The Mt. Sinai Icahn School of Medicine recently announced a daring new admissions plan that would populate half of each class with students who were accepted as undergraduate sophomores, without requiring the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) or certain premed requirements like Organic Chemistry. The new program, FlexMed, allows premedical students to pursue undergraduate degrees in the humanities instead of being immediately pigeonholed into a rigorous science curriculum. After acceptance into the FlexMed program, students are required to maintain a 3.5 GPA and attend a remedial science course during the summer before the first year of med school (assuming that they had skipped the science prerequisites).
The FlexMed program was borne from the success of a similar small-scale program that admitted a limited number of humanities undergraduates into the School of Medicine. In a study published by Academic Medicine, Mt. Sinai found that academic performance in medical school was equivalent for the humanities students and traditional premed students. The smaller program was part of a larger effort from the American Association of Medical Colleges to reevaluate the medical admissions process and to seek out atypical applicants. “We must consider whether current premedical education requirements — some a century old —”fit” with how basic science and medical practice have changed,” says AAMC President and CEO Darrell G. Kirch, M.D.
Commenting on the status quo in medical school admissions, Dr. Kase of Mt. Sinai said, “The default pathway is: Well, how did they do on the MCAT? How did they do on organic chemistry? What was their grade-point average? That excludes a lot of kids… it makes science into an obstacle rather than something that is an insight into the biology of human disease.” The FlexMed program is a method to move away from the status quo. In a press release from Mt. Sinai, Dennis S. Charney, MD, the dean of the medical school, said:
“The current model of medical school training has stagnated despite major advances in science and medicine. We want to attract students with bright, creative minds who understand the role of precision medicine and big data and want to change the world. We also want innovators in clinical care who think of medicine in the larger social context and identify new practices for better care delivery. We believe FlexMed signals a paradigm shift in how we select, prepare, and educate the next generation of physicians, and hope other medical schools will follow suit.”
The end goal of this program is to produce a more diverse medical community that has a broader insight into the human condition. However, some people are skeptical at discarding the pre-med curriculum. One Chronicle commentator had an interesting view on the FlexMed program and others like it:
Are they really saying that doctors need so little understanding of biology that it could be completely covered in a six week long remedial course? This seems quite unlikely, being a physician is to biology like being an engineer is to math and physics; ie the applied side of the same field. However, maybe this is actually an acknowledgement that our current US system with four years of college prior to medical school just restricts the production of doctors and increases medical costs. In almost all other countries in the world, being a doctor is just a four to six year bachelors/masters level degree. It seems like such trends are making it harder and harder for US medical schools to justify the need for a bachelors degree prior to entering medical school…
With such a prominent medical school making such a drastic shift in admissions procedures, it should be very interesting to see if other schools follow suit in the coming semesters. For any school that is contemplating an alternative admissions process such as FlexMed, the infinitely customizable AMP online admissions system is a perfect tool for implementing a new admissions workflow with ease.