High school students interested in applying to medical school might think their only path to medical school is to attend an undergraduate school, declare a STEM major, and have an extracurricular resume full of volunteer experiences and medical research before applying to medical school.
Fortunately, this is not the case. High school students committed to a career in medicine can also apply to direct medical programs (also called BS/MD, BA/MD, BS/DO, and BA/DO). Once a student is admitted into the competitive program, they are guaranteed a place in medical school as long as they continue to meet undergraduate requirements.
While some of these programs are rigid, requiring students to complete classes on a set schedule, select a specific major, or attend school during the summer, there are direct medical programs that are more flexible.
Nidhi Bhaskar, BS/MD Advisor and current student at Brown PLME, says, “A misconception students have about BS/MD programs is that to get accepted you need to focus only on STEM, with no time for something other than medical pursuits.” She explains that some BS/MD programs allow students to have an undergraduate experience filled with diverse pursuits that are almost identical to the typical student. Here are five of the most flexible direct medical programs.
Brown University: Liberal Medical Education Program
The Liberal Medical Education Program (PLME) is one of the most prestigious direct medical programs in the United States. Not only is it the only direct medicine program associated 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 behavioral sciences, making this an excellent route for students wishing to explore other interests. Although the program lasts eight years, students have the option of taking a gap year before beginning their medical studies. By taking advantage of the year pursuing opportunities in education, research, public service, healthcare, government, or business, PLME students can work to become 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 enrolling in medical school, she took a year off and pursued a master’s degree in medical anthropology at Oxford University. Bhaskar believes these various activities have 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 can be a program proposal, research paper or manuscript in a specific area of interest. Some of the disciplines students can explore include global health, translational research in medicine, or biomedical informatics.
Through PLME, students can live the life of a typical pre-med student without the added pressures of taking the MCAT or applying to medical school upon graduation from undergrad. As long as they remain in good standing, they are guaranteed a place at Warren Alpert Medical School at Brown University.
SUNY Upstate: Upstate Accelerated Scholars (UAS) Program
SUNY Upstate has partnered with 11 undergraduate universities to create a pipeline in their medical programs for outstanding high school students. Students in UAS programs have 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 and enter the UAS program with majors like political science or computer science,” Bhaskar says. “It’s perfect for students who want to explore non-traditional pre-medical 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 and Forestry Sciences
- Spelman College
- Syracuse University
- University of 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 strong emphasis on the liberal arts, the program seeks students who have a broad interest in the arts, humanities, social sciences, or social determinants of health.
A unique facet of the program is that students must complete a minor in medical humanities, but this can be tailored to their interests. Some examples of what students have done include studying cross-cultural perspectives on health and illness, spirituality and medicine, bioethics, and health disparities.
During the eight-year program, students are encouraged to pursue some of the many research opportunities or study abroad.
The College of New Jersey (TCNJ): 7-year medical program
TCNJ’s seven-year direct medical program is another flexible option for students considering a fast track to medical school. Even though the program is accelerated, students have some freedom with their academics and can choose from different subjects including biology, chemistry, English, economics, math, Spanish, or history.
According to Dr. Sudhir Nayak, co-director of the program, “We are looking for students who want to be in a liberal arts college. Although it is a bachelor of science, we want people who have pre-med non-traditional experiences, see the value of diversity and consider studying abroad.”
Nayak understands 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 medical and non-medical activities.
The culture between current students of the program and alumni is also strong. Alpha Zeta Seven-Year Medical Society is an established club that helps build community among current students, as they tend to have a variety of majors. The Society also engages alumni and organizes events so that students can learn from advice from former students.
There is also no MCAT minimum for students in the program; they only need to pass the exam before enrolling in 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 of the traditional sciences. It requires students to graduate with a minor or major in medical science, but students are encouraged to double their major in the program.
“Students with a lot of college credit from dual-enrollment, TNZT, or IB courses can really benefit from the flexibility of this program,” Bhaskar says. Although it is not an accelerated program, if students complete their major requirements early, they can pursue other opportunities such as research, internships, double majors, and double degrees before graduating. enroll in the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine.
Students will also automatically join the Academic Honors Program, which gives them unique access to opportunities for leadership, research, and community engagement.
Flexible direct medical programs: choose the one that’s right for you
High school students interested in medicine, along with other varied interests, can take advantage of these five flexible direct medical programs to secure their path to medicine. As you do your research, take the time to make sure you find the right one for you and your future.