Clearing the Path to Medical School
The path to becoming a physician is notoriously grueling and highly competitive. Medical schools receive applications by the thousands. On average, for every student that is accepted, ten are denied admission and left to reapply the next year.
Jena Lalich, Allyne Delossantos and Jim Petersen are doing everything they can to make sure that their medical school applications stand out from those of their peers, including being part of Heritage’s first cohort in the new Master of Medical Sciences program. The University launched its newest master’s degree program this fall.
Heritage worked closely with medical schools such as the Pacific Northwest University of Medical Sciences (PNWU) in Yakima, Washington, to develop the one-year program that prepares students for the rigors of medical training. The academics are closely aligned to what medical students learn during their first year of training and include courses in physiology, cellular sciences, medical skills and theory, and biomedical ethics. Courses are held both at Heritage and PNWU, where students sometimes work side-by-side with medical students. Classes are taught by educators with years of experience as medical practitioners and as medical school instructors.
Jena, Allyne and Jim are betting the program’s rigor will elevate them above their med school competition next year. Already they have put together impressive academic résumés fit for medical school entrance: Jena and Allyne both hold bachelor’s degrees in biology and Jim is a Heritage alumnus with a degree in medical biology. In addition, all three have experience working in the medical field (Jim as an EMT in Yakima, Jena interned with a gastroenterology doctor on the East Coast and Allyne volunteered at Group Health in Seattle).
“We’re here because we expect and want this to be a challenge,” said Allyne about the program. “We are proving to ourselves and to others that we can succeed academically in medical school.”
According to Dr. Mark Taylor, who helped design the program and who is now one of its instructors, participants get exactly what Allyne and her counterparts are looking for: an advantage over their competition. Entrance into the new program is competitive, with only 18 students being accepted. Many of the students who go through the program have already applied for medical school but didn’t get admitted. In most of these cases, it is the medical schools that refer students to the Heritage program to strengthen their candidacy.
“Students get an opportunity to see what medical school is like and how they will fare in their courses alongside their counterparts,” said Taylor. “When students apply for medical school, they will have a master’s degree and, if they apply to PNWU, they will have some level of familiarity with faculty and staff who are already aware of their capabilities.”
While the Heritage program is the only one of its kind in the Pacific Northwest, similar programs nationally offer success rates of 75-80% for admittance into medical schools upon completion. Students who are not admitted to medical school typically enter the workforce through pharmaceutical or biotechnology companies or with research organizations.
The M.A. in Medical Sciences is the latest in new programs at Heritage that focus on healthcare professions. Last year the University enhanced its nursing program with the addition of an LPN degree, expanded its clinical lab sciences program into the Tri-Cities, and refocused its bachelor’s degree program with emphasis in medical biology to a bachelor of science in medical sciences.
“The healthcare industry is one of the most rapidly growing in the nation,” said Dr. Curt Guaglianone, provost and vice president for Academic Affairs at Heritage. “Our graduates will play an important role in keeping our communities healthy.”