New UF program preps non-traditional students for med, dentistry school
Published: Thursday, February 27, 2014 at 5:53 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, February 27, 2014 at 5:53 p.m.
University of Florida senior Charles Tabares graduates in May with a degree in psychology. He picked the major because he had a positive experience as a child seeing a counselor after his parents divorced.
But a year ago, Tabares had a change of heart about his career choice after losing his grandfather to lung cancer.
"When I saw these doctors physically extend his life and make his passing easier, it struck me to want to be able to help (people) physically as opposed to just counseling," Tabares said.
But now, Tabares is in the middle of his last semester of college without a single chemistry class on his transcript. He will have to play catch-up in order to get into medical school — and UF has a new program to help him do that.
UF's pre-health post-baccalaureate program (PHPB) is accepting applications from students with an undergraduate degree who have not completed the prerequisites for medical, dental or veterinary school. The application deadline is July 15, and the first class of 32 students starts next fall.
"At the end of this, we want you to be stellar applicants," Bobbi Knickerbocker, a UF academic adviser, told a group of about 15 students at an information session for the program on Monday.
Most of the students are sociology, psychology or anthropology majors, Knickerbocker said. There also was someone with an MBA, and journalism and fine arts students also have expressed interest in the program.
For the past several years, a growing trend of non-traditional, non-science majors applying to medical schools has been noted across the nation. One study from a few years ago comparing traditional and non-traditional medical students found that both groups of students performed equally well in medical school.
Knickerbocker said she finds the career shifts normal.
"I think a lot of it is developmental. Society expects people to decide what they are going to do with their lives at 18," but life experiences change those ideas, she said.
What non-traditional — and specifically humanities — students bring to the field are qualities such as empathy, emotional intelligence and broader life experiences, advisers say.
Knickerbocker advocates for people from diverse backgrounds entering the profession.
"I think they bring multiple perspectives," she said. "Medicine is about people caring for people."
Knickerbocker said that for the PHPB program, officials will be looking for students with a college GPA of 3.5 and above and essays that answer questions such as, "Why would you want to go into a profession where you are working 60-100 hours per week for the next few decades?"
Most people are drawn to medicine because they want to help people, she continued, but they need to think about whether their goals match the reality of the profession.
Tabares said he has wanted to help people since childhood. He comes from a family of dentists, but becoming one himself seemed "so routine," he said, so he opted for medicine. And after shadowing an ear, nose and throat surgeon last summer, he decided to pursue that specialty.
"He (the surgeon) was not like splice, dice and leave," Tabares said. "This doctor actually formed a bond (with his patients)."
Students in the PHPB program take at least two science classes per semester, in addition to coursework in psychology and sociology, since the new MCAT includes questions in the social sciences. Students are entitled to a $12,500 one-year federal grant.
Classes are small and intense, and expectations are high since the goal of the program is getting students into medical, dental or veterinary school, which are often very selective.
"If you thought you left your mom at home, and there's no one nagging you, I'm that person," Knickerbocker said.
However, the program "is not an ‘in' to UF" medical school, she added, while noting that most of the PHPB students will come straight from UF.
Contact Kristine Crane at 338-3119 or firstname.lastname@example.org.