Nov 11, 2008

Major Focus: Bio/Pre Med

by Daniel Martinez

Liberty has sent students to medical schools since its inception, but just five years ago, a pre-med concentration actually came about at the school, giving students of several different majors the opportunity to pursue a career in medicine. However, as students push through this “academically rigorous program,” according to Biology Department Chairman Dr. Paul Sattler, they must be thinking about the next steps.

Sophomore Matthew Henry is a biology major who hopes to be an obstetrician.

“(I chose pre-med because) that’s the main way to get into medical school,” he said.

Medical school is the next step for many, and it is a practice Sattler has seen Liberty students with health, psychology and even business majors take.

“Technically, there is no such thing as one and only one major that prepares you for medical school,” Sattler said.
Sophomore Matthew Schreiner’s dad was a doctor, and that, plus his “love for all sciences, especially biology,” prompted him to become one of the 220-plus pre-med students.

“I chose pre-med because I think it is absolutely amazing how God has created the body. I also want to help bring relief to people in pain and who are suffering,” junior Courtney Paul, who plans on having a career in chiropractic, said. “When you help bring healing, it presents a huge opportunity to share Christ.”

Whatever the major, all students need in order to apply to medical school is a good score on the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) and at least one course in both physics and biology, plus two courses in chemistry.

The MCAT is a test students need to take the calendar year before they wish to attend medical school. Students looking to enter medical school next fall need to take the exam before Christmas. The test — a composite of physics, chemistry and biology — is held at different sites around the state every year.

The MCAT is a timed test that requires a fee in order to gain entrance.

“It tests your knowledge and ability to think — you’ll often be presented with a problem and certain data, and you’re asked to give a solution. It may be multiple choice, but you’ll have be able to calculate and do certain things,” Biology Professor Dr. Terry Spohn said.
Once students take the test, the results will be mailed to designated schools of interest.

Looking for medical schools to attend is a priority, and both Sattler and Spohn said there is something pre-med students need to be doing besides just completing schoolwork.

Medical schools, Spohn said, want to make sure students are more interested than just learning the basics. Students looking to enter medical school must have some sort of on-the-job experience before applying, according to Spohn.

“We had a young man here who had a 4.0,” Spohn said. “But he didn’t get into medical school because he didn’t have work experience.”

Spohn suggested working in a clinic, volunteering in a hospital or going on a medical missions trip. He also pointed out that there are doctors at both major hospitals in the Lynchburg area who will allow interested students to shadow them.

“Students simply have to initiate contact and set up a time-frame,” he said.

Liberty students have been accepted to dozens of different medical schools over the years, including Penn State, West Virginia School of Medicine, Ross University School of Medicine, George Washington University and The Virginia College of Osteopathic Medicine (VCOM).

VCOM is a private medical school on the campus of Virginia Tech. Liberty students who “have a 3.5 general GPA and a 3.5 in the sciences” are virtually guaranteed a position, according to Sattler. The school, which handles regular medical training and muscle-bone manipulations similar to chiropractors, is only in its fifth year of operation.

Sattler said the school has a conservative nature similar to Liberty, and he estimated that about 80 percent of the faculty is Christian.

“They love Liberty students,” Sattler said. “Because they’re doing well, they can handle the academic program.”

He said feedback from Liberty students about VCOM has been similarly positive.

Pre-med students also have the option to prepare for medical missions as a post-graduate career.

“I want to use medicine to get into counties that are desperate for medical care and desperate for a Savior,” junior Katrina Kurtz said.

“I want to emulate Christ with my life in the way that he first met the physical needs of people and then met the spiritual needs of people.”

As students continue working through the pre-med concentration — and Sattler advised they remember almost all medical schools are more likely to take students who are in-state — a number of freshman arrive at Liberty, each year, with the intention of taking the pre-med route.

“Study hard; don’t waste your time,” was Schreiner’s advice to such freshman. “Work piles up fast if you let it.”

“If you don’t understand something,” Henry said, adding to the notion of developing good study habits, “ask someone about it. You’re definitely going to need to understand it later.”


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