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Appointments with Dean Richard Aronson
To schedule a 30 minute appointment with Dean Aronson:
Current students (online scheduling): Create a profile in Quest, then follow these directions.
If this doesn't work, please call the Career Center Receptionist at 413 542 2265.
Alumni: Call 413 542 2265
Welcome Class of 2017
Amherst College Health Professions Orientation Information: Fall 2013
By Prof. William Loinaz and Dean Richard Aronson
Whether you have always known you wanted to be a doctor, veterinarian, dentist, nurse, physician’s assistant, mental health professional, medical social worker, physical or occupational therapist, or public health professional, or if you are just interested in exploring the possibility of a career in one of the health professions, Amherst College has information you’ll find useful, and people to help guide you throughout your time here.
Information: An important source of information is the Amherst College Guide for Premedical Students, a web site you should visit and study thoroughly. The Guide answers many questions you will have about scheduling courses, getting medically-related experience, and applying to health professions schools when the time comes. Read it soon!
People: Dean Richard Aronson, MD, MPH, is the Health Professions Advisor. The Health Professions Advisor is the person to consult about overall pre-health advising throughout your Amherst College years, which includes how to plan for your pre-med coursework, approach making a career decision, such as deciding to enter the medical profession, or other health professions (including public and global health), and how to find internships, shadowing, community service, research, and other opportunities to prepare you for a health career and to help you decide for sure. Meet with him at least once during your first year at Amherst, and at least once per year after that as well. Please schedule an appointment online through Quest (you have to first create your own profile in Quest and then follow these directions. If you have trouble with the online system, just call the receptionist at the Career Center (413 542 2265). Dean Aronson's office is at 104 College Hall. Meetings typically last 30 minutes. Also, he has drop-in hours for shorter meetings (15 minutes) on Wednesdays from 3 to 5 pm when classes are in session. Be sure to sign the sheet at the meeting at Orientation so that you will be able to stay connected with us, and get added to the Pre-Health List Serve. The Health Professions Advisor also works closely with students and recent graduates when they begin the process of applying to health professions schools. A Faculty Health Professions Committee, consisting this year of Profs. William Loinaz (Chair), Alexandra Purdy, Amy Demorest, and Sandra Burkett, helps students choose and schedule courses to prepare for the health professions and works with the Health Professions Advisor to prepare materials to support applications to health professions schools. Professor Loinaz (email@example.com, 413 542 7968, 223 Merrill) is also available to help you, especially with your academic planning; feel free to email him for questions and to make an appointment. Erin Cherewatti is the Health Professions Assistant. She is located in the Career Center in College Hall. Feel free to contact Dean Aronson with your questions, or Ms. Cherewatti (phone 413 542 2935).
“What courses should I take this semester?” There is no single answer to this question. Different academic paths are right for different students, as illustrated by examples in the Guide. However, if you feel reasonably well prepared in science, and especially if you may want to major in science, consider taking:
(1) Chemistry 131, 151, or 155, as placed by the Chemistry Department
(2) If the Math department says you should start with Math 111 or Math 105, take it this semester if you feel able to do so.
If you have “placed out” of Math 111 according to the Math Department, consult the Guide for what Math to take, and when. Note that there is no Biology course available for most first-semester first-year students, except for Biology/Chemistry 131, a course for those taking Math 105 and not Chemistry 151. Other students should start with Biology 181 this coming spring, or Biology 191 next Fall.
“Which courses must I eventually take? Medical, dental, and veterinary schools require:
● Math 111, or Math 105 & 106 (a few medical schools require additional math - see the Guide);
● four semesters of Chemistry with lab (Chemistry 151 or 155, plus 161, 221, and 222);
● two semesters of Physics with lab (Physics 116 or 123, and 117 or 124);
● two semesters of Biology with lab (Biology 181 and 191, or other bio. courses - see the Guide);
- Biochemistry (with or without lab) – increasingly required to the point that we now recommend it for everyone.
● two semesters of English, or certain other courses that may be substituted - see the Guide.
There are almost as many sequences by which students fulfill these requirements as there are pre-health professions students; the Guide provides examples. As you can see, we’ve added biochemistry as a requirement; we expect that within a few years, most if not all medical schools will require it in addition to the two basic biology courses. Some medical schools require a course in statistics (Math 130 or Psych 122). We expect requirements for statistics to also become more common. Most veterinary schools require additional courses such as biochemistry, microbiology, and/or histology, some of which you will take elsewhere, e.g. Five Colleges.
“May I use Advanced Placement to satisfy medical school requirements?” Again, the Guide has all the details, but the bottom line is that you need to have at least four semesters of Chemistry, two of Physics, and two of Biology, all with lab, on your College transcript. Even if you have advanced standing in one or more of these subjects, most medical schools will not accept you unless your college record includes the number of courses listed above in Biology, Chemistry, Physics, and English. You may take advanced courses if you are exempted from introductory ones by the departments concerned, but you can’t simply omit the required number of courses based on your advanced placement. In Math, however, official placement is usually acceptable; see the Guide for more information about math placement.
“What should I major in if I want to enter medicine or one of the other health professions?” Major in a subject that interests you! Humanities or social science majors are not at a disadvantage when applying to medical school, if they have done well in the required premedical science courses. Of course if you like studying a particular science subject, choose it as your major. If you major in Biology, Chemistry, Physics, or Neuroscience, some of the courses you take as major requirements will also count as premed requirements. You would almost certainly major in science if you wish to go on in medical research, e.g. to enter a combined M.D./Ph.D. program.
Some advice for the long term: Now that the most pressing questions are out of the way, here is some advice that we think will be helpful beyond this coming week, in the form of five things we’ve noticed that many successful premedical students do. Consider following in their footsteps!
(1) They engage enthusiastically in their whole undergraduate education.
They choose a major—science or non-science—that interests them, and pick challenging courses outside the major that also interest them. Because they're interested in learning, they do well in their courses. Their professors get to know them and can provide them with strong recommendations.
(2) They do well in the required premedical science courses.
Whether their major is in science or non-science, they have ability and genuine interest in scientific understanding that shows in their work in the required premed courses.
(3) They show accomplishment and leadership outside the classroom.
They get involved in a sustained way doing something worthwhile that they love doing and are good at doing—volunteering, mastering a musical instrument and performing, doing research, or many other things. There are excellent opportunities on campus: Public Health Collaborative, GlobeMed, Charles Drew Health Professions Society, and Pre-Health Peer Mentoring are examples.
(4) They have contact with doctors and hospitals.
During the two or three years prior to applying to medical school, they shadow, intern, work, or volunteer with doctors and/or in hospitals.
(5) They often apply to enter medical school later than the Fall immediately after graduation.
Applying for admission a year or two or three after graduation enhances their qualifications, and they're not behind in their career—the average age of all first-year medical students in the U.S. is now 25. If they are prepared and motivated to plunge right into the premedical science courses when they arrive at Amherst, that’s fine. But many who are later successful in being accepted don't feel so prepared or motivated at first, and they take the courses when they are prepared and motivated.
More questions... “Is it all right to take premed courses in summer school?” “Will it improve my chances for acceptance if I double major?” “Can I study abroad for a semester or a year and still complete premed requirements?” “What is the MCAT exam and how should I prepare?” “What are my chances of getting into medical school if I have a “B” average at Amherst?” These questions and many more are answered in the Guide - read it! The MCAT will change in 2015. There will be new sections that cover the social sciences and ethical and cultural issues related to medicine. During the 2013-2014 year, we will discuss these changes with you, and how to prepare for the new MCAT.
We look forward to working with you as you prepare to enter one of the health professions. Don’t hesitate to contact or visit us when you have questions.
Health Professions Advising and Mentoring Program
The Amherst College Health Professions Program carries out the following:
1. Advise, mentor, and provide various forms of academic and career counseling to about 350 students and young alumni per year. They are all, at various stages, exploring and pursuing a career in the health professions - any kind of career. Although many of these individuals are aiming for a medical career as a doctor, a large number are interested in a wide variety of health professions - from dentistry and nursing and physical therapy to mental health, physician assistant, veterinary medicine, and in increasing numbers, public health. Students from all classes are encouraged to meet with Dean Richard Aronson by making an appointment on-line through Quest.
2. Guide about 50 to 60 pre-med students and young alumni per year through the 20 month long medical school application process that starts in January of the year before matriculation. This includes gathering materials, and preparing and writing a Health Professions Committee Letter of recommendation for each applicant. This culminates in the uploading of the committee letters, along with 4 to 5 individual letters of recommendation, to the medical schools in late July. It’s important for pre-med students to start meeting with Dean Aronson and Professor of Physics William Loinaz (Chair of the Health Professions Committee) from early on, well before the application season starts, and preferably when they first decide to explore a health related career of any kind.
3. Help students seek health-related internships, jobs, fellowships, and apply to other health professions graduate schools.
4. Serve as liaison and support to the student-run campus organizations that relate to health: GlobeMed, Amherst College Public Health Collaborative, and Charles Drew Health Professions Society.
5. Serve as advisor to the peer mentoring pre-health program.
6. Serve as general academic advisor to a group of first year students and sophomores.
7. Coordinate the Michael Kauffman Research Fellowship, and help run the AC Post-Bac Program.
Public Health Alumni Panel
Learn more about our amazing line-up of Amherst alumni, who will be speaking at this Friday's Public Health Alumni Panel.