One of the benefits that are sure to result from making the premed curriculum more relevant to medical practice [“Reform of Premed Education Under Way,” Yale Medicine, Winter 2009] is that it will attract more students into primary care.
Most medical schools are research-based and naturally favor students with outstanding aptitudes in basic science. This has produced many advances and well-trained specialists, and society has benefited immensely. The focus on specialization, however, has also led to a serious shortage of primary care doctors. The lack of access to primary care has prompted policymakers to consider giving authority to nurse-practitioners to practice some aspects of primary care independently.
In my 34 years of practice as a primary care doctor, I have found almost no use for the intense exposure I had in premed to calculus, organic chemistry, physics, invertebrate biology and physical chemistry. This is not to say that these courses were worthless, but they could have been abbreviated and simplified.
I can remember several students in my premed class who struggled through the basic sciences. Their grades in the sciences were average and they did not do well on the MCATs. Turned down by medical schools at home, many attended foreign medical schools, as I did.
The point is that the move to make premed courses more relevant is a good one. Perhaps students with the abilities to be good general practitioners will not be weeded out and eventually the primary care physician shortage will be corrected.
Edward J. Volpintesta, M.D.