Medical Doctor/Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine
In the Post-Baccalaureate Pre-Health program at NWHSU, you will take the credits you need to be competitive in your medical school degree. Through coursework and attentive advising, you will feel more than prepared for the rigorous admission examination and academic challenge of becoming a doctor, either a Medical Doctor (M.D.) or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.).
Becoming an M.D. or D.O.
Both Medical Doctors and Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine complete a 4-year degree. M.D.s and D.O.s are qualified doctors who must meet strict requirements before receiving their medical licenses.
The differences between M.D.s and D.O.s are often subtle. M.D.s generally focus on treating specific conditions with medication. D.O.s focus on whole-body healing, with or without traditional medication. They generally have a stronger holistic approach and have been trained with additional hours of hands-on techniques.
M.D. are trained in allopathic medicine, which emphasizes using medications to treat illnesses usually diagnosed by tests or procedures.
D.O.s learn osteopathy while earning their degree. Osteopathy treats the body as a whole rather than treating specific conditions. Students of osteopathic medicine learn how to evaluate people with the same tools and procedures as allopathic medical students. However, they also learn how to use osteopathic manual medicine (OMM), sometimes called osteopathic manipulative treatment. This involves using the hands to diagnose, treat, or prevent injuries or illnesses.
Preparing for Medical School
M.D./D.O. schools are varied in their course requirements. However, because the MCAT covers material from the commonly required courses, you will need to include those courses in your program of study whether or not they are prerequisites.
In addition, understanding and familiarity with the material is needed for success in medical school.
Standard Medical School Prerequisites
- Biology - This should include both introductory courses as well as upper level courses (Cell, Microbiology and Genetics)
- Chemistry – General Chemistry and Organic Chemistry
- Mathematics – Some schools will require calculus, while others require statistics but most schools require at least a semester of math
- Biochemistry– Some schools make it a prerequisite, while others simply assume you have the knowledge if you studied for the MCAT.
- Psychology and sociology - Like biochemistry, psychology and sociology have increased in popularity as a medical school prerequisite since their inclusion on the revision of the MCAT in 2015.
- English – Many medical schools want you to have critical thinking and reading/writing skills outside of basic science classes. The way they ensure you have these skills is through requiring an English class or, at the very least, a class with a writing-intensive focus.
Applying to Medical School
You will use The American Medical College Application Service® (AMCAS) to apply to M.D. programs, or the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine Application Service (AACOMAS) to apply to D.O. programs.
Each school sets its own final deadline for applicants submitting information through the application services. Regardless of these deadlines, submit your application as early as possible.
Applications submitted early in the cycle are reviewed first and therefore have a better chance of acceptance at almost all schools. The application services are serious about their deadlines. If an application is late, you’ll get it back without a refund.
A successful former student, Seth, produced a seminar series addressing the components of your primary and secondary application. The series is extremely helpful. You should watch the series months before you start the process.
The MCAT is a prerequisite for admission to nearly all the medical/osteopath schools in North America. The test is offered several times January-September of each year. Registration and dates.
The test has four sections:
- Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems
- Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems
- Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior
- Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills.
Each section is scored from a low of 118 to a high of 132, the mean is 125. The total score results from a combination of the four sections’ scores. Total score range is from 472 to 528, with a mean of 500.
Studying for this exam is crucial. Exam prep will take several months after you have completed coursework. There are free online options as well as a host of programs that have in-person classes, online classes, and individual tutoring. It is recommended to take several full-length practice tests.
- MCAT Prep Timeline
- Suggestions—a compilation of student advice
- MCAT Description and Test Prep Companies
AMCAS and AACOMAS each have a standardized method to calculate your GPA to compare applicants’ academic records more fairly when applicants have attended undergraduate and graduate institutions that use different academic calendars and grading systems.
The calculated GPAs almost always differ from those calculated by the school(s) you have attended. Any course with credit hours and a letter grade is calculated into the GPAs, regardless of whether the credit is counted toward a degree or counted toward a school-calculated GPA. Typically Pass/Fail grades are not included, nor are AP credits.
Grades and credit hours for all failed courses are included in your GPAs even if they are not included in the GPA calculations of the transcript-issuing institution. If your school has an academic forgiveness policy and subsequently replaces the original grade received with a special transcript symbol, the original grade and attempted credits must be entered on your application. Failure to include all courses nullifies your application.
In addition, two separate GPAs are calculated for coursework listed as BCPM (biology, chemistry, physics, and math—the D.O. does not include math) or AO (all other). Post-baccalaureate coursework is included in the Undergraduate Total GPA, as well as in a separate Post-Baccalaureate GPA.
AMCAS and AACOMAS utilize a standardized method to calculate your GPA. It is HIGHLY recommended you complete the spreadsheet early in the process.
You are asked to describe up to 15 significant experiences from your employment, research, volunteer, and extracurricular activities.
Up to three of your entries can be designated as most meaningful experiences – experiences that had a particular impact on your growth, development, professionalization, or that were particularly transformative or impactful. Each entry is allowed 700 characters (including spaces); the most meaningful experiences are permitted an additional 1325 characters.
The essay will be answering the question, “Why Medicine?” and how your experiences support your answer. The space limit is 5,300 characters spaces are counted as characters.
Your statement is available to the entire admissions committee, and the same statement is sent to all the schools. Some schools give the statement more importance, others less; regardless, you must consider the personal statement as highly important. Your statement needs to be strong, personal, and positively memorable.
Many medical schools evaluate applications through the lens of competencies. It is a good idea to use these competencies as you describe your experiences and desire to be a physician.
Letters of Recommendation
Students must submit several letters of recommendation (LOR). Some schools allow and/or require a committee academic LOR. The best LORs are from individuals that really know you and can describe your personal attributes. Your letter writers are assessing your academic abilities, critical thinking skills, reliability, demonstrated leadership, interpersonal skills, etc.
Additional Resources and Opportunities
- Local Volunteering opportunities: https://www.handsontwincities.org
- Hennepin County Medical Center: Clinical Research Opportunities
- Suggestions for Patient Contact Hours
- Integrative Medicine
- Shadowing Opportunities
- For current students only: Discuss your MD/DO goals with a retired physician and former UMN admissions committee member