Medicine

There are two types of physicians with corresponding degrees: MD (allopathic medicine) and DO (osteopathic medicine). Both types of physicians address patients’ medical histories, promote preventative medical behaviors, diagnose injuries and illnesses, and employ similar methods of treatment (e.g. pharmaceutical and surgical). The primary difference between the two types of physicians is that DOs place additional emphasis on the body’s musculoskeletal system and can employ osteopathic manipulative medicine (OMM) as a treatment method.  MDs and DOs are found in all specialty areas (although the majority of DOs enter primary care) and complete conventional residencies in hospitals and training programs. Students are encouraged to investigate both approaches to medicine in order to make an informed decision on which paths they should pursue.

Students interested in becoming research physicians (also known as physician-investigators or physician-scientists) should consider MD/PhD and DO/PhD programs. Although a physician can conduct medical research without going through a PhD program, those students who would prefer a career in which they will spend most of their time carrying out research, in addition to caring for patients, should consider this option. MD/PhD and DO/PhD programs are typically seven to eight years in length and often lead to careers in academia or with research institutes.

Majors and Coursework

Medical, dental and most professional health science programs do not give preference to one type of major over another. Likewise, these schools do not give preference to a Bachelor of Science degree over a Bachelor of Arts degree; nor do they give preference to students with multiple majors or minors. Most professional health science programs seek to construct a class of students that is diverse in academic and experiential backgrounds. They look at the depth and the richness of a student’s undergraduate experiences rather than the number of degrees and certifications earned. As such, pre-health science students should select their major based on their interest in an academic subject and their skill sets.

Although medical schools do not give preference to certain types of majors over others, there is a common set of prerequisites that students must fulfill regardless of their area of study. You also need to have been exposed to certain subjects in order to prepare for the MCAT. Generally, the requirements for medical school include (please note this list will not cover every requirement for every school):

  • 2 semesters of inorganic chemistry with lab
  • 2 semesters of organic chemistry with lab
  • 2 to 3 semesters of biology with lab
  • 2 semesters of physics with lab
  • 1 semester of biochemistry
  • 2 semesters of English composition
  • 1 to 2 semesters of calculus
  • 1 semester of statistics
  • 1 to 2 semesters of behavioral sciences

AP and IB credit

If you received AP or IB credit for courses that are science requirements for professional science schools, be aware that some programs do not accept such credits. This is most common with the biology and chemistry requirements. However, this does not mean you should waive this credit and repeat the courses at CWRU. Professional schools prefer applicants who challenge themselves as undergraduate students. Therefore, if you feel ready to take the next course beyond the one for which you received credit, it would be an advantage to accept the AP or IB credit and take more advanced courses at the undergraduate level. For example, if you received AP credit for CHEM 111 (which meets the requirement of CHEM 105) and feel ready to take CHEM 106 in your first semester, plan to take an advanced course in chemistry or biochemistry in your second or third year in order to replace the AP or IB credit.

Course Sequences

The recommended sequence of courses for pre-med students is listed below for various academic areas. These sequences cover the most common requirements and will prepare you to take the MCAT by the end of your junior year.

Biological and Chemical Science Majors (BA and BS)

Year Fall Semester Spring Semester Other Coursework
First Year MATH 125 (or 121)
CHEM 105
BIOL 214/214L1
MATH 126 (or 122)
CHEM 106
BIOL 215/215L1
  • CHEM 113 should be taken either fall or spring semester of the first year
  • SAGES Seminars cover English composition requirement
  • PSCL 101 and SOCI 101 should be taken by the end of the third year
  • One course in Statistics3 by the end of the third year if possible, but the fourth year is OK
Second Year CHEM 223 (or 323)
CHEM 233
BIOL 216/216L1
CHEM 224 (or 324)
CHEM 234
Third Year PHYS 115 (or 121)
BIOC 307 or CHEM 3282
PHYS 116 (or 122)

Mathematical and Physical Science Majors (BA and BS)

Year Fall Semester Spring Semester Other Coursework
First Year MATH 121 (or 125)
CHEM 105
PHYS 121 (or 115)
MATH 122 (or 126)
CHEM 106
PHYS 122 (or 116)
  • CHEM 113 should be taken either fall or spring semester of the first year.
  • SAGES Seminars cover English composition requirement
  • PSCL 101 and SOCI 101 should be taken by the end of the third year
  • One course in Statistics3 by the end of the third year if possible, but the fourth year is OK
Second Year CHEM 223 (or 323)
CHEM 233
BIOL 214/214L1
CHEM 224 (or 324)
CHEM 234
BIOL 215/215L1
Third Year BIOL 216/216L1
BIOC 307 or CHEM 3282
 

Engineering Majors

Year Fall Semester Spring Semester Other Coursework
First Year MATH 121
CHEM 111
PHYS 1214
MATH 122
ENGR 145
PHYS 122
  • CHEM 113 should be taken either fall or spring semester of the first year
  • SAGES Seminars cover English composition requirement
  • PSCL 101 and SOCI 101 should be taken by the end of the third year
  • One course in Statistics3 by the end of the third year if possible, but the fourth year is OK
Second Year CHEM 223 (or 323)
CHEM 233
BIOL 214/214L1
CHEM 224 (or 324)
CHEM 234
BIOL 215/215L1
Third Year BIOL 216/216L1
BIOC 307 or CHEM 3282
 

Arts, Humanities and Social Science Majors

Year Fall Semester Spring Semester Other Coursework
First Year CHEM 105
MATH 125
CHEM 106
BIOL 214/214L1
  • CHEM 113 should be taken either fall or spring semester of the first year
  • SAGES Seminars cover English composition requirement
  • PSCL 101 and SOCI 101 should be taken by the end of the third year
  • One course in Statistics3 by the end of the third year
Second Year CHEM 223 (or 323)
CHEM 233
BIOL 215/215L1
CHEM 224 (or 324)
CHEM 234
BIOL 216/216L1
Third Year PHYS 115 (or 121)
BIOC 307 or CHEM 3282
PHYS 116 (or 122)

1Biology: Although most professional health science schools require only two semesters of general biology, you should take the third semester of the BIOL 214, 215, 216 sequence. Material from all three courses is covered on the MCAT and DAT. You should take at least two labs from BIOL 214L, 215L, and 216L. Biomedical engineering students do not need to take BIOL 216 as this material is covered in EBME 201 and 202.

2Biochemistry: You may take either BIOC 307 or CHEM 328 for their introductory biochemistry course. BIOC 307 is offered only in the fall semester, while CHEM 328 is offered both semesters.

3Statistics: This requirement can be fulfilled with ANTH 319, OPRE 207, PSCL 282, STAT 201, STAT 201R, STAT 312, or STAT 312R.

4Physics: Some engineering majors recommend that students enroll in PHYS 121 during the spring semester of their first year. If you are a pre-health engineering student, refer to recommended courses for your intended major to decide the best time to start your physics sequence.‌

Clinical Exposure

Deciding to pursue a career in medicine is a significant commitment. Although the personal and professional rewards of the career can be great, so are the challenges and demands. As such, gaining formal, clinical exposure is an essential component of your exploration of the field. Clinical exposure consists of shadowing physicians and interacting with patients in a clinical setting. While there is no minimum requirement for how many hours of shadowing and patient interaction you must have when you apply to medical schools, a good rule of thumb is to average a minimum of 20 hours of shadowing and 100 hours of patient interaction per year. In addition, although there is no expectation that you obtain clinical exposure every semester and summer, you are expected to have experiences spread across each of your undergraduate years.

CWRU is an excellent place to gain clinical exposure due to its close proximity and association with highly ranked hospitals and multiple health care facilities. If you are interested in volunteering at a hospital in University Circle, you can find opportunities at University Hospitals, Cleveland Clinic, and Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center. Each hospital has its own set of expectations for volunteering including time commitment expectations. The registration and orientation process differs for each organization, but they all require a screening process and may have volunteer application deadlines that are firm. If you are interested, please plan ahead. Other clinical opportunities can be found with CWRU EMS, nursing homes, hospice care facilities or patient recovery houses in the local area. If you are interested in learning more, contact the pre-medical advisor.

Support Services

The pre-medical advisor also maintains resources in Handshake for current undergraduate students and alumni interested in medical school. Handshake provides additional resources for students and is used to communicate information about group advising sessions; application preparation and workshops; clinical and research opportunities; and guest speakers on campus. To request access to these resources in Handshake contact the pre-medical advisor.

In addition to pre-professional advising, you may want to access other resources on campus for support in your career exploration and application preparation. The Career Lab provides general career advice as you explore your career options and need assistance with resume and cover letter preparation. Career consultants in Post-Graduate Planning and Experiential Education can provide more in-depth career assistance through mock interviews for professional health science schools or graduate programs. The Writing Resource Center offers one-on-one assistance with drafting personal statements for applications to professional health science schools.

Application Support

The application cycle for medical schools is an extensive process that takes approximately a year and half (including preparation of application materials) and requires numerous, well-informed decisions and keen attention to details. Support is provided by the pre-medical advisor to current undergraduate students and alumni throughout this process. You are encouraged to schedule an individual appointment to discuss any matter related to the application process, ranging from determining when is the right time to apply to deciding what final admissions offer to accept. Individual appointments may be scheduled through Handshake.

During the spring semester, a series of information sessions and workshops are offered to help you prepare for the application cycle. Topics covered in these sessions include:

  • Structure and timing of the application process
  • Identifying personal strengths and learning how to discuss them as an applicant
  • Writing an effective personal statement
  • Selecting what schools to apply to in order to maximize your chances of acceptance
  • Advice from recent, successful applicants 

Review the schedule for these sessions and register in Handshake.

Letters of Recommendation

CWRU undergraduate students applying to medical schools may request a composite letter packet. The letter packet consists of letters of recommendation from faculty, professional mentors, and supervisors, and a letter of evaluation from the pre-medical advisor. Visit the Advisor Letter Services page for instructions on how to request a composite letter packet for the current application cycle and to submit letters of recommendation. Advice to students on selecting letter writers and to recommenders on the letter writing process is also available.

External Resources

The following organizations may be of some help as you plan for your future: