Hello everyone! My name is Joey Gu and I am returning to intern at Test Masters this summer. You might have already seen some of my posts, like my What makes a Premed student successful? or my Know the SAT Math Formulas, last summer. Today we are going to talk about combined BS/MD programs, specifically Brown University’s Program in Liberal Medical Education (PLME).
Before I begin, allow me to share some information about combined BS/MD programs. These programs typically range from six to eight years, consisting of a varying number of years for undergraduate studies and four years for medical school. They are known for their competitive admissions processes and tirelessly persistent and motivated applicant pools. Students in such programs exhibit an unusually strong commitment to studying medicine and are envied by other pre-med students because they do not have to go through the usually (and highly stressful) process of applying to medical school.
When I first heard of the combined BS/MD program from my parents, I thought that such a program would be a terrible idea, one that would make my premed years even more difficult and strenuous. Additionally, I dreaded spending such a long time stuck in the same boring place. I wanted a change of scenery between my undergraduate and medical school years, a fresh start in a brand new city. Therefore, I was vehemently against applying to any BS/MD programs. Looking back, I now realize my parents were right (as usual) and that I was being an ignorant and naive high school freshman.
Next year, I will be attending Brown University’s Program in Liberal Medical Education (PLME), which is Brown’s version of the combined BS/MD program. After applying and being accepted into the program, I did some additional research and weighed my options, comparing PLME with a traditional four year premed track. These are the pros and cons that I came up with.
- No need to take the MCAT.
- Less pressure to maintain a high GPA. The PLME only requires students to maintain a 3.0 GPA.
- More flexibility. Initially, I though that a BS/MD program restricts its students by forcing a certain course curriculum onto them. Rather, the situation is quite the opposite. At Brown, I will be able to concentrate in any field of study, regardless of its relevance to biology or medicine. The PLME encourages broad exploration of student interests/
- More research opportunities. As a PLME student , I will have additional research and internship opportunities exclusively available to students on the BS/MD track. With only 50 to 60 PLME classmates, competition for such opportunities will be much less intense, making it easier for me to gain valuable medical experience.
- No medical school applications. Since I have already been admitted to Brown’s medical school, I have no need to worry about letters of recommendation, standardizes test scores, GPA, research experience, or application essays. Although these things are obviously still important, because they won’t be require I will be able to fully enjoy my undergraduate experience.
- Stuck in Providence, RI for eight years. Personally, I really like the city of Providence and Brown’s campus, so this a very minor con.
- Cannot apply to other medical schools. If you apply to other medical schools, you lose your sport at Warren Aplert (Brown’s medical school).
- The Warren Alpert Medical School is not as highly ranked as that of Harvard or Yale. However, many different sources emphasize the fact that medical school ranking are not incredibly important. A school’s match list, a list of the residency programs that medical students match to, is much more important, and Brown has an exceptional one.
I have a few last, critical points of advice for those wishing to pursue a combined BS/MD track. This is by no means a discouragement, but these programs are not for everyone. They are designed to suit students that have all but committed the next decade of their lives to the study of medicine. It is for this reason that BS/MD programs are so competitive (Brown admitted less than 4% of applicants to the PLME). College admission officers will only select students in which they can clearly see a strong desire to pursue medicine. If you are one of these extremely motivated students, then you should start looking into research and volunteer opportunities related to medicine that will not only help your admission prospects, but also broaden your understanding of medicine and the health professions.
As a prospective student of the PLME, I feel exceedingly fortunate to have been given this opportunity, and I will try my hardest to make the most of my time at Brown University.