Joining a Combined Baccalaureate Medical Program

Competition to become a doctor has always been fierce. In 2008, 42,231 medical school applicants submitted 558,000 applications for 18,000 spots in the 128 accredited US medical schools. If this were a game of musical chairs, 24,231 would be left standing. That’s a lot of disappointed people.  Should you be graduating from high school next year, and you have a passion to become a doctor, you might try to sidestep the graduate Medical School admission process altogether by applying to a combined Baccalaureate Medical program.

That’s not to say that admittance into such a program is not extremely competitive; it is. Admissions levels are usually in the low single digits. Yet, there are a couple other reasons that you might think about it. Many pre-med graduates take a year or more to prepare for their MCAT exam, write their applications, and (in most instances) interview at each campus. This adds another year to an already lengthy time commitment required to become a doctor. Additionally, a combined BS or BA/MD program might also reduce the time spent in college and medical school from eight to seven years.

All thirty-five programs are listed at: Some are state universities including the University of Missouri, Michigan State, and the University of Connecticut; these programs often give preference to in-state applicants (after all they want to assure adequate flow of doctors to serve their populations). A number of private schools also have combined programs with their own medical school: Boston University, Tufts, Washington University (St. Louis), Brown and Drexel are such examples. Then there are programs that combine different undergraduate and medical schools; Rice and Baylor University, and Union College and Albany Medical College are two examples.

Each program’s admissions office will carefully assess your academic achievements, standardized test scores, extracurricular, and recommendations. In most cases you will also be expected to interview at the school. It’s a thorough process that leaves little to chance; these programs only want the cream of the applicants.

Key questions you’ll want answered before applying to a Medical Baccalaureate program include: once you matriculate, is medical school entry guaranteed (a lot of these programs are provisional, meaning final admittance into medical school might be contingent on MCAT scores, GPAs…); will you receive both your BA and MD degree; do you have to take the MCAT prior to gaining admission to medical school; do you have the option of applying to other medical schools after completion of your BA; what are the costs and potential financial aid for the program? This is by no means a comprehensive list, but you should know the answers to these before applying to a program.

One example is Brown’s program, PLME (Program in Liberal Medical Education). If accepted, you are in both Brown and its medical school. In the 2007 admissions cycle, there were 1974 applicants, with 79 (4%) offered admission. Most admits were in the top one percent of their high school class, and achieved an average SAT score over 2200. Other factors considered in the selection process included personal distinction, motivation, maturity, character, and intellectual breadth. (16 July 2009 from  PLME allows you to switch to a regular undergrad program should medicine lose its luster, gives you a lot of freedom in course selection, and it doesn’t require a minimum GPA requirement to stay in the program. Brown’s medical school is top caliber.

If your heart is set on a BA MD program, approach it with a realistic understanding of your and the school’s strengths and limits. A good site to keep track of the ebb and flow of medical school admissions is the Student Doctor Network,  Only the best applicants are liable to secure a spot in these programs. Possibly you might find yourself among them.