Mississippi College Alumni Magazine | Summer 2011

Is There a (Potential) Doctor in the House?

MC's Master of Medical Science program increases the odds that the answer will be "yes."

potential-doctor-1.jpgFewer than 45 percent of applicants to medical schools nationwide are accepted, but for MC students, there's a program designed to improve those odds.

In 2005, MC launched the master of medical science program. This rigorous, one-year, graduate-level program is designed for students who plan to apply to medical or dental school and want to improve their chances of admission, students who applied to medical or dental school immediately after undergraduate school but were rejected, and students who wish to prepare for careers in medical research.

The master of medical science curriculum includes many courses taught at the medical school level. As a result, program graduates apply to and enter medical school having already covered much of the first-year medical school coursework. But more than just the classes themselves, the fast pace and heavy volume of the work mimics the first year of medical school. In the competitive world of medical school admissions, that preparation makes a real difference.

"Admission committees at medical schools want to know whether or not candidates are capable of performing at the medical school level," says Dr. Stan Baldwin, dean of the School of Science and Mathematics and chair of the Department of Biological Sciences, who created and spearheads the master of medical science program. "They can trust this program as proof that a student who completes it is of medical school timbre.

"Another thing that I like about the master of medical sciences is that it's a program of second chances," Dr. Baldwin continues. "The program allows good candidates who didn't get into medical school the first time they applied for some reason – maybe they had to work, or maybe life just happened – the chance to make another statement. Medical schools are aware of situations like those. If a student shows the dedication and drive to follow a rejection with hard work and perse-verance, that person might be a strong candidate the second time around."

The first master of medical science class in 2005 enrolled less than 20 students. Today, the program enrolls approximately 200 students from some 130 colleges and universities throughout the United States and Canada, as well as a number of physicians from India who study at MC before taking the medical boards that allow them to practice in the United States. Students currently enrolled in the program completed undergraduate studies at prestigious universities including Harvard, Duke, UCLA, Notre Dame, Johns Hopkins, and many others.

"The master of medical science program was by far the hardest and most rewarding experience that I have had thus far," says Oduche Igboechi, a 2009 Harvard graduate who completed the MC program and has since been accepted into the "Tulane University School of Medicine. "From day one, I was expected to perform at the level of a medical student, which is no small task. Being thrown into a sink-or-swim situation like that really allowed me to progress in my academic development. After this rigorous curriculum, I know without a doubt that I am indeed ready for medical school."

Since the program is structured to offer a genuine test of whether or not a student is a good candidate for medical school, it's not surprising that sometimes, the answer is no. But according to Dr. Baldwin, that's not necessarily a negative outcome.

"The acceptance rate into medical school for students who complete this program is very good. On the other hand, some students who enroll in this program quickly realize they are not strong candidates for medical school, and that they're actually better suited for other careers," Dr. Baldwin says. "Many of the students who choose another option are very thankful that they didn't spend many years and many thousands of dollars pursuing a path that was ultimately not right for them."

"Students who are able to navigate the MC masters program graduate with a well-earned, rightfully placed confidence that makes a tremendous difference when they get to medical school," says Dr. F. Scott Kennedy, assistant dean of student admissions at Louisiana State University School of Medicine, Shreveport. "Would I recommend Mississippi College's master of medical science program to a student I was trying to help? Absolutely. I would even go so far as to say it is the only such program I would recommend."

"More and more students from other states are 'discovering' our program, largely through referrals from other universities and medical schools," Dr. Baldwin says. "Our current enrollment of about 200 students is optimum, but we do want to continue recruiting efforts to ensure those 200 students represent the best candidates for the program. Our goal is to recruit the best possible students, who will go on to become the best possible doctors."

The MC program's reputation for producing those best possible students is growing among medical schools nationwide.

"Dr. Baldwin and his team at Mississippi College are outstanding in their instruction," Dr. Kennedy says. "If a student is recommended by Stan Baldwin and Mississippi College, we know that student is truly prepared for medical school."

MC's Medical Sciences Highlights

Many courses in the MC pre-med curriculum are taught at the medical school level. these advanced level courses are excellent preparation for medical school, typically resulting in better grades in medical school and higher board scores. Courses taught at the first-year medical school level include human gross anatomy, medical physiology, human neuroanatomy, histology, pharmacology, and human embryology. Because courses are taught at the medical school level, MC is able to offer the national Board of Medical Examiners (NBME) subject board exams to undergraduate and graduate students. these exams are commonly given to medical school students at the end of each course taken in medical school. Mississippi College is the only university in the country where undergraduates can take these exams. Many MC medical sciences students score at or better than the national average compared to medical school students taking the same subject board exams. MC's top scores fall above the 90th percentile, which means these MC students scored higher than 90 percent of all medical school students taking the same exam nationwide.

More Room to Operate

In the fall of 2012, a new, 20,000-square-foot building will open adjacent to the Hederman Science Building that will create more classroom and laboratory space for both the master of medical science program and MC's undergraduate pre-medical programs. The as-yet-unnamed building will include a 5,000-square–foot human gross anatomy lab comparable to that available in a medical school. Plans for the new building include several opportunities for recognizing major donors through the naming of laboratories, classrooms, and the building itself. If you are interested in this form of lasting recognition, please contact Dr. Bill Townsend at 601.925.3257 or bill.townsend@mc.edu.

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