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Back to school: more pre-med students attracted to public health degrees

Yes, you need science, but the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) added new emphasis in psychology, psycho-social dimensions of health and medical ethics.

By Kathryn Stroppel

An increasing number of students applying to medical and allied health schools are choosing majors in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences.

Why a shift from the traditional science track to public health and human sciences?

“Schools want diversity in their population,” says CPHHS advisor Carey Hilbert. “They like seeing students who aren’t all coming from chemistry, biology and biochemistry. Yes, you need science, but the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) has added new emphasis in psychology, psycho-social dimensions of health and medical ethics.”

Carey, who is the college’s coordinator for pre-med and allied health professions, says that students choosing CPHHS majors to prepare for medical professions not only are equally competitive, but they also get a well-rounded education and a global perspective.

“Our students get a more proactive mindset that is representative of a new trend in medicine in which physicians focus on prevention and caring for the health of individuals instead of only caring for the sick,” she says.

“All of the disciplines in our college contribute to the overall health of individuals, whether that’s nutrition, physical activity, kinesiology or public health. And these disciplines give our students a holistic perspective and an advantage when it comes to improving the quality of life for their patients.”

The pre-med path

Carey says that students interested in declaring a public health major and planning to attend medical school should visit her by their sophomore year. She works with students to create a unique plan based on their goals, which includes weaving in science courses and ensuring students are prepared to take and pass the MCAT.

Another advantage to choosing the public health and human sciences as the launching pad for careers in medicine is that it opens up more options between graduation and the traditional gap year most medical schools require.

“Our majors have more practicality in terms of what you want to do right after college,” Carey says. “If you’re not going to get in right away and have a public health or human sciences degree, you may be able to get a job in the health field in the interim, especially if it’s in health management.”

Carey says CPHHS academic advisors encourage students to study what they truly enjoy, rather than what they think medical schools want to see.

“If you love sciences, then do science,” she says. “On the other hand, if you’re good at science but are interested in other aspects of health such as global health, community health, child development or how the body moves or metabolizes food, you should take courses in our college.

Did you know? Students in any major can apply to medical school, as long as they also complete required coursework in the sciences and mathematics.

Common pre-med majors at OSU include:

  • College of Public Health and Human SciencesKinesiology (PTAH option), Nutrition (Nutrition Health Science option), Public Health, Human Development and Family Sciences
  • College of Science – Biology, Biochemistry & Molecular Biology, Chemistry, and Microbiology
  • College of Engineering – Bioengineering, Chemical Engineering, Radiation Health Physics College of Agricultural Science – Bioresource Research
  • College of Liberal Arts – Philosophy, Psychology, Spanish

Find out more about pre-med and allied health in the CPHHS.