I’m trying to decide whether to reapply to medical school. I applied in '97 at the “traditional age” and was rejected. I am now 30 and am thinking about trying again. I had a 3.1 GPA and average MCAT scores(don’t remember exactly what) and loads of volunteer work. I decided to go the alternative route and got my master’s in acupuncture and oriental medicine (with a 3.9 gpa). I have been an acupuncturist for the past 2 years, treating patients and running my own clinic. Now I’m again feeling the urge to go to medical school and integrate the two fields. There are several doctors in my area that also use acupuncture, so I don’t feel like this is a new idea…except that I learned acupuncture first. I’m just a little hesitant about going through the whole process again. I would have to retake the MCAT, which would probably be to my advantage and I’d be applying to the WWAMI program since I live in Washington. (I was a NC resident the first time I applied and only applied to those state schools). Part of me is concerned that they wouldn’t take me seriously considering my background even though I have been working with patients and Washington state IS fairly progressive in respect to alternative medicine. Any feedback?
From your statement, I would say that you need to improve your grades, especially in the BCPM (biology, chemistry, physics, math) area, unless, of course, accredited courses were offered as part of your acupuncuture training. Your high post-bacc GPA may help provided that it shows coursework that is acceptable to medical school AdComms (admission committees).
Improving your sciences would also help you retake the MCAT, which you will have to do if you want to maximize your chances for acceptance. Most medical schools want recent MCATs (although a few don’t care when you took it), usually within 2-3 years of application date.
As far as whether or not you would be taken seriously for having an acupuncture degree, well, it depends. Some med schools are friendlier to alternative health degrees and backgrounds than other schools. But do not let having an alternative health degree prevent you from applying. Just as Tieraona Low Dog, MD, who, after 20 years as an herbalist, decided that she wanted to be an MD, went to undergrad, and then went to U of New Mexico med school. Her biography is at http://www.fihm.com/html/bio/.
And there are others like her.
The question you need to answer yourself is: “How badly do I want to be a doctor?” If you want it badly enough, your enthusiasm, energy, strength of conviction, and motivation will dispell any doubts about how your background will be perceived.
Well, my acupuncture training actually included quite a few science classes including biochemistry, botany, pathology, western clinical sciences, etc. I went to Bastyr University in Seattle which is definitely accredited and even has a research institute that does grant work in collaboration with the University of Washington School of Medicine (where I would be applying to). Yes, I would need to retake the MCAT, since they only accept scores from at least 2001. Would I need to retake my prereq classes since they are from 1993-97? My biology grades are actually pretty excellent, it’s just the orgo and physics that dropped my GPA so low. Thanks for your help!!
Since your prereq classes are relatively recent, I would do the following: Call, email, write, or go in person to the dean of admissions at the UW School of Medicine and ask directly: Do I need to repeat this coursework. Also find out if they weigh undergrad more than post-bacc. I believe that in the case of UW, they DO weight their acceptance almost entirely on undergraduate sciences and not on post-bacc sciences. Unfortunately, your masters-level acupuncture degree would designate that science courses taken at Bastyr would qualify as non-undergraduate level coursework. Hence, their AdComms may not consider it heavily, despite your obviously high GPA. But, I digress: ask them directly. In fact, if you are going to be applying to out-of-state schools, I would do the same for those schools: call/write/email and ask about the age and type of your sciences.
As far as repeating your Orgo (OChem) and physics, well it depends upon how bad your grades were and whether repeating them would satisfy the AdComms. However, if you to repeat courses, it is imperative that you achieve grades equal to (if it is an A-level work) or better than how you did when you first took the class. If you got a C in Orgo, you need to get a B, or better yet, an A this time around.
Of course, studying for these courses will help you on the MCAT and new MCAT (it will be computerized in 2007).
In my case, my prereqs are from the early 1980s, so when I contacted med schools (I called about 20 or so), I received mixed feedback. About half the schools want me to repeat everything (despite the many A’s) while other deans want me to do more advanced upper level biology and chemistry coursework. So I have to do everything all over again . . .
Yikes!! Everything all over again? Well I actually already repeated the 2nd semester of Orgo prior to my first attempt at applying and got an A. Obviously this wasn’t enough for the committee, but again this was at a different school. I know that if I retake them I can get all As, but I know they will still see the bad grades from before. Geez these undergrad mistakes really seem to stick with you forever!
Unfortunately, that is the lesson that so many of us are learning, among other things. Bad grades will haunt you forever, even with retaking courses. It takes a lot of A’s to replace one bad C.
How your college handles repeating courses and deleting bad grades is not necessarily how AAMC will handle it, and, of course how each particular med school will handle your transcripts and MCAT scores. Some medical schools really will only look at your undergrad stuff. So if you did not take the right sciences or enough of them, well, too bad. Other schools are more lenient, and may average or throw out your worst grades or earlier MCATs. The AAMC will recalculate your GPA based on their policies (and not the policies of your undergard school), and typically come out with different numbers than may expect.
You see what most medical school AdComms really want to see are excellent grades the first time, stellar MCAT the first time. But the first time may be a long time ago.
But the AdComms also want to see the coursework done recently. They want to see if you can still handle the rigors of a science-based medical education.
People like us, who have faltered in our undergrad, who have taken our time with our undergrad, who have done other things, etc. are very confusing to many AdComms; very often they don’t know how to evaluate us with respect to straight-shooting premeds.
For example, recently I called two more top-tier medical schools to ask what I should do about my situation. I did this at the behest of a medical student who insisited that I did not need to repeat any of my premed coursework. “Just apply,” she said, “and you’ll get in.” I had already called some 20 schools the prior year and was following their advice. But my friend thought I was wasting my time re-taking everything. So, I called and I explained to both schools my past time frame and my grades. The AdComms at both schools told me (to quote one dean) “We really don’t know what you should do, your case is so unusual. We’ll get back to you.” The next morning the Deans of Admissions of each school called me back (both long distance!) to discuss my case, and both advised me in the end to repeat EVERYTHING. It is not that I have mediocre grades; I have some excellent grades (A’s in chemistry and physics and Bio I), but “Your grades are just too old. We want to see recent coursework.”
Enough said; it’s time to study . . .