New Rutgers Program Transforms Premed Student Experience

Under a new program at Rutgers, first-year student Helen Gao is on a unique path to medical school, one that includes time to pursue a degree in fine arts. Devin Busono will have time to explore his passion for music production and learn Japanese as he prepares to become an ear, nose, and throat doctor.

Now in its first semester with nine first-year students, the 4 + 4 Program offered by Rutgers University–New Brunswick’s Honors College and Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, and in collaboration with the Rutgers Global Health Institute, has all the benefits of other competitive undergraduate-to-medical school programs, including the elimination of the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT).

What is unique about this program is that students can explore their various interests and dive into global health issues during a full undergraduate experience, secure in the knowledge they have a guaranteed seat at the medical school as long as they maintain a required minimum GPA and fulfill all pre-med course requirements. The program is open to Honors College students who are first-year recipients of a Rutgers Presidential Scholarship.

The elimination of the MCAT saves each student an estimated $3,000 in preparation and test fees, 200 to 300 hours of study time and uncounted lost time for other opportunities, such as mentorship, work and extracurricular activities.

The 4+4 Program is not the first BA/MD program to waive the MCAT. But previously existing programs at RWJMS and Rutgers New Jersey Medical School–3+4 programs–remove a year of undergraduate school for an accelerated experience. Sunita Kramer, associate dean at the Honors College, says the fact that 4+4 Program students finish in eight years, rather than seven, is a significant benefit.

“Eliminating that year of school takes away from the college experience. Instead of taking that time away to fast-forward into a career, why not let them have that time to focus on their other passions–pursuits that may ultimately help them become better physicians?” Kramer said.

The goal of the program is to help pre-med students develop the skills most valued by medical schools–interdisciplinary learning, broad-based critical thinking, collaboration, teamwork and a global perspective. These skills are best developed in humanities, fine arts and other studies not traditionally taken by pre-med students.

“Undergraduate students are at a life stage when expanded opportunities can have an incredible impact on their worldviews,” said Richard Marlink, director of Rutgers Global Health Institute. “This new program will allow students to better prepare for a potential career in medicine, while also developing a deep appreciation for health equity. Students who have early exposure to the interdisciplinary nature of global health work–this includes culture, economics, environment, politics, technology–will find there are numerous ways to make an impact on communities in need, both in New Jersey and abroad.”

Javier Escobar, associate dean for Global Health at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, said, “Global public health issues that affect populations here and around the world require doctors to experience other cultures, languages and systems of care that prepare them to take an integrated approach that goes beyond just clinical science and knowledge. These pre-med students will have opportunities to expand their views of what it means to provide healthcare in many regions of the world by shadowing physicians who are serving in communities and working with global health medical school mentors.”

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