Pre-Medicine through Chemistry at Southern Oregon University
Many students enter college with the expectation that they one day will become doctors. An aspiring medical student should decide on an undergraduate college or university based on the quality of pre-professional training that the school offers. This page will aid students in the decision making process related to a career in medicine either at SOU or another university.
Just because a student is interested in a career in medicine does not mean the decision making process is complete. Medicine is a broad field with numerous possibilities. A physician may choose general practice, medical research, or public health policy. A physician may specialize in rural medicine, forensic pathology, surgery, or obstetrics just to name a few.
The following are questions frequently asked by pre-medicine students at SOU:
Does it make a difference where I do my undergraduate work?
No. A student can be accepted to medical school from any accredited college or university, public or private, large or small. You should consider certain factors as you decide on a program that is right for you: Does the school have a successful pre-med program? How comfortable will I be attending a particular school? What related opportunities (shadowing doctors, volunteer, work) are there in town or the region? How far will I be from home (some students prefer close; others prefer far)?
It is hard for a university to be a 100% perfect fit for every student but, at SOU, we like to think we have something for everyone. We are a small, public liberal arts university that specializes in, among other things, undergraduate science education and have small average class sizes. Due to the high percentage of retirees moving to Southern Oregon, the Rogue Valley has excellent medical facilities with specialists in all fields of medicine. Interstate 5 runs through the valley and Medford is home to the Rogue Valley International Airport with direct flights to 8 western cities (Portland, Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Phoenix, Salt Lake City, and Denver). As you can see, even though the valley is small, an SOU student is never far from their destination , wherever it may be. Southern Oregon is also home to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and the Britt Music Festival. Our campus is within a few hours drive of 3 ski resorts, five wild and scenic rivers, and three national parks not to mention hundreds of miles of hiking and cycling trails.
More importantly, the SOU Department of Chemistry has a 80% medical school acceptance rate among students who have earned a bachelors degree from us in the past ten years.
What is the best major for a student with an interest in medicine?
Simply stated, there isn't one. Medical schools accept students with many different types of academic backgrounds. Many students choose to major in a natural science as they feel it prepares them well for the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) and medical study. Whatever route a student takes, it should prepare them not only for the science of medicine but also for the 'people' side of medicine.
The Association of American Medical Colleges requires a year of biology, a year of general chemistry, a year of organic chemistry, and a year of physics. The science classes recommended are those required by departments for their majors.
Specific medical programs will require or recommend additional classes for acceptance. Commonly recommended courses include genetics, a year of biochemistry, and psychology (which are also important parts of the new MCAT).
What GPA and MCAT scores will make me a competitive applicant?
The answer to this question changes slightly from program to program and is influenced by other factors. Typically, a science GPA of 3.5 or higher combined with a 507-510 on the new MCAT (~ 30 on the old MCAT - at least 10 on each section) will make a student competitive. For example, Oregon Health Sciences University School of Medicine's most recent entering class had an average total GPA of 3.66, an average science GPA of 3.61, and average MCAT score of 31.
What other experiences are medical colleges looking for besides my academic training?
Medical programs are looking for many things. One is leadership. Leadership positions show evidence of other personal qualities like discipline, integrity, and maturity. Get involved in student government or join your academic department's club activities and strongly consider running for an officer position.
A successful medical school applicant will also have experience in health care. This experience may be volunteer, such as physician shadowing, or it may be paid work. Demonstrated contact with patients is also a plus. Many medical programs also strongly suggest undergraduate research experience. Some experience in each of these areas is often preferred. For instance, the University Of Utah School Of Medicine recommends an average of 8 hours of physician shadowing, 48 hours of patient exposure, 48 hours/year of volunteer work, AND 48 hours of undergraduate research experience prior to matriculation to medical school.
What are the important deadlines as I prepare to apply for medical school?
Individual medical programs have application deadlines that range from October to December (or spring for many osteopathic schools) of the year prior to matriculation. For specific schools, see the AAMC website. Note that AMCAS applications open in June for positions for the following academic year.
For any health program requiring the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT), it is recommended that students take this test sometime between January and July of the year the applications are due. April or May is also the time to begin lining up letters of recommendation from college professors. You can find helpful information about the new test here.
Remember the saying "the early bird gets the worm?" As it turns out, this does not just apply to yard sale shoppers. Get in your applications to your top choices for medical school early in the admissions process. Do not wait for the deadline as many schools fill a portion of their available slots before their deadline arrives.
Why should I consider chemistry at SOU for my pre-medical preparation?
The best answer to this question is that the faculty in chemistry has a great relationship with our students and we truly want our students to succeed. To that end, we have researched the programs generally considered to be among the finest undergraduate programs in terms of medical school preparation and designed our curriculum from these fine examples. Here are a few things to consider:
- SOU Department of Chemistry graduates have a 80% acceptance rate to medical school over the past decade.
- Chemistry has worked closely with other science departments at SOU and has acquired millions of dollars of state-of-the-art scientific instrumentation (atypical for a public university our size). All of this instrumentation is for undergraduate use and strengthens your undergraduate research experience.
- The Department is accredited by the American Chemical Society, which is the world's largest scientific society.
- Our Bachelor of Arts in Chemistry is rich in natural science classes and the humanities courses - philosophy, communications, and foreign language - that make students well-rounded medical school applicants. The degree is designed on the recommendations of the AAMC and patterned after some of the best public and private pre-medical undergraduate educations in the United States.
- Our pre-medical advisor is a member of the National Association of Advisors for the Health Professions to better help our students stay in touch with current trends in medical school acceptance. Please don’t hesitate to contact Gregory Miller.
- The Chemistry Club at SOU has won national recognition promoting science to Rogue Valley elementary and middle school students. This club offers you a chance to volunteer for a cause that can make a difference in lives and education of others. Our Pre-Healthcare Society is a student-led clubthat is active in community volunteering, science education, and fund-raising for medical field trips and outreach.
- The class sizes at SOU average 25 students. This means your faculty will get to know you and your strengths and can write letters of recommendation that honestly assess your ability to succeed in a medical program. This personal relationship can make a difference in a student’s application to medical school.
- The Department has established relationships with allopathic, osteopathic, and naturopathic physicians in our region. This relationship benefits our students when it comes to internships and shadowing experiences.
If my interests change, what other careers will your recommended undergraduate curriculum prepare me for?
The Bachelor of Arts in Chemistry has been designed with other pre-professional health care fields in mind. It is also excellent preparation for careers in dentistry, pharmacy, physician’s assistant, and veterinary medicine. Based on the requirements of individual graduate programs, we have assembled a list of elective courses that may aid students in each of the above areas. To view the recommended elective courses, please see the SOU catalog for Chemistry (follow the "Catalog" link at the top of this page.) The Department of Chemistry has placed greater than 90% of students who have applied to pharmacy school in the last 10 years.
Should a student’s interest in health care change, the BA in chemistry is also solid preparation for any number of careers. For example, the degree is rich in communication and other humanities and would serve well as training for pharmaceutical sales. This degree is also excellent preparation for students with interests in law school (patent law) or obtaining a Master’s of Arts in Teaching (MAT) followed by teaching at the middle or high school level. Talk to an SOU chemistry advisor for many more possibilities.