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Pipeline Programs Help Get Undergrads to Medical School

Some of these programs allow students to get an M.D. in as few as seven years.

A new report says more African-American medical school students anticipate higher levels of debt than students of other races and ethnicities.
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About 59 students are focused on medicine. After meeting certain benchmarks, they are required to take an intense MCAT course. For eight months, they meet from 3-7 p.m. each Friday and all day Saturday.

[Discover the truth behind three MCAT myths.]

Out of about 14 or 15 of these Rutgers students who apply to Robert Wood Johnson, 10 are accepted and end up matriculating to the medical school. They spend their last year of college taking classes at their undergraduate campus and the medical school, while continuing to pay undergraduate tuition and fees – which is notably less than the sticker price for medical school, says Khan.

There are a number of reasons only a few students make it through such programs.

High school seniors who want to be doctors sometimes change their minds, says Romero-Leggott of UNV. Instead of getting an M.D., some of her students may go on to become dentists, physician assistants and other kinds of professionals.

Khan says that a number of his students run into financial problems while paying for college and cannot commit to Access Med, which is offered at no additional cost.

"Secondly is academics," he says. "Not putting in the time."

Access Med requires a great deal of focus, and some students get so wrapped up in extracurricular activities they end up switching majors and exiting the program, he says.

For students such as Robert Ackerman, there was no extracurricular activity that could distract him from his childhood dream of becoming a doctor. The 21-year-old is now in his fourth year in the combined, seven-year B.S.-M.D. program at the University of South Florida's Morsani College of Medicine. This is his first year of medical school.

"There's a lot more classes," he says. "It's nothing I've ever seen before."

In undergrad he took as many as 20 credits a semester and had to score a 30 – out of 45 – on the MCAT to go on to medical school. He encourages other students interested in baccalaureate-medical pipeline programs to prepare for a hefty workload.

"It's a lot of work," he says. "They have to be dedicated and focused."

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Corrected 8/27/13: A previous version of this article misstated Robert Ackerman's undergraduate course load.