, 2009

"Evidence-Based" Pre-Meds!

Premed survival: understanding the culling process in premedical undergraduate education. Lovecchio K, Dundes L. Acad Med. 2002 Jul;77(7):719-24.
n=97, 100% response rate
44 decided to pursue another career

Premed students were attracted to the field by the intellectual stimulation and the power to help others, yet most were also very concerned about being in debt, dealing with patients who might die, and the compatibility of medicine with having a family.

Women students were more concerned than the men about having only limited time to become acquainted with patients on a social level.

The decision of students to forgo a career as a physician was shaped by apprehensions regarding the years of work required in residency, the need to be on call, unacceptably low grades, and the realization that other attractive career options are available. Of those who said low grades were a deciding factor, most (78%) named organic chemistry as the single course that had affected their plans.
When I was in undergrad, it was almost a "bragging" right to say that you finished o-chem. Of course, for the chemistry majors I bet it was met with silent indulgence as they moved on to physical-chemistry, meta-physical chemistry, spiritual chemistry (or whatever the progression is.)

It's interesting how o-chem IS the filter for all pre-meds. The phenomena can be observed within the class itself -- starting the year with a room full of students and in the course of a week, a month and after the first quiz -- seeing the class cut down by a third, a half, and then 2/3s of its original size.

The irony is that once you get to med school... you don't need to know any o-chem at all. Sure, it's nice to know what NMR is for certain tests in neurosurgery to detect brain tumors (Hunter's angle and such.) It might come in handy when trying to recall the name of some obscure biological molecule based on what it looks like (like p-aminobenzoic acid) . The reality is that MANY of the facts of life in undergrad do not apply in med school. Perhaps that's not such a bad thing after all.

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