Attending a combined Undergraduate/M.D Program; Is it right for me?
By: Lekeisha Terrell, MD
When I tell people I went to a 6-year accelerated combined undergraduate medical school, I usually get one of two responses: People have never heard of it before, thinking I’m some kind of Doogie Howser, or they turn their nose up at me thinking my education was not as good as the traditional route. I learned about the 6-year medical program from a friend in my Tae Kwon Do club who had a sister in the program. One thing that really intimidated me about getting into medical school was the MCAT, and how important it was to medical school admissions. I hated standardized tests, was not a good test taker and had really bad test anxiety. I had no doubt in my mind I wanted to be a doctor and liked that some combined programs did not require taking the MCAT. Little did I know, I would still have to take other tests. I still had to take in-service exams, USMLE step 1, 2, and 3, specialty and sub specialty boards. The MCAT was just one of many tests you have to take.
When it was time to apply to college, I applied to both combined programs and traditional. In addition to not having to take the MCAT, I liked that I could complete medical school in less time. I decided to attend the University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC) 6-year combined program. I was from Kansas City and I needed to be close to my family because my dad had just recently died when I was in high school. I also had participated in their summer scholars program for minority students in high school and liked it.
On the first day of the program, there is a white coat ceremony. It felt like a dream, putting on that short white coat and saying the Hippocratic Oath. Our class was made up of 100 students and we would be together for the next 6 years. In the first two years about 75% of our time was spent in undergraduate classes (including pre-med classes I would have had to take in a regular college), and 25% in medical school classes. Every week we had a half-day with a local doctor, allowing us to work with patients from day one. In years 3-6, most of the time is spent doing medical courses and clinical rotations. We were assigned to teams made of a teaching physician, pharmacologist and 12 students. I was always with my team during internal medicine rotations in years 3-6. Years 3-6 also included a half-day each week in outpatient clinic in addition to normal rotations through family medicine, OB/Gyn, surgery, pediatrics, psychiatry and emergency medicine.
My 6-year program was a lot of work. We took classes year round with no summers off. I envied my friends in regular colleges who took exciting summer vacations, did study abroad programs and had summer jobs. I had to study all the time and there was competition among my classmates. Anytime you have a bunch of type A people used to being in the top of their class in high school, this will happen. We weren’t graded on a curve, but you had to keep a minimum GPA. People also competed on how they studied: There was a lot of closet studying, for some reason, people did not want other students to know they took the time to study. At first, I had trouble understanding some concepts in chemistry and didn’t do well. I was not afraid to admit I needed help and utilized the tutor and special study sessions and ended up doing well. Despite some students making fun of me, I knew it was something I needed to do and there is nothing wrong with admitting you need help.
We were in classes all-day; studied for hours; and had all night study sessions. But, we also had a lot of fun. We matured together, studied together and developed lifelong friendships. We played intramural sports together, worked out at the recreation center together, had dinners together, and after every test we would have a party. The minority medical student group, SNMA (Student National Medical Association), at my school was very active and we did a lot of activities together and with the other local medical schools. I also joined a sorority and continued to practice and compete in Tae Kwon Do. Being close to home let me have the support of my family and church, which was very important.
People always ask me, would you do it again? Yes, I would. Doing a combined program straight from high school, you have to know you want to be a doctor for sure. If you are sure and dedicated, check out a combined undergraduate/M.D. program.