The last three weeks have been rough – fatigue, spaciness, lymph nodes the size of golf balls – so pardon any over-exuberant reactions to the notion that medical school is going to be sissified.
The New York school is introducing a flexible admissions program for half its incoming students, who will be able to skip the Medical College Admission Test, forgo traditional premed requirements, and be accepted in their sophomore year in college, as long as they maintain a 3.5 grade-point average through their senior year.
Proficiency in Mandarin or Spanish will be big pluses as the school seeks well-rounded students who can communicate with an ethnically diverse mix of patients. Traditional prerequisites like organic chemistry and physics will be replaced with courses like health-care policy and ethics, as well as clinical experience. Admitted students will also be encouraged to wait a year or two after college before enrolling at Mount Sinai, to work or pursue their academic interests.
Pray tell, if a student has never taken orgo, physics, biology, or the MCAT, how on earth would you know if the person can make it through medical school? While the traditional medical school track may not be a perfect measure of who can succeed at medical school, this system does not even attempt to make such an assessment. Maintaining a 3.5 GPA often encourages students to take easy, grade-inflated classes, which is the exact opposite of what future medical students should be doing. By abandoning a strong pre-entrance screening process, Mount Sinai is leaving itself the choice of either flunking out substandard students, or passing those students and setting them loose upon the world to practice medicine.
Mount Sinai is also doing a disservice to medical school students who pass its classes but cannot pass the Boards. The value of pre-admissions screening is that the rate-limiting step happens before students have invested years of their lives and hundreds of thousands of dollars into schooling that will not be of any use to them. There is a reason why weed-out courses exist at the undergraduate level: they turn students off a futile track sooner rather than later, enabling them to get degrees in other subjects and move on with their lives. (Would you rather drop a biology degree senior year, with little hope of getting a BS or BA in four years, or freshman year, when you could switch over to psychology? Would you rather your dreams of being a board-certified doctor be crushed during senior year when you don’t get into medical school, or after medical school and residency?)
Moreover, if the goal is to have physicians who will work with immigrant, low-income, and minority groups, it is very inefficient to accept Spanish speakers and hope that they will do the type of medicine you want them to do; you have little guarantee that they will not become dermatologists who administer Botox to wealthy suburbanites. We would be better off teaching Spanish or Mandarin to the best physicians who want to work with immigrant groups, rather than teaching medicine to the best Spanish or Mandarin speakers with no demonstrated ability to master difficult science courses.
I will admit to being irked by the notion that non-native English speakers are better served by having a doctor with whom they feel comfortable, rather than a doctor who absolutely rocks at medicine. I am also irked that this is happening at precisely the time in which we need doctors to have a better understanding of science; medicine is far more technical and advanced now that it was even thirty years ago.