English and Medicine? Paving New Paths Into Old Industries with Duke Students

Wednesday, December 12, 2018
By: Caitie Buteau, English Department 2018 Fall Digital Media Intern

When most people think of medicine, they usually assume that someone who is pre-med would major in Biology, Chemistry, or some other science. However, with the FlexMed Program at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai (ISMMS), that is not necessarily the case.

This year, sophomore English major Dorothy Adu-Amankwah was accepted into the FlexMed Program and now is free of having to worry about medical school prerequisites, applications, and interviews during her undergraduate time at Duke. Dorothy was one of 754 applicants to the program, of which only 51 were made acceptance offers. With roughly a 6.7% acceptance rate, this program is unique in how it focuses on finding future medical students that also have other passions like Computer Science, Engineering, or some sort of Social Science or Humanities interest. From Duke, there were four other people in addition to Dorothy who were admitted into the program. However, most schools ranging from Barnard to the University of Florida and to Harvard typically only have one to two people admitted.

The Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai was the first medical program to have an early assurance program for students in the humanities and social sciences. In the thirty years since they created their original program, their data has shown that students graduating through their Humanities and Medicine  program (HuMed) perform just as well as other medical school peers and go on to have fulfilling and successful careers in medicine and science. FlexMed was launched in the fall of 2013 as a way to expand HuMed. FlexMed’s premise was to allow for talented students that had the initiative to “flex” their other intellectual and creative skills, both humanistic and scientific, in college without being confined from the traditional pre-med requirements and the MCAT.

According to Jackie Chudow, the Program Coordinator for the FlexMed Program, the program is “an educational initiative for college sophomores from any undergraduate college or university to gain early assurance to ISMMS. Students apply in the winter of their sophomore year and learn of their acceptance by the summer of that year. Once admitted through FlexMed, students are free to pursue their undergraduate area of study unencumbered by traditional science requirements. As part of their admission, FlexMed students do not take the MCAT.”

While the students accepted into the FlexMed Program do not have to worry about those traditional requirements, they still do have many requirements by the program before they matriculate. For example, the FlexMed program requires their students to take one year of English, one year of Chemistry, and one year of Biology before their matriculation. There are also lab, health policy, ethics, and statistics requirements before graduating undergrad. On top of these mandatory class requirements, all FlexMed students must complete a senior thesis or an equivalent project and are encouraged to have proficiency in Spanish and/or Mandarin.  If they do not have advance science courses they are required to take a Summer Enrichment Program (which is open and recommended to all FlexMed Students, not just those missing the credits) that helps to create a foundational competency in cell and molecular biology, biochemistry, organic chemistry, and embryology. 

Ranking in the top twenty medical schools nationwide by U.S. News & World Report, the Icahn School of Medicine is a highly competitive institution that seeks to prepare “preparing physicians and scientists to enter the medical field as informed advocates and activists ready to advance research and clinical care…[and have] the ability to articulate their passion and commitment to a career using science in the service of society,” according to their brochure. Their MD Program “combines the most progressive, technologically advanced, scientifically based education with the goal of meeting societal health care needs locally and globally. [They] explicitly blur the traditional distinction between pre-clinical and clinical years by integrating the basic sciences across courses, as well initiating students into the clinical environment from the very first day of school.” The Icahn School graduates are known globally for their integrity, discovery, altruism, clinical excellence, and a commitment to social justice. Just because this path is non-traditional, in no way means that it gives a medical degree that is not comparable to medical programs with no early acceptance programs. 

So, if you are a prospective student wanting to go to medical school but also wanting to use your college experience to grow your creative and humanities skills, think twice about going the traditional route of majoring in Physics or Chemistry or some other science. English, for example, might be the gateway to medical school for you.

For more information on this program visit: https://icahn.mssm.edu/education/medical/md-program/flexmed