The Perfect Med Blog

Welcome to The Perfect Med's new blog! We will be posting informational and useful blog posts periodically, all written by current combined medical program students and advisors. We will first be starting off with our "Everything you need to know..." series highlighting various programs. If you have specific topics you'd like us to discuss, post on any of our social media sites or send us an email! If you are wondering where our original FAQs are scroll down to the bottom of this page.


Everything you need to know about Boston University's BA/MD Program

By: Madhav Sambhu, current student

Overview of the Program:

The Seven-Year Liberal Arts/Medical Education (SMED) program at Boston University (BU) is an accelerated, intensive combined medical program designed to prepare qualified candidates for the difficulties of the medical career, by exposing them to an outstanding undergraduate and medical school education. Students spend three years in the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) at BU's undergraduate campus completing the required premedical courses that make up their preset Medical Sciences major and any other CAS divisional course requirements in the fields of the humanities, social sciences, mathematics, and foreign language. Students are also required to complete a minor of their choice, but some students elect to complete two minors or even take on an additional major.

The actual acceleration of the program is possible because of the 12 week summer session after the second year of the program, during which students can take up to 16 credits. With the completion of their required minor, divisional, and medical science credits, students receive their Bachelor of Arts degrees in Medical Sciences after completing the first year of medical school, in order to graduate with their respective graduating class.

To continue to medical school, however, students must maintain an overall 3.20 GPA in both their science and non-science classes and must score at or above the 80th percentile, as a combined score on the MCAT.

Admission

The admission to this program is highly competitive. Slightly over a 1,000 people apply to this program from around the nation every year, and about 100 of these applicants are invited to interview at CAS and at the medical school. From these interviewees, around 40 people are accepted into the program, and 20 to 30 people actually accept the offer of joining the program. Hence, the overall acceptance for the program is slightly lower than 4%.

Residency Match

Of all BUSM graduates, 85% to 89% of graduates in 2016 matched in one of their top three choices for residency programs. Over the past 3 years, BU SMEDs have matched to radiation oncology, radiology, orthopedic surgery, internal medicine, general surgery, ENT (otolaryngology), Emergency Medicine, Psychiatry, Ob/Gyn, Pediatrics, and Neurology.  These recent BU SMED graduates have matched at programs across the country, including Boston University, Harvard, UCSF, UNC, UT Southwestern, University of Rochester, Baylor, UCLA, NYU, Johns Hopkins, and other institutions.

Academic Structure of Program:

Through the medical sciences major, the academic structure of BU's SMED program forces students to take classes in all of the core sciences, necessary for a holistic premedical curriculum. Students cannot use any A.P. credits to skip out of the science courses. Students take 2 semesters of general chemistry, 2 semesters of physics, 2 semesters of organic chemistry, 1 semester of cell biology, 1 semester of genetics, 1 semester of systems physiology, and 1 semester of biochemistry. These are the only required courses for the Medical Sciences major. In addition, students are allowed to take modular medical (MMEDIC) courses in their 3rd year, including the graduate medical sciences version of biochemistry (instead of the undergraduate version), which again helps them to prepare for the rigors of medical school.

Because SMED is based on a liberal arts curriculum, it also focuses on balancing all of the science coursework with non-science classes, through divisional requirements and through the requirement that students must minor in a subject that is not in the natural sciences. Because of BU's wide range of non-science courses and non-science minors in fields like business, the humanities, and the social sciences, students end up receiving a wholesome education and are allowed to delve into any minor of their choice. Hence, this requirement of a minor allows for students to explore other academic interests, since they are already required to take so many science courses necessary for a proper premedical education. In recent years, students have pursued minors or dual majors in economics, psychology, business administration, political science, English, public health, music, and many other disciplines.

SMED Involvement in Extracurricular Activities:

Extracurricularly, SMEDs tend to be heavily involved in school clubs and undergraduate research, especially at BUSM (BU's school of medicine) and at nearby hospitals and medical centers. The availability of so many extracurricular options is due to BU's large student population, the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP), and the prime location of BU within Boston. The UROP program website lists professors at BU who are recruiting undergraduate students to assist them in their research. The actual UROP application even allows for students to create an independent project with the help of their mentors and submit the proposal for funding on a per semester basis.

Many other medical centers and hospitals, such as Mass General and Brigham and Women's, also contain a plethora of research, shadowing, or volunteering opportunities for undergraduates. For example, Rebecca Zeng, a current sophomore in the program, is currently performing research at the Harvard Medical School, was involved in the Daily Free Press, and performed twice a semester through orchestra. Swetha Duraiswamy, a current freshman in the program, on the other hand, is volunteering at MGH, doing research at BMC, and plays club tennis on Sundays.

Because there are no strict activity requirements for SMEDs, it is acceptable to also completely forgo medical opportunities during the undergraduate portion of SMED. SMEDs each year participate in intramural sports, dance teams, a capella groups, choir groups, cultural groups, and many other organizations.

Finally, BU's location in Boston makes it a prime location for students. Surrounded by countless colleges and students, students often take advantage of the many opportunities the city of Boston offers on weekday evenings and weekends.

Motivation of SMEDs, Academic Advising, and Academic Requirements:

Students have to maintain a 3.20 GPA and achieve an 80th percentile on the MCAT to remain in the program. There are no other formal requirements to participate in medical extra-curricular activities. Due to the relatively relaxed nature of the program, SMEDs do not feel pressured to pursue certain classes or certain activities to prepare for medical school.

Although the relative rigor of courses at BU does not make the workload a walk in the park, most SMEDs far exceed the 3.2 GPA requirement, with many achieving between a 3.5 and a 3.9 GPA. Students are rarely removed from the program due to missing academic requirements, and students who are struggling are typically put on probation, first, to allow them to improve.

The BU SMED program does place a very high premium on academic integrity. The medical profession requires students to be upstanding citizens and students. BU takes this responsibility seriously and investigates any students who are accused of wrongdoing. When students are removed from the program, it is most often due to academic and ethical transgressions such as cheating on exams.

The academic advising team for SMEDs is excellent. They are willing and ready to meet with students to discuss topics such as study abroad, UROP, minor coursework, science coursework, and other academically and extracurricularly relevant matters.

BU's Social Atmosphere and Living in the City:

The social setting of BU is extremely diverse, due to its large size and how large of an international student population it contains. In fact, it may be extremely easy to get lost in such a big school filled with faces that you may see one day on the street but never again within your academic career. However, the SMED program helps with this problem by providing essentially a home for students to return to and a tight group of friends that can always help out, even in the toughest of situations.

Living in the city of Boston is also a great experience for SMEDs because of how it's essentially a “medical mecca,” as described by sophomore Rebecca Zeng. The research-based and clinically related opportunities within the city are essentially endless, due to the prominence of numerous major hospitals, medical centers, and medical schools. The city is also a great environment for students, because Boston's essentially a fun college town to live in, although it can be pretty busy and noisy at times. It also involves a good amount of social justice work, stemming from the presence of a large amount of disadvantaged minority populations, which is really engaging from a medical perspective.

Examining the Medical Student Life:

The medical school environment at BU is very enriching, due to countless number of academic resources available and due to the diverse patient base that students are able to clinically work with. The student community is much more tight-knit at the medical school due to the smaller overall class size and the professors are very invested in their individual students.

BUSM takes feedback seriously and channels student feedback into improvements in the program each year. Because of the integrated curriculum during the first two years of medical school, BUSM students are able to connect all of the basic medical subjects to each other and apply the knowledge that they gain from these subjects to problem solving involving clinical cases. Students also begin working with patients right at the start and learn various clinical skills, such as conducting basic physical examinations. During the third year of medical school, students begin to perform clinical rotations, and during the fourth year, they complete their clinical rotations and focus on applications for residency programs.

The typical day of a 1st or 2nd year medical school student involves 4 hours of class, and much of the day is spent studying for classes. Because grading during the first two years of medical school is pass/fail, students collaborate and study together. Although the vast majority of students pass all of their classes, the volume of the content makes medical school much more academically challenging than the undergraduate portion of the BU curriculum. Although there is a significant increase in academic expectations from the undergraduate curriculum to the medical school curriculum, there is still time to relax on the weekends for medical students, contrary to popular opinion.

Thoughts from Current Students:

Students start off undergrad with intensive general chemistry and intensive physics, which is taught from a medical context. Both courses are a lot of work freshman year, according to sophomore Rebecca Zeng, but they force you to adapt a strict regimen for studying in college. They also involve thought-provoking problem solving and lots of scientific writing, especially through the lab for intensive general chemistry (CH 181/182). This lab requires students to develop the skills for effectively writing scientific journal papers and includes a capstone project that involves group-based experimental design and paper writing.

 Freshman Swetha Duraiswamy stated the general chemistry and physics courses have been helpful overall and have led her to develop strong critical thinking skills. Swetha also did mention that the general chemistry course was more so tailored to people who had a strong background in the material and who could learn the material independently, which is what made it so difficult.

The professors at BU are very passionate in general and want students to learn, as mentioned by Rebecca Zeng. They also use technological tools such as online clicker questions to help students learn the content and to gauge the weaknesses of the class, in terms of applying the concepts already learned. Professors also offer many resources such as office hours, in order to answer students' questions, according to Swetha Duraiswamy.

While SMEDs won't necessarily all be best friends with each other, as described by Swetha, it's also easy to have close friends outside of the SMED program, due to the socially active and outgoing atmosphere of BU. However, in Rebecca's opinion, the city feel of the campus and the very large student population is not conducive to creating a close-knit college community, and students have to actively seek out friends. Many students meet friends in their dorms or by participating in campus organizations.

At the End of the Day: Why You Should Join SMED

Most of the current SMEDs picked the program for all of the plus points of the program presented above. The reputation of the medical school, especially from a research perspective, is extraordinary, and its location is prime. The undergraduate curriculum is undeniably challenging, in addition to the medical school curriculum, but the requirements of maintaining a 3.20 GPA and achieving an 80th percentile on the MCAT are nowhere near impossible. Overall, the enriching curriculum, the numerous professional connections within the city that students could possibly develop, and the socially engaging atmosphere are only some of the reasons for why accepted candidates chose to go to this program. The satisfaction rates of most SMEDs are also very high, because of the valuable experiences and life lessons that they gain from the program. In addition, choosing the 7-year route really ensures that students are saved from the hassle and from the worries of medical school applications and that students are able to significantly accelerate the process of becoming a doctor.

Admission Website


Madhav

About the Author:

Madhav Sambhu is an undergraduate student in the Boston University 7 year B.A./M.D. program. He has a significant amount of experience in tutoring college students in the basic sciences, including general chemistry and physics. In addition, Madhav has always been highly interested in mentoring or helping younger students with coursework and with the college admissions process. As a high school student, he was admitted into several combined medical programs and top universities. Currently, he spends time researching how to genetically model neurological disease in zebra fish, at the Boston University School of Medicine. However, he also loves connecting with students and with peers outside of the laboratory setting.

Stay tuned for future posts!


FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

What is the advantage of applying to an accelerated BA/MD program?

Please visit the Combined BA/BS/MD Programs page.


What if I end up at a less prestigious college or medical school?

The road to becoming a fully licensed, practicing doctor is very long and taxing. By the time you reach the status of attending, the prestige level of the college or medical school you go to has little to no bearing on your ability to advance your career. Many people find it worthwhile to go through a much less stressful accelerated program than to have to succeed in highly competitive pre-med schools when the end result will likely be the same.


What do I need to do to get into an accelerated medical program?

Accelerated medical programs are highly competitive, so a high GPA and SAT/ACT scores are very important. Extracurriculars related to medicine, strong personal statements, recommendations, and interview skills are also essential to a successful application.


What is a D.O. degree?

Please visit the Combined BA/BS/DO Programs page.


What can The Perfect Med do to help?

Our reviewers can help develop an individual application strategy for each candidate with one-on-one counseling. We can offer advice on each part of the application, from personalized essay review to interview coaching to general strategies for success at different programs.


Are there any other resources available for students and parents?

Resource for Medical Programs

Below, we've compiled some third-party resources about medical programs for your convenience. We receive no compensation for these links and are provided as is. We have also compiled our own list of direct medical programs available here.

Know of other websites you think might be useful? Send them to us and if we think they will be helpful to our readers we will post a link here.

External Links:
  • AAMC - Med School Admission Requirements (MSAR) Preview
  • MSAR (Medical School Admission Requirements) is a suite of guides to help students prepare for medical school and the application process, is produced by the AAMC in collaboration with medical schools and combined B.S./M.D. programs. This is a free preview.

  • Student Doctor Network - BA/MD and BS/MD Programs FAQ?
  • The Student Doctor Network is a nonprofit organization for prehealth and health professional students. Its website includes an active forum. This is a link to a useful thread regarding what you should consider when applying to BA/MD or BS/MD programs.

Books

Where do our funds go?

Much of our profits is dedicated towards developing and providing new updated resources for our students. The rest goes to our medical student support for their time and dedication to our students. We help them fund activities from research to work abroad to volunteer projects to materials for medical school.


Where can I make a donation or custom payment?

You can send us a donation through the button below.

Perfect Med's advisors are all caring individuals with a strong commitment to serving Perfect Med's customers. However, our advisors are also extremely busy and successful medical students. If you are satisfied with our services, please consider giving a monetary gift of appreciation. You may also choose to specify who the monetary gift goes to.

All Images courtesy of stockimage, FreeDigitalPhotos.net, and medialoot.net

Logo Design: Kathy Chau   Site Design/Developer: Li Shan Liang