During M1 and the following summer, I spent a fair amount of time as an MCAT instructor for biology and physics. For those undergrads and/or med students looking for a side job, I highly recommend it if you enjoy teaching. Interacting with future physicians has been exciting, engaging, and intellectually stimulating. In addition, a fair amount of passages I have to teach are about topics I’ll have to know for Step 1, so it’s a good review.
After teaching several classes and chatting with my students, I could not help but remember what it felt like to be in their shoes. I was constantly worrying about my GPA, wondering about if I had done enough volunteering, fretting over balancing research and coursework, and feeling anxious about classes with tough professors. In retrospect, I wonder if all of that stress was worth it. Obviously, on the one hand, I gained admission to a medical school. However, at what cost? Are we generating future physicians that are prepared to learn and apply the principles of dynamic medicine? To me, the pre-med curriculum, at the very least, stifles intellectual curiosity. I remember going through RateMyProfessors to figure out which professors I should avoid because even though they were amazing teachers, the risk of lowering my GPA was too high. Furthermore, I’ve observed that most medical students (including myself) do not care about the nuances of medical concepts. After all, if it’s not on the boards, why cram my head with that information? This type of attitude most certainly manifests in the pre-med curriculum. As Gerd Kortenmeyer, a physics professor, noted, pre-meds are “motivated by their need to perform on standardized tests with mostly formula-driven numerical problems and by the need to get a very good grade in a course that seems foreign and unintuitive to them.”
I’m not saying that trying to be competitive for medical school is a bad thing. I just question whether the current relatively standardized pre-med curriculum is efficient and effective at molding medicine’s future workforce. How do we expect physicians to effectively weigh in on healthcare policy without ever having learned economics? Again, I’m not saying that we should now cram economics into the pre-med curriculum, but I definitely think students should be free to take courses they’re interested in without worrying about how it would look to an admissions committee. There’s an interesting article that examines the criticisms of the pre-med coursework that I highly recommend if anyone wants to read more!