Undergraduate Course Recommendations

Medical school student perceptions of their undergraduate academic preparation

It is important for the pre-medical student to distinguish among those courses:

  • that are required for admission into medical school
  • that foster a growth of interest in the knowledge base and practice of medicine
  • that prepare a student for medical school and a career in medicine

A survey of second year medical students was conducted at nine medical schools throughout the Midwest during the fall of 2003. Students were asked to respond to a series of questions about their undergraduate preparation for medical school, and asked to mark whether on not they had taken a particular course; if they wished, in hindsight, that they had taken it; if they felt it was helpful and/or essential as preparation for the first year of medical school; and whether or not they would recommend students take the course. A total of 28 courses were listed and or recommended by the medical schools throughout the Midwest.

Surprisingly, all Biological Sciences courses were rated as helpful in the first year curriculum of medical school. All of them received ratings of above 80% with the exception of Comparative Anatomy that received a score of less than 60% approval. Those courses rated most essential were General Biology (here BMS 110 or BIO 121-122), Human Anatomy (here BMS 307), Physiology (here BMS 308 or BIO 361), Biochemistry (here CHM 350 or BMS 321 and BMS 521), Immunology (here BIO 511), and Histology (here BMS 585).

By contrast, no Physical Sciences or Mathematics courses were rated as helpful by even 50% of the respondents. The only relatively good rating in this category was General Chemistry (here CHM 160 and CHM 170/175) that was considered to be helpful by 49% and essential by 36% of the respondents.

General Psychology (here PSY 121) was seen as helpful by 43%; Medical Terminology (here LLT 102) was seen as helpful by 87%, and essential by 23%.

Courses least likely to help in the first year curriculum included Physical Chemistry, Analytical Chemistry, General Physics, Advanced Physics, Calculus, General and Advanced Computer Science.

Undergraduate research, regardless of the subject area, was seen as helpful by 50% of the respondents who had participated. The departments of Biology, Biomedical Sciences, and Chemistry have appropriate undergraduate courses in independent research

Courses that were mentioned most often when asked what they wished they had taken (but didn't) include Immunology (BIO 411), Embryology (BMS 582), Histology (BMS 585), Microbiology (BIO 310), Endocrinology (BMS 564), and Medical Terminology (LLT 102).

The results of this study are important to pre-medical students because this study helps make a distinction that our pre-medical advisors try to emphasize to advisees in the selection of courses in preparation for medical school. First, there are courses required for admission into medical school, but that the ease of learning and medical practice is not based on the student's particular interest in these subject or the fact that they major in these subjects. Second, medical students themselves support the undergraduate preparation in many courses that are not required for admission. It is very different for a non-biological science major to follow the recommendations of this survey if they are not a major in one of the biological sciences here at Missouri State University. Of course, brilliant students are able to meet such challenges without such as background.

The majority of this report is taken from a study funded by the Central Association of Advisors for the Health Professions in 2003 and reported in the April 2004 CAAHP Newsletter

For more information

Contact one of the following pre-medical advisors:

Dr. Colette Witkowski* 417-836-5603, Kampeter Health Sciences Hall, Room 404

Dr. Scott Zimmerman* 417-836-6123, Kampeter Health Sciences Hall, Room 353

Dr. Richard Garrad* 417-836-5372, Kampeter Health Sciences Hall, Room 345

Dr. Amanda Brodeur* 417-836-5478, Kampeter Health Sciences Hall, Room 352

Dr. Lyon Hough 417-836-6485, Kampeter Health Sciences Hall, Room 409

Dr. Jianjie Wang 417-836-6140, Kampeter Health Sciences Hall, Room 339

Mr. Joseph Williams 417-836-6782, Kampeter Health Sciences Hall, Room 347

* indicates current member of the Pre-medical Committee

Department of Biomedical Sciences
Missouri State University
901 South National Avenue
Springfield, Missouri 65897