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What courses should I take in college? How should I prepare for med school?

I'm currently at job corps for CNA training, but I'm working towards becoming a General Pediatrician in the future. Looking for advice of the best paths to take to becoming a General Pediatrician. I'm aware of the long journey ahead of me, but I'm also willing to work hard to get there. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thank you! #doctor #medicine #pediatrics #healthcare #pediatrician #cna

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Ryan’s Answer

My advice is to take advantage of any and all opportunities in healthcare to build your resume, GPA, and experience, which will not only make your application for Med School more competitive, but also make you a better doctor. For example, your CNA is a great start! But continue to advance to positions that have greater responsibility and higher levels of care, such as becoming an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) and volunteering, or working, on an ambulance while you continue your schooling. The guy who sat next to me in during my EMT training used this approach, and he is now an ER Doctor in Detroit. Good luck!

Thank you so much! Your advice is very much appreciated and very encouraging! I will definitely take everything you've said into consideration. :) Marlene U.

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Yasemin’s Answer

Hi Marlene! Great job for the CNA, it will definitely allow you to have a lot of experience with patients and help greatly in the applications to medical school and beyond. That being said for the courses there are prerequisites to enroll which I believe has been answered previously. When you get to college seek out a premed adviser first, they know the courses you can take and they can assist you in being a well rounded applicant. I would advise to do well as an undergrad, 3.7+ GPA, so mostly As, because medical school is competitive and in addition you will need to take the MCAT, a medical college admissions test, and doing well on that also is important. You should score for a 508+. Besides the academics, being a well-rounded applicant also makes a difference to your application, so be sure to take part in clinical volunteering and non-clinical like community service.If you are a CNA that could also fulfill the clinical aspect as well, but you should also check with a premed adviser. I would also advise to do something not related to the medical field because that could help in being well-rounded, allowing yourself to gain experiences and growth in different ways that is not medically related; tutoring, working in a soup kitchen, mentoring, really what you find passion and interests in. Your college campus should have opportunities as well so be sure to check them out! Lastly, check AAMC.org they are the site where you apply to medical school and also give information for premed students. Once you get to medical school after 2-3 years you can branch off and complete electives in the field of pediatrics then begin residency in the field as well. Keep working hard!

Best of luck!

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Rachel’s Answer

Any 4 year university should be able to provide you with all of the premed requirements (1 year biology, 1 year inorganic chemistry, 1 year organic chemistry + labs, physics, calculus, and biochemistry) You do not need to major in science. You must pick a major that will allow you to maintain an excellent GPA (preferably >3.8).

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Richard’s Answer

Pick a major that interests you so you don't mind devoting a majority of your hours to studying. You will need to get good grades in college in order to apply for medical school. At the medical school I attended, the average GPA is reported to be 3.85, so even one or two B's can hurt your chances of acceptance.

Aside from this, any major is acceptable as long as you complete the prerequisite courses.

Typical medical school prerequisites include:
Biology: Lecture – 4 semesters; Lab – 1 semester
General Chemistry: Lecture – 2 semesters; Lab – 1 semester
Organic Chemistry: Lecture – 2 semesters; Lab – 1 semester
Biochemistry: Lecture – 1 semester
General Physics: Lecture – 2 semesters; Lab – 1 semester
Math: Statistics – 1 semester
English: Rhetoric (Composition) and Literature – 2 semesters

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Sarah’s Answer

As you’re probably aware, medical schools require a 4-year college degree. The specific college courses you need (also called prerequisite classes) vary somewhat from program to program--school to school and often state to state.

Do remember that community colleges offer a LOT of your prerequisite classes and cost WAY less than most 4-year undergrad programs at a university. I’ve known a lot of bright, successful medical professionals (and non-medical folks) who took their prereqs at community colleges for the first 2 years of their undergrad education and transferred to a state or private university to complete their undergraduate degrees AND, later, their professional school programs--MD, PA, NP, PhD, MBA, etc.

A quick search of courses you’d likely find on a med school’s prereq list include Biology I and II with labs, Chemistry I and II with labs, organic chemistry with the lab, biochemistry, Physics I and II +/- labs, Calculus I +/- II, at least one advanced-level (junior or senior level) biology course (like anatomy & physiology, microbiology, or genetics), some behavioral/social science courses (like psychology and sociology). Not sure if you have taken any AP courses, but bear in mind some programs don’t count those credits (much to my dismay when I applied!).

As Ryan mentioned there are other things you can do to help your chances of getting into medical school, make you a better healthcare professional, and help you decide if you even want to be a doctor or stay in the medical field at all.

Working as a CNA is a fantastic start! A couple of my PA coworkers started there (after college, even, so you’re ahead of the curve!). Some of the other work experience I’m aware my colleagues did before their post-graduate programs (MDs, DOs, & PAs) includes EMT, medical scribe, referrals coordinator in a doctor’s office, electrophysiology tech, and medical equipment sales rep.

A quick search revealed some other occupations you could pursue to gain additional hands-on medical experience, such as ultrasound tech, phlebotomist, x-ray technologist (we have a 6-month training program on weekends for non-certified x-ray technicians, or NCTs, in Texas, which is way shorter than a 2- to 4-year radiologic technician program), military corpsman, combat medic, EEG tech, medical laboratory tech, ER tech, physical therapy aide, respiratory therapist, CPR instructor, etc.

Volunteering ideas might include an international medical service trip/mission trip, volunteering at a children’s hospital or holding newborns at the hospital (both of which, as an aspiring pediatrician, you might rather enjoy), volunteering at a hospice facility, and public health volunteering (abroad or in the US, like teaching first aid or performing health & hygiene training). Later, there are programs for pre-med college students abroad, too. Just search the keywords if you’re interested in any of those to see what’s available to you.

Point being, you have a lot of options in terms of course work to think about starting soonish, lots of options professionally to expand your hands-on experience, and plenty of volunteering opportunities. Just keep asking questions, researching, and taking advantage of what’s out there!

Sarah recommends the following next steps:

Start thinking about the prereqs with which you’d like to start and where you might take them. Include research on the pros and cons of taking them at a community college vs. a university.
As you get closer to applying to med school, make sure you’ve got your bases covered taking the prereqs for the specific programs to which you plan to apply. I had to take 12 hours of classes at my community college AFTER I graduated with my bachelor’s degree from my university to apply to all the schools in my state. Save yourself the hassle and money!
Put forth the effort to maintain a good GPA. That hard work is recognized and rewarded by med schools and prepares you for the grueling training process to become a physician.
Think about if advancing your career in the medical field to something with more responsibility and higher levels of care before med school is something you want to do. If you get a decent amount of experience as a CNA, you might not necessarily need to switch occupations just for the admissions process. My colleagues sure didn’t. But if another occupation appeals to you, financially or experientially, go for it!
Take advantage of volunteering opportunities in the medical field whenever you can.

Thank you so much! I greatly appreciate your feedback and advice! And I feel, with all of the information you've given me, I'm even more motivated to what I love and achieve my goal of becoming a Pediatrician. Marlene U.

That's great, Marlene. I wish you the very best doing whatever you decide is right for you. The world needs awesome pediatricians--sounds like you might just become one! Sarah Cook, MS, PA-C

Sarah, great answer. Remember to maintain balance in your life all through your schooling. Even in the first semester of second year of med school, when we had TEN courses, 23 GRADUATE HOURS, and I was Class President, I still exercised, hand built pottery in my apartment and had it fired at the Student Union, grew a little garden, had houseplants and had dinner parties for my friends, sitting around the brick and door coffee table in my living room. We lose 400 doctors to suicide every year, a whole med school worth!!! Please keep "other stuff than medicine" "joyful stuff" in your life. Susan Delphine Delaney