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Academic Expectations for the School of Medicine

The Duke University School of Medicine has always strived to attract, educate, and nurture people who have extraordinary compassion and great intellect. Because we want the type of applicant whose heart and mind are of the best humanity can offer, we have consistently encouraged our applicants to have a broad and balanced undergraduate academic education as well as a wealth of life experiences. To accomplish this growth and maturation process, a rigorous, challenging, and interdisciplinary academic preparation in the sciences and humanities is of paramount importance.

Two recent challenges have prompted revisions of our academic expectations for those who wish to join the study of medicine. First, much discussion has centered around the appropriate preparation for future physicians with respect to desired competencies in science and the humanities (as described in the two part AAMC-HHMI Foundations for Future Physicians). Second, the 2015 Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) will be modified to include the social sciences and psychology.  Because of changes in both the thought process and the testing process, undergraduate expectations are now different than they were before.

The new "academic expectations" are the result of extensive discussions among both the clinical and basic science faculty of the School of Medicine. The foundation of these expectations is based on competency-based, cross-disciplinary training in biology, chemistry, and physics and the link these disciplines have before and throughout formal training in medicine.  Additionally, in conjunction with the traditional preparation of the biomedical sciences, the need to understand the larger psychosocial context in which medicine is increasingly practiced requires significant exposure to the social sciences.

Duke University School of Medicine acknowledges the rapid evolution of the biomedical sciences and the challenges that socially-driven disparities in medicine present. Those aspiring for clinical and research careers in medicine must be prepared in a much different manner to expertly  address the rapid changes in the healthcare environment.   The faculty of the School of Medicine, prompted by these new challenges, has created modifications to the curriculum to align our expectations for pre-medical preparation with the evolving academic environment of medical school.

For those who are applying in the 2013-14 and 2014-2015 admissions cycles with anticipation of matriculation in the fall of 2014 and 2015(1), the current academic expectations/requirements will remain. These expectations include the following:

  • Biochemistry(2)
  • Cellular Biology(3)
  • General Physics(4)
  • Math (1 semester of Calculus or AP equivalent)(5)
  • Expository Writing (2 semesters)(6)

  1. The above criteria presumes applicants will take the current MCAT examination.
  2. The "prerequisites" for Biochemistry are purposefully left to the individual undergraduate institution, given the variability across collegiate institutions where coursework leading to Biochemistry is concerned.
  3. The "prerequisites" for Cellular Biology are also purposefully left to the individual undergraduate institution, given the cross-disciplinary course offerings which may include cell biology, molecular biology, and genetics together in appropriate courses with or without laboratory.
  4. Coursework in Physics may be completed with or without a laboratory component.
  5. Either AP credit for Calculus or one semester of College Calculus is expected. Students anticipating entrance to medical school in Fall 2014 and 2015 are strongly advised to have at least one semester of college Statistics.
  6. Fulfillment of this academic expectation may include coursework with significant requirements for papers, essays, etc, in courses such as Political Science, Public Policy, Economics, History, Anthropology, Psychology, etc.

For those who are planning to apply for the 2015-2016 admissions cycle with anticipation of matriculation during Fall 2016, our academic expectations will change. Our academic expectations will include multidisciplinary coursework in the following areas and completion of the current MCAT or MCAT 2015:

Biochemistry: May be fulfilled by a single course in Biochemistry, or through coursework which incorporates principles of Biochemistry as part of an interdisciplinary course in Cell and/or Molecular Biology and/or Genetics.
Cellular Biology: May be fulfilled by a single course in Cell and/or Molecular Biology and/or Genetics.
Statistics/Biostatistics: An understanding of the application of statistical methods in the analysis of data.
Physics: An understanding of the correlation of basic physics to human physiology and anatomy (e.g. physics and/or biophysics).
Sociology: An introduction to the principles of social organization, with particular emphasis on the social determinants of healthcare.
Psychology: An introduction to the basic principles of psychology with emphasis on the biological basis of behavior.
Expository Writing: Experience in expository writing across the humanities, including but not limited to formal courses in English, is a fundamental expectation in the preparation for medicine. This may be accomplished through coursework in a number of disciplines, including but not limited to Philosophy, History, Public Policy, Political Science, Religion, etc. and may be accomplished through an Honors Thesis or completion of a major research paper.

Understanding that the preliminary coursework leading up to the aforementioned cross-disciplinary courses, e.g. Biochemistry, Cell/Molecular Biology, etc., will vary among colleges and universities, the academic expectations as listed represent the absolute courses expected of matriculants to the School of Medicine. The preliminary courses may be acquired through traditional university courses and/or approved online course work. Applicants considering the use of online coursework should contact the Office of Admissions at Duke University if there are any questions about the suitability of online coursework for DukeMed.

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