Guide for Gonzaga Students Interested in Health Science Careers
A. University Coursework
It is not possible to cover all of the requirements for the various health care professional schools in this document. It is recommended that you consult books such as "Medical School Admission Requirements" or "Admission Requirements of U.S. and Canadian Dental Schools" to find the specific requirements of individual schools. Updated versions of these materials are available at Foley Center Library. You are also encouraged to use materials available through the web to obtain specific information about individual schools you are considering, the application process (see for example http://www.aamc.org, and alternative health science careers. In general, the minimum requirements for pre-medical, pre-dental, and pre-veterinary medical studies include:
- 4 semesters chemistry (for example, CHEM 101/101L, 230/230L, 331/331L, 240/240L)
- 3-4 semesters biology (BIOL 105/105L, 106, 205/205L, 207/207L)
- 2 semesters physics (PHY 101, 102 or 103, 204 plus labs)
- 2 semesters English (composition and literature)
- 1 semester statistics or calculus is recommended
It is strongly suggested that students obtain a broadly based spectrum of classes with a good mixture of the social sciences, humanities, language, literature and fine arts. Most schools specify 1 year of general or inorganic chemistry and 1 year of organic chemistry. In our curriculum the general chemistry requirement would best be fulfilled using Introduction to Bioanalytical Chemistry (CHEM 240/240L) in place of a second semester of general chemistry or inorganic chemistry. One year of biochemistry or molecular biology is also strongly recommended by most schools, including the University of Washington. Check with the schools you are interested in attending to determine if they have a specific math requirement.
You cannot major in Pre-Med/Pre-Dent etc. While a student must demonstrate strong achievement and aptitude in the natural sciences, a science major is not necessary. The admission rates for students majoring in various fields suggest that admission committees are concerned more with the quality of the work and the attitude of the individual than with the identity of the major. Other studies show that non-science majors perform as well in the professional schools as do their science major counterparts, particularly during the 3rd and 4th years. The Committee on Health Science Careers recommends that you select a major based on alternative career plans or interests and pursue the curriculum that will be most useful towards this goal (in addition to the required courses for the professional school). While we recognize your alternate career may well involve a science major, we suggest that you be careful in obtaining a liberal education to develop yourself in a social and humanitarian sense. A selection of an alternative career will in no way be interpreted as showing a lack of commitment to your health science career. It demonstrates a realistic attitude as well as the fact that your interests are multifaceted.
C. Grade Point Average (GPA)
The student must present a consistent record of high performance and demonstrate the ability to cope with heavy course loads. It should be noted, for example, that the average load during the first year of medical school at the University of Washington is 25 hours of instruction per week. It is clear that a short-term goal of high grades will not help if the material is not digested properly. The admissions tests will give the professional schools an indication of the amount of material you learned while you earned your respective GPA.
D. Admission Tests
It is recommended that the admission tests (MCAT for medical school, osteopathy school and some veterinary schools, and the DAT for dental school) be taken in the spring or early summer (March-July) of the junior year. Thus, students should have completed all of the required courses (see A) before or during their junior year. The examinations are also offered in the summer with the disadvantage of having scores available later in the application cycle. The implementation of computerized admission tests has recently expanded the dates when these tests are available; however we continue to recommend that they be taken in the spring or early summer of your junior year. Results of the admission tests are utilized as a further indication of the student's academic ability in conjunction with the GPA and transcript.
In addition to the applicant's academic abilities, the professional schools are interested in assessing noncognitive qualities. Most rely on three major sources of information - personal statement (see G), letters of recommendation and a formal interview at the professional school.
The Committee on Health Science Careers is the basic source of letters of recommendation at Gonzaga. Students must supply any information that is pertinent to the chairperson of the committee, including a self evaluation, college transcript and personal statement, access to MCAT/DAT scores, and letters of evaluation from faculty members not on the committee, physicians or health care practitioners, etc. The committee then interviews the student to help the student prepare for the formal interview at the professional school and to provide the committee with additional information that can be used in drafting the letter of recommendation. Students must go through the committee process and have sufficient evidence that they will be competitive in the application process in order to obtain a letter of recommendation from the committee. The current members of the Committee on Health Science Careers, (2010-2011) Include the following: Joseph Haydock, Biology (Chair); Kirk Anders, Ph.D., Biology; Anna Marie Medina, Ph.D., Psychology; Maria Bertagnolli, Ph.D., Biology; Peter Pauw, Ph.D., Biology; Gary Chang, Ph.D., Biology; Mike Pringle, Ph.D., English; Brian Cooney, Ph.D., English Ingrid Ranum, Ph.D., English; Matthew Cremeens, Ph.D. Chemistry; Brook Swanson, Ph.D., Biology; Jeff Cronk, Ph.D., Chemistry; William Ettinger, Ph.D., Biology.
Exposure to a health-related setting is important as an admission factor but perhaps more importantly as an opportunity for you to analyze the type of duties you will be expected to perform in your career. During this type of activity, many students discover that they are not truly interested in the field that originally interested them. It should be stressed however that it is more important to be familiar with the field as a whole, (e.g. current trends, current problems, new techniques, etc.) than to have experience with performing duties in a narrow or limited setting.
Establishing a long record of volunteer community service provides a strong indicator of one's motivation to "help others". Establishing such a record requires time and commitment. Volunteer early and often, but remember that it is often better to commit to a few long-term opportunities than to have a "shopping list" of short-term experiences. Another important factor considered by admission committees is the applicant's overall life experience. Many schools have discovered that students who have spent time outside the academic world exploring various facets of careers, social experiences, or their own position in the world, have the maturity and motivation necessary to cope with the enormous stresses applied to them in the professional school.
G. Motivation and Commitment
In choosing to pursue a health science career, you are aware of the long-term commitment you have made for formal education as well as the need for continued self-education (the average half-life of medical information before it becomes obsolete is about 5 years). It is important that you carefully consider the reasons for selecting a particular career goal and the full implication of what that means for you in terms of future education, function within the career, impact on family life and leisure time, etc. It is crucial that you be able to address with some degree of conviction and specificity questions such as: Why do you want to be a physician, dentist, osteopath, optometrist, etc.? What alternative careers are of interest to you? What qualities do you possess that would be advantageously used in this quest? What weaknesses do you have that need to be strengthened? Are your principal interests humanitarian? Do you have social intelligence?
There are many personal qualities that a professional school will look for in selecting students. Some of the more important are attitude and maturity. A brief look at qualities listed on recommendation forms used by various schools may be of interest. One school asks about comprehension, application of knowledge, accepting demands, verbal and written communication, utilization of time, resourcefulness, dependability, self-confidence, maturity, compassion, interactive capabilities and motivation. Applications for professional schools include a personal statement written by the student. This narrative helps reveal personal qualities, life experiences and other factors that enable an individual to stand out among a list of candidates with similar GPA and admission test scores.
Professional schools have repeatedly rejected students who present strong academic records but lack maturity or have an uninformed or poorly articulated motive for pursuing a health career.
H. What to do
If you are interested in a health science career, be certain to make your interest known to your academic advisor and also discuss this interest with a member of the Committee on Health Science Careers. It is highly recommended that you ask one of these individuals to serve as an academic advisor or as a special program advisor as soon as you feel strongly committed to a health science career. Enrollment in required courses necessary for application to a health professional school in the proper time frame is important. It is also essential to attend informational meetings sponsored by the Committee on Health Science Careers or by the Health Science Careers Club. We would like all students interested in health science careers to enroll in our Blackboard site to facilitate communication of opportunities and requirements. To enroll, please email either the chair of the Health Science committee (Joseph Haydock firstname.lastname@example.org).
Get experience in a health care setting. There are 6 hospitals in Spokane and several major clinics. Each one of them has a volunteer coordinator. Your position does not necessarily have to be in the ER or any other specific department. Expect to begin in a position that is commensurate with your experience. No matter where you work or volunteer make use of your position to observe health care professionals and their interactions with patients and their colleagues. Talk to them and get to know them. Keep a diary of your interactions with patients and staff. It will help you define more precisely your motivations and rationale for entering your chosen field.
When you are certain that you will make an application for acceptance into a health science program, inform the chairperson of the Committee on Health Science Careers of your decision. You should then initiate the process of supplying information to the committee beginning the spring semester of the year preceding your submission of the application (most often, the junior year.)