High school students interested in applying to medical school might think that their only path to medicine is by attending an undergraduate school, declaring a STEM major and having an extracurricular resume filled with medical-based volunteering and research experiences before applying to medical school.
Luckily, this isn’t the case. High schoolers committed to a career in medicine can also apply to direct medical (also known as BS/MD, BA/MD, BS/DO and BA/DO) programs. Once a student is admitted into the competitive program, they are guaranteed a seat in the medical school as long as they continue to meet the undergraduate requirements.
While some of these programs are rigid, requiring students to complete their courses in a set schedule, select a specific major or attend school over the summer, there are direct medical programs that are more flexible.
BS/MD counselor and current Brown PLME student, Nidhi Bhaskar says, “One misconception students have about BS/MD programs is that to be accepted, you have to be solely focused on STEM, with no time for anything besides medical-based activities.” She explains that some BS/MD programs allow students to have an undergraduate experience filled with diverse activities that are nearly identical to the typical student. Here are five of the most flexible direct medical programs out there.
Brown University: Program in Liberal Medical Education
The Program in Liberal Medical Education (PLME) is one of the most prestigious direct medical programs in the United States. Not only is it the only direct med program paired with an Ivy League, but it is also one of the most flexible programs.
Students can declare a major in the sciences, humanities, social sciences or behavior sciences, making it a great pathway for students wanting to explore other interests. While the program is eight years long, students have the option to take a gap year before starting medical school. By taking advantage of the year by pursuing opportunities in education, research, public service, healthcare, government or business, PLME students can work toward becoming more well-rounded physicians.
Bhaskar took advantage of the flexibility of the program by triple majoring in Public Policy, Anthropology as well as Health and Human Biology. Before matriculating into medical school, she took a gap year and pursued a Master’s degree in Medical Anthropology at Oxford University. Bhaskar believes that these diverse activities helped her explore her unique passions and will ultimately help her become a more engaged physician.
PLME also offers Scholarly Concentrations, an elective program where students create an academic product, which might be a curriculum project, research paper or manuscript in a specific area of interest. Some of the disciplines that students can explore include global health, translational research in medicine or biomedical informatics.
Through PLME, students can live life as a typical pre-med student without the added pressures of taking the MCAT or applying to medical school at the end of their undergraduate education. As long as they remain in good academic standing, they are guaranteed a spot at the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University.
SUNY Upstate: Upstate Accelerated Scholars (UAS) Program
SUNY Upstate has partnered with 11 undergraduate universities to create a pipeline into their medical programs for exceptional high school students. Students in the UAS programs have some significant advantages: not only do they not have to take the MCAT, but the GPA requirements are also reasonably set at 3.5.
Another advantage of this program is that students are encouraged to explore non-traditional majors. “We’ve had students apply to and get into the UAS program with majors like Political Science or Computer Science,” says Bhaskar. “It’s perfect for students who want to explore non-traditional pre-med interests.”
SUNY Upstate has partnered with the following universities:
- Adelphi University
- Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences
- Hampton University
- Purchase College
- Rochester Institute of Technology
- SUNY Polytechnic Institute
- SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry
- Spelman College
- Syracuse University
- University at Albany
- Yeshiva University
The University of Oklahoma: Medical Humanities Scholars Program
The Medical Humanities Scholars Program at the University of Oklahoma is another direct medical program that allows students to choose any major within the school. With a heavy emphasis on the liberal arts, the program is looking for students who have a general interest in the arts, humanities, social sciences or social determinants of health.
One unique facet of the program is that students must minor in Medical Humanities, but it can be customized to their interests. Some examples of what students have done include studying the cross-cultural perspectives on health and disease, spirituality and medicine, bioethics and health disparities.
During the eight-year program, students are encouraged to pursue some of the abundant research opportunities or study abroad programs.
The College of New Jersey (TCNJ): 7 Year Medical Program
TCNJ’s seven-year direct medical program is yet another flexible option for students considering a fast track to medicine. Even though the program is accelerated, students have quite a bit of freedom with their academics and can choose from various majors, including biology, chemistry, English, economics, math, Spanish or history.
According to Dr. Sudhir Nayak, the program’s co-director, “We’re looking for students who want to be in a liberal arts college. While this is a Bachelor of Science degree, we want people who have non-traditional pre-med experiences, see value in diversity and have plans to study abroad.”
Nayak empathizes that he wants students in the program to have time to grow and mature. The program encourages them to explore liberal arts classes or participate heavily in both medical-based and non-medical-based activities.
The culture between current program students and alumni is also strong. Alpha Zeta Seven-Year Medical Society is an established club that helps build the community among current students because they tend to have a variety of majors. The Society also brings in alumni and hosts events so students can learn advice from previous students.
There is also no MCAT minimum for students in the program; they just have to take the exam before matriculating into New Jersey Medical School.
University of Cincinnati: Connections Program
The University of Cincinnati’s Connections Program is another flexible option that allows students to explore majors outside the traditional sciences. It does require that students graduate with a minor or major in Medical Sciences, but students are welcome to double major in the program.
“Students with a lot of college credits from dual enrollment, AP or IB courses can really take advantage of the flexibility of this program,” says Bhaskar. Even though this isn’t an accelerated program, if students finish their major requirements early, they can pursue other opportunities like research, internships, double majors and dual degrees before matriculating into the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine.
Students will also automatically join the University Honors Program, which gives them unique access to leadership, research and community engagement opportunities.
Flexible Direct Medical Programs: Choosing The Right One For You
High schoolers interested in medicine, with varied other interests, can take advantage of these five flexible direct medical programs as a way to secure their path to medicine. As you do your research, take the time to ensure that you find the right one for you and your future.