questions on pre-reqs (verbose!)

Hi everyone - I have been browsing and gleaning tons of helpful information from this website for about a month and am so grateful for everyones input and the supportive environment on here!

It has given me an immense sense of support in seeing that I was not the only one starting out on my journey of taking prerequisites with a will as strong as ever to attend Medical School.

An introduction first…I graduated in 2000 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Microbiology, & a minor in English from Oklahoma State University.

After that, I went on to succesfully complete a Masters degree in Biological Sciences from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, PA (full thesis option) in the Spring of 2004. All my graduate coursework was completed by the Fall of 2003 and as I worked on my thesis, I also acquired a full time job at a University of Pittsburgh Medical School biomedical lab that did research with federally approved embryonic stem cell lines.

While working at this full time job, I succesfully defended my thesis and got awarded my Masters degree from Duquesne University in the Spring of 2004 - (my thesis was based on the use of Adult Mesenchymal Stem Cells and their use in conjunction with tri-calcium phosphate bone void fillers, as a potential therapy to repair critical sized bone defects). Talk about an intense couple of months though…and did i mention I also got married somewhere around that time? I also became a naturalized US citizen the same week as my thesis defense…so talk about killing 2 birds with 1 suit!

I will be honest in saying that I didn’t think of Medical School as an undergrad or even while obtaining a Masters Degree. I was a new migrant to this country and apart from a mild culture shock…I actually went through severe depression from being so far away from “home” and actually stopped going to classes my second semester as a Freshman. Needless to say, huge bummer on the GPA from which i never recovered. The rest of my undergrad career was spent floating through science classes (I definitely had an interest in Science) - but not a “go-getter I need to get straight A’s” attitude. That coupled with a couple of deaths in my family - I was barely there in college to get my degree. Therefore, my cummulative undergrad GPA is a dismal 2.411. (The last 2 semesters of my undergrad career do show a significant improvement in grades).

Upon graduation, all i knew was that I was still interested in the sciences and studied hard for the GRE and got accepted at Duquesne University on a full scholarship And a TA-ship. - Some family problems not worth mentioning continued but i managed to stay in school and graduated with an overall GPA of 3.0.

I then continued to work in the biomedical lab first as a Research Assistant, and then as a Research Associate until March 2007. This biomedical lab carried out federally approved embryonic stem cell research. This was a time I believe when a drastic amount of personal growth took place for me while working for a PI who is a pioneer in his field in many respects and I acquired, or rather strengthened qualities such as my work ethic, stamina to do rigorous study/work, learned some kickass science (pardon the language) and formulate an idea of where I wanted to head in life!

I loved the cutting edge element of the science that we did…deriving stem cell lines, staining and gazing down a confocal microscope at an embryonic stem cell colony that was dividing was wondrous to me. Towards the later part of this work experience was an episode that made me decided that I wanted to go to Medical School. It involved it all international drama, a real life case study of biological ethics that i had learnt of in Grad School, and seeing first-hand the hopes of thousands, if not million of patients crushed.

To cut a long story short, it was 2006 and we were at Stanford University hosting one of our annual nationally acclaimed stem cell courses. Our chief keynote speaker was a Dr. Hwang from Korea who had recently published a study which claimed to have created patient specific human embryonic stem cell lines through the process of somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) -and Dr Hwang was being touted as the potential nobel prize winner in medicine that year. His Korean lab had collaborated with our US lab and our PI who was one of the leading authorities of SCNT in this country. While our lab was prevented by participating in any of his research due to our grants being federally granted, our lab had helped in the editing of his manuscript into the English language and worked together learning techniques in a collegiate manner with his lab members in the US on monkey embyonic stem cells.

Yours truly had also designed the artwork which got featured on the cover of Science magazine with the groundbreaking study. Fast forward to a couple of months later - when it was discovered that Dr Hwang’s stem cell lines were infact not really derived by SCNT. I don’t need to get into all the details here -but Dr. Hwang was nationally and internationally disgraced and his study was proven to be false. The shock and awe that not just the Koreans but even our lab and most of the Science community went through can be summarized in a vivid image of a stamp that Korea had printed. It showed a wheelchair bound (apparently paralyzed) patient in the foreground with a human embryonic stem cell colony as the background - and this patient was shown in a series of images to get up from his wheelchair, step towards and then run joyfully towards another human being and the series ended in them embracing. Apart from even beginning to describe the crushing blow to young scientists worldwide, this was the defining moment in my life which made me want a career that would take me directly from the lab bench and to the bedside. I had seen the faces and letters and anguish of patients that had seen a glimmer of hope in a possible therapeutic treatment only to be told that it was all a farce. I wanted to learn more of the science and the physiology and the anatomy that would allow me to help patients one day - and hence my resolve to attend med school.

A year later I was sad to have to move away from this wonderful job but the timing worked out as we ended up relocating due to my husband’s job (did I mention he is a critical care physician) who had to work in an underserved area in order to maintain his visa status. I had also had a baby girl by now who was about 6 months old and it was the perfect time to take a year off and be a stay at home mommy. She is now almost 2 and I am ready to head back to school as I have plotted and planned on how to get into med School!

I am fully aware that my undergraduate and graduate grades are far from stellar. I am therefore, ready to re-take classes in order to better my grades. I am hoping to take classes that will also help me prepare for the MCAT and those on top of the list are Organic Chemistry 1, General Chemistry, General Physics, Anatomy & Physiology and Genetic. (Is Calculus necessary?)

Even though I have completed all the required pre-requisite courses from my undergrad and graduate studies…and even though they are not from that long ago (2000 & 2004) - I figure I should retake the classes to show that I am capable of getting A’s.

I apologize for having written a novel already but will now list some pertinent undergrad courses in which I got dismal grades as an undergrad:

Calculus I: C

General Physics (I & II): C

Animal Biology: C

General Genetics: C

Human Anatomy: D

Organic Chem I: B

Organic Chem II: C

Immunology: C

General Chem: B

Biochemistry: B

Human Reproduction: B

Vertebrate Morphology: C

Advanced Microbiology: A

Virology: B

Pathogenic Microbiology: B

Philosophy of Biology: B

Statistical Methods: A

A sampling of Graduate grades is as follows:

Advanced Cell Biology: B-

Biochemistry I: C

Developmental Biology: B-

Cell & Molecular Bio: B

Advanced Molecular Bio: B+

Ethics in Biology: A

Advanced Topics in Biology: A-

Pathogenic Microbiology: B-

Endocrinology: B

As I have mentioned already that my undergrad and grad GPAs are not too great (2.411 & 3.00) - I am almost sure that rather than just prepare for the MCAT and try to get a good score on that; I should probably retake classes and try to better my GPA?

I definitely want to take O Chem, Gen Chem, Physics, Genetics and Anatomy & Physiology as I feel they will help me prepare for the MCAT as well as be able to get As (maturity + work ethic + aim driven mentality now!).

Any advice or comments on that??? I was able to learn from THIS website that I can take the organic lecture only without the lab so am actually enrolled as a Non-Traditional student (not working towards a degree) in Organic Chem as an independent study (without lab!) for the Fall of 08 (i.e this Aug!)

There is a possibility that this current university in the small town that I am in (MSSU in Joplin) might not let me take Gen Chem with Organic Chem…i don’t see why not…but since im taking a higher class…i might not be allowed to take Gen Chem…does that make sense to anyone? I was hoping to take that as an independent study without the lab too…and get in a semester worth of GOOD CHEM STUDYING!

Am thinking of Anatomy & Physiology (offered as 1 class) and Gen Physics in the Spr 09.

If calculus is recommended then i might take it the semester after that (Fall 09) with genetics…and if not, I can try to take it in Spr 09 itself. I figure a few months of serious studying for the MCAT and taking it in the Spr 0f 2010.

Am also going to get involved in volunteer work opportunities at the hospital where my husband works as of this August and am hoping that it shows up as steady volunteer work by 2010.

I also hope to apply to DO schools as 1. I am aware that my grades might be a serious roadblock for an MD program; 2. I actually like the holistic principle of teaching patients and mechanical stimulation in conjunction with treatments.

Any comments/ideas on my plan of action? Any and all advice will be appreciated as I start off on this slow and steady journey.

Rearing to go DO.

PS: I am 30 yrs old

I think your story helps us in providing background but now I suggest that you pose a few specific questions - briefly! because it’s kind of hard to know where to start to answer…


Dear Mrs. Khan,

As Mary put it succinctly, you provide excellent background. However, if you could distil your narrative to the essential questions, it would greatly help us readers with limited attention spans, to give directed and germane answers!

I had a sneaky suspicion that my post might have gotten too long when even I didn’t have the patience to read it the next morning! Thats what posting at 3 AM will do to you I guess!

but I’ll be succinct - my immediate questions are:

  1. my grades seem a lot worse to me than a lot of other posted GPAs on here esp since my Grad School GPA isn’t that high either. Am I foolish to even want this?

  2. should i focus on re-taking a large number of classes from my past (listed above) OR just the MCAT specific ones? (O Chem, Gen Chem, Physics & a few higher level biology courses) & aim for stellar grades in those?

  3. I have already spoken to an O Chem Prof about taking O Chem without the lab…will that be looked upon unfavorably?

  4. Calculus or Algebra?