AM Rounds

Beyond the pages of Academic Medicine, journal of the AAMC


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Supreme Court Issues Decision in Fisher v University of Texas at Austin: Learn More about Diversity in Medicine

Earlier today, the Supreme Court issued its decision in Fisher v the University of Texas at Austin regarding the use of race in admissions. In a 7-1 ruling, the justices sent the case back to the lower courts for additional review. Read the Court’s decision and additional commentary. For more on diversity in medicine, below are 5 seminal articles from the journal’s archive.

  1. Characteristics of Medical School Matriculants Who Participated in Postbaccalaureate Premedical Programs
    Dorothy A. Andriole, MD and Donna B. Jeffe, PhD
  2. Student Body Diversity: Relationship to Medical Students’ Experiences and Attitudes
    Gretchen Guiton, Mitchell J. Chang, and LuAnn Wilkerson
  3. Race-Neutral Admission Approaches: Challenges and Opportunities for Medical Schools
    Ann Steinecke, PhD, James Beaudreau, Ruth B. Bletzinger, and Charles Terrell, EdD
  4. Educational Benefits of Diversity in Medical School: A Survey of Students
    Dean K. Whitla, PhD, Gary Orfield, PhD, William Silen, MD, Carole Teperow, Carolyn Howard, MEd, and Joan Reede, MD, MPH
  5. The Stanford Medical Youth Science Program: 18 Years of a Biomedical Program for Low-Income High School Students
    Marilyn A. Winkleby, PhD, MPH

Also, check out our complete Diversity and Inclusion collection with more than 175 articles from the journal’s archive.


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Preparing to Take the MCAT: A Step-by-Step Guide

Editor’s Note: In honor of our collection of articles on the MCAT in the May issue, we’ve asked a few colleagues at the AAMC to compile a list of study tips and resources. The steps below do not apply directly to the MCAT2015 exam, but to MCAT preparation more generally. 

by Jen Page, director, and Abby Thomsen, senior specialist, MCAT Preparation Products, Association of American Medical Colleges

One of the requirements for attending almost any medical school in the United States and many in Canada is the MCAT Exam.  To help you prepare for this test, the AAMC offers several resources.

  1. You need to know what’s on the MCAT exam.  There are no required courses to take the exam, but you may learn the topics tested in typical introductory chemistry, biology and physics courses.  A complete listing of the content and cognitive skills tested is available for free download at: https://www.aamc.org/students/applying/mcat/preparing/Layout 1
  2. How long is the exam? How much does it cost? How often is it administered? The answers to these questions and more are in “The Official Guide to the MCAT® Exam.”  This introductory guidebook explains “everything MCAT.”  It includes an analysis of the exam content and each test section, lots of data about retesting and how scores figure in the admissions process. The book includes 146 sample questions with solutions and tips from the test developers.
  3. After learning what’s on the exam, take a timed practice test so you can see what the computer-based MCAT exam looks like and feels like.  Remember you should take a practice test after you’ve completed your introductory chemistry, biology, and physics courses.  The AAMC e-MCAT Practice Tests mirror the actual MCAT exam so you can practice completing the test timed in one, four-hour sitting like you would for the real exam. The AAMC offers a free exam to everyone and seven additional tests for purchase.  One strategy for using the free test is to establish a baseline score.  To do this, you can choose to “simulate the actual test” to find out how you would score if you tested today.
  4. Next, after establishing a baseline score, it may be helpful to plan out what you should study.   A new resource released in 2012 is The Official MCAT® Self-Assessment Package, which analyzes your strengths and weaknesses in MCAT content. Since this tool helps you figure out what content to study, you may want to use it after completing all of your coursework but early in your MCAT preparation.
  5. Once you’ve answered all 541 questions on the Self-Assessment Package, your analytic summary will show your performance in all areas so you’ll know what needs improvement.   As you study, you can take additional e-MCAT Practice Tests to monitor your progress by comparing timed test results to your baseline score.

Using all of the resources available to you, you can be more prepared and confident going in to the MCAT Exam. Good luck!

For more on theMCAT2015 exam, see the Preview Guide for the MCAT2015 Exam, as well as other resources on the MCAT’s website that are already available.  “The Official Guide to the MCAT2015 Exam” will be released in early 2014, and a sample test will be available in Fall 2014.


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What Are We Missing? Why Holistic Admissions Matter.

By Leland D. Husband, MBA, MS, M2, University of Mississippi School of Medicine

Thirty years ago, the World Health Organization announced smallpox’s eradication, Benny Clark lived 122 days with a Jarvik-7 artificial heart, and the world recognized HIV. Thirty years ago, students progressed directly from college to medical school, completing a fifteen-year effort to double medical school class sizes. Thirty years ago, I, like many others, would have been rejected from medical school.

The rejection would have come in a letter with some official-speak offering modest encouragement like “try again next year” or “this year was unusually competitive,” but I would have known the real reason. I would have seen it in the interviewer’s eyes as he viewed my salty hair. I would have heard it in his voice when he asked, “Why do you want to be a physician?” Yes, the rejection letter would have feigned encouragement, but the real message would have been perfectly clear—I was too old. I was a “non-traditional” applicant.

For most, including me, “non-traditional” means a career before medical school; for others, it means gender, race, religion, non-stellar grades, mediocre MCAT, and many other social, cultural, and academic differences. Before medical school, I helped companies improve efficiency, medical practices trim support costs, and the government understand changing shorelines across the globe. Sometime between arguing with locals about fuel bladders and a MiG jet attempting to escort our plane to a foreign landing site, I realized that all the problems I solved were the same; they just lived in different domains. To make matters worse, I didn’t find the problems interesting or meaningful. After a quick chat with an admissions officer, another couple months overseas, and a palpitation-inducing pay cut, I changed my life. For the next year, I immersed myself in medicine, a domain with interesting and meaningful problems. During the day, I did physiology research. At night, I re-took prerequisites. In the wee hours before dawn, I practiced the MCAT. I did, like most students would, everything to get into medical school. There were no second chances.

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On the MCAT, and Getting In

Editor’s note: This month, AM Rounds is publishing a series of posts on the MCAT exam, in conjunction with Academic Medicine‘s collection in the May 2013 issue. To kick things off, Academic Medicine‘s Editor in Chief, Dr. David Sklar, shares his own memories of the MCAT and medical school admissions process, as well as his thoughts on the upcoming MCAT2015 exam. 

Like most practicing physicians, my memory of the application process to medical school has faded over the years, replaced with the memories of my patients, colleagues and the long nights in the hospital. After many years living in the skin of a doctor, I feel as if my life was always destined to involve medicine, and I cannot imagine another identity for myself. But there was a time when my course was not so clear, my destiny only a glimmer of a dream. No one in my family had ever attended medical school. Why should I think that I could? Doctors drove nice cars, lived in beautiful homes, went to country clubs, and played golf. I didn’t. The classes leading up to the MCAT weeded out many of my friends. Chemistry got my friend Charley. Organic got Jennifer and Tom. Physics finished off Tim, Felix and Charlene. Somehow Billy and I made it through and then there was the MCAT, and if we survived that, the interviews.

I remember the MCAT only in the vaguest of terms. I sometimes awaken from sleep in the middle of the night inside a dream in which I am pondering MCAT questions: a rolling pin was headed down an inclined plane at 3 degrees and there was an egg in the way that was a perfect sphere with a two-inch radius, but there was coefficient of friction that was slowing the rolling pin and I would need to figure out if the egg was going to crack. What sadist would construct such torture, these problems with tricks and booby-traps, equations and long sentences that made no sense? I remember the sweat and the smell of the room, the odor of animal fear. Each of us was a wildebeest on the plain, who had made it this far but now the lions would take some of us. Who would it be? It would happen suddenly and some of us would be gone; a letter in the mail would come with our score and we would know that all those years of premedical courses had been wasted, because of the MCAT.

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Articles from the May issue of Academic Medicine are now available online ahead of print. Check out our MCAT 2015 collection!

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For the first time since 1991, prospective medical students will sit down to a whole new MCAT in 2015. New published ahead-of-print articles in Academic Medicine examine characteristics and outcomes of the current exam and discuss the changes affecting the MCAT2015. In addition, other new articles address population and community health, teamwork, leadership training, and other important topics. Keep reading below for more details about this online-first content, which will be published in the May issue.

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