Students without the traditional premedical preparation perform at a level equivalent to their premedical classmates, according to a study published in Academic Medicine (2010;85(8):1378-83).

The study, led by researchers at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, was conducted to assess the medical school performance of humanities  and social science majors who did not take organic chemistry, physics, calculus, or the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). Included in the study were participants of the Humanities and Medicine Program (HuMed), a program established at Mount Sinai School of  Medicine in 1987 that offers qualified sophomores and juniors majoring in humanities or the social sciences guaranteed admission to the
medical school on successful completion of a baccalaureate degree. Once accepted into the HuMed program, students are required to maintain a 3.5 GPA. In addition, while they forego organic chemistry, physics, calculus, and the MCAT, they must achieve a minimum B average in two semesters of biology and general chemistry.

“Of course, they come in at a disadvantage. Despite that perceived disadvantage, it is certainly possible to catch up,” said David  Muller,MD, study co-author and associate professor and dean of medical education at Mount Sinai. “These students can go on to be  presumably very successful.” When the academic outcomes of 85 HuMed students were compared with 606 non-HuMed students with traditional premedical backgrounds, researchers discovered little difference in students’ performance. Specifically, the two groups  performed equally well on most measures, such as commencement and clerkship honors. Additionally, HuMed students were significantly more likely than non-HuMed students to dedicate a year to scholarly research.

“Our data, collected over the course of six years, confirm earlier findings on the HuMed program and provide further evidence that a  significant reduction in standard premed requirements does not limit students’ ability to assimilate the basic science knowledge necessary for promotion of the clinical clerkship year,” the authors wrote. “Nor does it limit their  success in the clinical years in clerkships, electives, clinical skills exams, research endeavors, or residency selection.”

The authors explained that HuMed students do not miss the essential preparatory ingredient by acquiring an extensive liberal arts college education at the expense of the traditional premed science requirements and the MCAT. “Medical schools in general have been  encouraging students to get more humanities,” said J. Scott Wright, EdD, an undergraduate adviser and president-elect of the National Association of Advisors for the Health Professions Inc. “The Mount Sinai program takes that to what some might say is an extreme. The program really does deviate from the norm of what most applicants look like and what most medical schools would consider necessary.”