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Pre-Medical Preparation at UHMānoa: Allopathic Medicine

Text compiled from the American Association of Medical Colleges website,
the American Medical Association website, NAAHP’s Medical Professions Admission Guide,
the USMLE website, UHM’s JABSOM website, and the UHM 2013-2014 Catalog


Hawai'i Allopathic Programs in Hawai'i: John A. Burns School of Medicine

Allopathic M.D. Programs
Prerequisites for Admission
What makes a strong candidate?
Researching Schools
The Application Process
Pre-Med Programs for UHM Students
Additional Information
Downloadable Brochure


Medical doctors, or physicians, are highly trained healthcare professionals who perform medical examinations, diagnose illnesses, prescribe drugs, and treat patients suffering from injury or disease using a variety of techniques.

Physicians serve in all types of communities, from rural to inner city, and in a wide variety of settings, from private practice to clinics and hospitals. They also work in specialized settings, such as homeless shelters, schools, sports programs, prisons, nursing homes, third-world countries, and the armed forces. About one-third of the nation’s physicians are generalists, or “primary care” doctors, although that percentage is declining as more physicians choose to become specialists. Generalists include fields such as internists, family physicians, and pediatricians. Specialists focus on a particular system or part of the body; examples include neurologists, hematologists, cardiologists, and podiatrists, to name only a few.
Physicians also serve in research, studying and developing new treatments for disease, in academia, sharing their skills by educating medical students, in health organizations, pharmaceutical companies, medical technology manufacturing, health insurance companies, and in corporations with health and safety programs.

Related Careers: physician assistant, nursing, medical technician, dentistry, optometry, veterinary medicine, pharmacy, biomedical research, biomedical engineering, and hospital administration.

There are five primary fields in medicine:  Allopathic, Chiropractic, Naturopathic, Osteopathic, and Podiatric, all of which diagnose and treat disease.

  • Allopathic physicians (MDs, Medical Doctors, or Doctors of Medicine) focus on diagnosing and treating disease; treatments include prescription medication and surgery.  Allopathic medicine offers both primary care and a large number of specializations, but many MDs specialize.
  • Chiropractic physicians (DCs, Doctors of Chiropracty, or Doctors of Chiropractic Medicine) focus on the promotion of health through the alignment of the musculoskeletal structure. DCs do not use invasive procedures such as surgery.
  • Naturopathic physicians (NDs, Doctors of Naturopathy, or Doctors of Naturopathic Medicine) focus on maintaining physical, emotional, and spiritual wellness through lifestyle choices and natural remedies such as acupuncture, reflexology, homeopathy, etc. D.N.s do not use invasive procedures such as surgery.
  • Osteopathic physicians (DOs, Doctors of Osteopathy, or Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine) focus on diagnosing and treating disease with an emphasis on primary care, holistic evaluation, and the prevention of diseases.  DOs can specialize but many work in primary care. DOs receive training in the manipulation of the musculoskeletal structure, also known as osteopathic manipulative medicine, or OMM, in addition to the core medical training.  The scope of practice for MDs and DOs is very similar.
  • Podiatric physicians (D.P.M.s, or Doctors of Podiatric Medicine) focus on the diagnosis and treatment of diseases concerning the foot and ankle. Podiatric medicine is an early specialization of allopathic medicine and includes the prescription of medications and surgery.

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Allopathic Medicine Programs

Becoming an MD requires 11 to 16 years of education:

  • Bachelors Degree (~4 years);
  • Medical School (4 years);
  • Residency (3-8 years, depending on specialty).

Some schools offer combined degree programs: MD/ PhD to combine the practice of medicine with research or teaching; MD/ JD to combine medicine with law; MD/ MBA to combine medicine with business administration; MD/ MPH to combine medicine with public health; and so on. Combined degrees can be offered concurrently, sequentially, or in combination, and often extend the number of years in medical school.

Medical schools use a variety of curricula, including standard (2 years of science followed by 2 years of clinical instruction), problem-based learning (PBL), systems-based learning, or a hybrid.

The United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) is a three-step examination for medical licensure in the United States.  After the first two years of medical school, students must pass USMLE Step 1 before continuing. Years three and four generally consist of clinical rotations. USMLE Step 2, administered at the end of Year 3, assesses students’ Clinical Skills (CS) and Clinical Knowledge (CK), and helps to determines admission to residency programs. Students are assigned to residency programs through a computerized process called “The Match.”

Upon graduation from medical school, new physicians work as residents under the supervision of an attending physician. Residents must pass the USMLE Step 3, and apply for licensure from the Medical Boards of their states before they can become fully licensed.  All physicians must be licensed to practice.

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Prerequisites for Admission

Most importantly, remember that requirements vary from school to school! You must research to create a list of all the prerequisites you will need to apply to the medical schools you are interested in attending.

The following UHM courses are commonly required for admission to medical schools:

BIOL 171/L and 172/L
Introduction to Biology I and II
CHEM 161/L and 162/L
General Chemsitry I and II
CHEM 272/L and 273/L
Organic Chemistry I and II
PHYS 151/L and PHYS 152/L
(or PHYS 170/L and 272/L)
College Physics I and II
(or General Physics I and II)
ENG 100 and higher
Composition I and higher (1-2 courses)

Additional requirements may include courses such as biochemistry, calculus, and humanities. It is also recommended that non-science majors take additional upper-division or advanced science electives beyond the prerequisites listed above.

For the John A. Burns School of Medicine (JABSOM), the following courses are also required:

BIOL 275 (+275L)
Cell and Molecular Biology

For the MCAT2015, the following courses are also required:

MATH 140
PSY 100
Survey of Psychology
PSY 212*

Survey of Research Methods*

PSY/SOCS 225 or ECON 321*
SOC 100
Introduction to Sociology
BIOC 241 or higher

*These courses may not be required for the MCAT2015, depending on what material is covered in PSY 100.

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What makes a strong candidate?

Schools need to be certain that the students they accept will be capable of completing the medical curriculum and are likely to become good physicians.

Are you capable of completing the medical curriculum?

Medical school admissions committees are looking for students who have:
  • completed the prerequisites
  • a high overall GPA
  • a high science/math GPA
  • performed well on the MCAT
  • balanced their course load so it is challenging yet realistic
  • Are you likely to become a good physician?

    Admissions committees look for students who have:

    • demonstrated empathy, compassion, and a commitment to public service
    • high ethical and moral standards and a conscientious work ethic
    • demonstrated maturity (judgment, responsibility, dependability)
    • a broad liberal arts education that includes the humanities and social sciences
    • experience in the field and with what medicine entails
    • a well-rounded life that balances academics, community service, social activities, and personal interests (hobbies, skills, sports, etc.)
    • excellent oral and written communication skills
    • strong letters of evaluation or recommendation

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    Researching Schools

    There are now over 160 public and private medical schools in the U.S. and Canada, each one unique in its mission, philosophy, criteria, and strengths. Applicants can research schools using the the MSAR.

    Although there are resources that “rank” schools, the rankings are rarely pertinent for individual applicants. More important is whether there is a good match between applicant and school.

    To find schools that are good a fit for you (PAC peer advisors can help with this process):

    1. Assess your individual strengths and weaknesses, your professional interests, learning style, and personality;
    2. Start by considering all schools, which usually includes all 160+ schools;
    3. Create your “Long List” by omitting the schools that do not match your professional interests, learning style, and personality;
    4. Once you have your MCAT scores, create your “Short List” by categorizing the schools into “Reach,” “Match,” and “Safety,” ranking the schools by preference, and finally choosing how many schools to apply to.

    If possible, visit the schools to see their facilities, talk to Admissions Directors, and chat with students.


    Entrance Exam

    Almost all medical colleges require applicants to take a standardized test called the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT)

    Preparation:  Your most important preparation for the MCAT is your undergraduate courses (not only the prerequisites for medical school), many of which sharpen your writing and verbal reasoning skills.  Remember that your verbal reasoning score is not only the most accurate predictor of how well you will do in medical school, but also the most difficult score to improve. 

    MCAT Summary:  The MCAT assesses your knowledge and skills in Biological Sciences, Physical Sciences, and Verbal Reasoning. There is also an optional experimental section, which will be rewarded with a $30 Amazon gift card if completed.  The test requires ~5 hours to complete, and entails ~144 multiple choice questions. The MCAT is administered in a computer-based format, and is offered over twenty times each year.

    MCAT Scoring:  Writing samples are scored by letter grades ranging from J to T, with T being the highest; the other three sections are each scored 1-15, for a possible total of 45.  Competitive scores for the MCAT begin around 30.

    Official Test Preparation Material:

    • The Official Guide to the MCAT Exam, by AMCAS
    • Practice Exams, on AAMC website

    Click here for the current MCAT Overview

    Click here for the MCAT2015 Overview

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    The Application Process

    There are three general steps in applying to allopathic medical schools: the primary application, the secondary application, and the interview.

    1.  Primary applications must be filed with the American Medical Colleges Application Service (AMCAS), which is a centralized application system.  Once the application is complete, AMCAS forwards it to whichever schools the student has designated.

    2.  Secondary applications or supplementary forms are specific to individual schools; schools send these to applicants only after they have received the AMCAS application.  Both frequently request additional information, essays, and letters of recommendation.  Some schools may even screen applicants before the applications or forms are sent out.  However, secondary applications and supplementary forms differ in that the latter is not a formal application.

    3.  Interviews: After reviewing the primary and secondary applications (or supplementary forms), allopathic schools invite promising applicants for an interview.  Applicants are responsible for all costs incurred while interviewing, including airfare, lodging, ground transportation, professional attire, and meals.

    Traffic Rules: Although the application process varies from school to school, AMCAS has established “traffic rules” to ensure fairness for all concerned. The rules are available online and stipulate both the schools’ and applicants’ rights and responsibilities during the application process.  All applicants should be familiar with these rules before applying.

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    • The more you know about the school, the better your chances of being accepted.
    • Most application questions can be answered by reading the MSAR
    • Contact individual schools' Admissions Offices to find out how they handle:
      • Advanced Placement (AP) credits
      • International Baccalaureate (IB) credits
      • College-Level Examination Program (CLEP) credits
      • military credits
      • courses taken at a community college
      • non-U.S. coursework
      • courses taken for credit/no credit instead of a grade
      • residency issues
      • time limits on prerequisite science courses

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    Pre-Med Programs for UHM Students

    Problem-Based Learning Demo
    A demonstration of JABSOM’s student-centered system called Problem-Based Learning (PBL) is held on the JABSOM campus twice each year, and gives students the opportunity to take part in a PBL exercise.  A description of the entire educational program and a tour of the facilities are also provided.  This session is strongly recommended for those applying or planning to apply to JABSOM.

    JABSOM Scholars
    The JABSOM Scholars is a Doctor of Medicine Early Acceptance Program (DMEAP) for entering Hawai’i resident freshman.  The primary goal of DMEAP at the University of Hawai’i at Manoa (UHM) is to increase the number of highly qualified state residents attending UHM’s John A. Burns School of Medicine (JABSOM).

    Health Sciences RLP
    In the Residential Learning Program, students with similar majors or interests live together on selected resident floors.  Residents will be able to study together, work together, and learn from each other.  This particular program is designed for freshmen considering a career in the health fields.

    Native Hawaiian Student Pathway to Medicine
    The Native Hawaiian Student Pathway to Medicine (NHSPM) is a program that provides support for Native Hawaiian pre-medical students who demonstrate potential to be competitive medical school applicants.  The program focuses on preparation during the sophomore and junior years.

    Medical Student Mentorship Program
    The Medical Student Mentorship Program (MSMP) pairs current medical students at the John A. Burns School of Medicine with undergraduate students interested in pursuing a career in medicine.  MSMP provides support to students applying to medical school and helps to foster relationships between undergraduates and medical students and faculty.

    Imi Ho’ola Post-Baccalaureate Program
    The Imi Ho’ola Post-Baccalaureate Program aims to improve health care in Hawai’i and the Pacific Basin by increasing the number of physicians through a 12-month educational program that addresses disadvantaged students’ academic and social-emotional needs.  Imi Ho’ola’s goal is to increase diversity in the physician workforce and produce physicians who demonstrate a strong commitment to practicing in underserved communities in Hawai’i and the Pacific.

    MD-MPH Combined Degree Program
    The MD-MPH Combined Degree Program is now an available AMCAS option for students applying to JABSOM for the 2012 admissions cycle.  The AMCAS deadline for the MD-MPH Program is November 1st (EST).  Applicants are required to submit applications to both AMCAS and to UHM’s Graduate-MPH Degree Program.

    The MR5 Advisory Committee will be implementing a new version of the MCAT test beginning January 2015.  Exam content may require additional preparatory courses, including introductory psychology (PSY 100), introductory sociology (SOC 100), research methods (PSY 212), statistics (PSY/SOCS 225 or ECON 321), and biochemistry (BIOC 241 or higher).

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    Additional Information

    UHMānoa’s Pre-Health/Pre-Law Advising Center (PAC) has reference books, lists of volunteer opportunities, academic planning worksheets, and one-on-one advising by peers who can help you prepare for and apply to medical schools.

    UHM's Pre-Medical Association (PMA)
    UHM's Biology Club
    Medical Student Mentorship Program
    American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC)
    American Medical Association (AMA)
    American Medical Colleges Application Service (AMCAS)
    Medical College Admission Test (MCAT)
    MCAT2015 Information & Preview Guide
    MCAT2015 for Admins: including links to the Course Mapping Tool, Webinars, Sociology and Psychology Textbook Resources, iCollaborate, and Q-UPP
    Medical School Admission Requirements by AAMC Available in PAC in 2 parts:
  • Hard Copy
  • Searchable Online Database, by subscription
  • Medical Professions Admission Guide: Strategy for Success by NAAHP

    available in PAC

    Preparing for Graduate School by the Honors Program
    Student National Medical Association

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