The Path To Becoming A Doctor: Direct Medical Programs Vs. Early Assurance Programs

Critics have long faulted U.S. medical education for being hidebound, imperious and out of touch with modern health-care needs. The core structure of medical school—two years of basic science followed by two years of clinical work—has been in place since 1910.

Now a wave of innovation is sweeping through medical schools, much of it aimed at producing young doctors who are better prepared to meet the demands of the nation’s changing health-care system.

Kristen Moon: 

The traditional way of applying to medical school is an extensive process. Usually, a high school student applies to college, studies the necessary coursework and participates in relevant extracurricular activities to bolster up the resume, then takes the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT), and finally applies to medical school. Another point to consider is the fierce competition for medical school. For example, University of California in Los Angeles accepts only 3.2% of applicants. The top medical research school, University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, has an acceptance rate of only 3.8%. Moreover, each applicant completes an average of 16 applications per cycle. Needless to say, admission to medical school is no simple feat.

An option fewer applicants take to sidestep competition is to attend a foreign medical school. However, long-term effects on a career need to be considered when deciding to study abroad. Notably, attending a foreign medical school makes it harder to secure a U.S. residency upon graduation. The National Resident Matching Program matched only 52.4% of foreign medical students to U.S. residencies in 2017. Lower match rates in previous years are even less encouraging. Contrast the percentage to 94.3% of U.S. medical students matched. The odds are by far better for students studying medicine in the U.S.

Another disadvantage to attending a foreign medical school is obtaining a U.S. medical license. For instance, California goes as far as to have a list of international medical schools disapproved by the state. Schools listed include Spartan Health Sciences University in St. Lucia and St. Matthew’s University in Grand Cayman. If a California medical license is desired by a student from a foreign medical school, 10 to 12 years of practice is required to even complete the application and be considered. Thus, all the effort put into the foreign medical school education can sadly become an obstacle to the desired work of being a doctor in the U.S.

Fortunately for those already committed to becoming a doctor, other ways to apply to medical school exist. They are Direct Medical Programs (DMP) and Early Assurance Programs (EAP). These bypass the traditional, extensive process of applying to medical school. The programs are offered to driven high school and undergraduate students who receive a great payoff for committing to becoming a doctor early in their career. Because these students know what they want, they can take more efficient means to make it happen.

DMPs guarantee motivated high school seniors admission into medical school with completion of criteria set by the program. Therefore, the one application covers admission to undergraduate and medical school. The program structure is a combined bachelor’s degree and doctorate degree. The bachelor’s degree can be in science or arts and the doctorate degree is available for allopathic medicine or osteopathic medicine, depending on the program. The combined programs are made up of a specific college and medical school or network of schools. While a few programs offer accelerated programs of six or seven years to complete, most are the same length as the traditional path of eight years total. An example of a six-year program is California Northstate University School of Medicine, which requires two summer terms in order to complete the degree in only six years. They also offer a seven and eight-year option, so students at California Northstate can decide which program best fits their needs. Seven-year programs are also available at George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences and Rutgers New Jersey Medical School. With acceptance into a DMP, the student is expected to take the required courses and maintain a certain GPA. For example, California Northstate University School of Medicine requires an undergraduate GPA of 3.50 for admittance into medical school thereafter.

EAPs allow for undergraduate students to apply to medical school before finishing their bachelor degree. Students apply at the end of sophomore year or at the beginning of junior year for an EAP. Then medical school is attended in the next school year. Typically, EAPs require at least five premedical courses completed by the end of the second year. Therefore, good academic performance in the first two years of college is important to get admitted to an EAP. Tufts University School of Medicine and Georgetown University School of Medicineoffer EAPs. Tufts requires a minimum cumulative GPA and science GPA of 3.5. The premedical course requirements are two semesters of biology and chemistry and one semester of organic chemistry. AP credit is not counted toward these requirements and coursework has to be completed at Tufts University. The five premedical courses required by Georgetown University are biology, general chemistry, organic chemistry, calculus and/or statistics, and physics. Additionally, good academic performance for Georgetown is maintaining a minimum undergraduate GPA of 3.6, scoring grades C+ and higher only, and not withdrawing from any major courses. While these performance requirements may seem daunting, they hold the student accountable to the standards of the profession as a student doctor which also provides a solid foundation for discipline and rigor.

DMPs and EAPs are for the determined student ready to give full effort to becoming a doctor. There is nothing easy about the work required for the process.

Choosing DMPs and EAPs has its advantages. Such as, the student can fully commit to studying medicine because he or she has peace of mind about guaranteed medical school admission. The benefit is complete focus of the chosen profession which can become a craft. Further, students can immerse themselves in the medical community by getting to know professors and facilities well over the course of their time spent on one network. Time saved is also a benefit with any program taking less than eight years, this could also translate into the cost of tuition saved as well. As for logistics, in many cases, students are often relieved of taking the MCAT and of the tedious medical school application process.

If going to medical school and becoming a physician is a lifelong dream for you, consider a DMP or EAP to reap the many benefits and fast-track the process.