Master’s degree program prepares students for med school

February 13, 2013

Kristen Taylor McCormick (TCOM ’13)

An exceptional degree program at the UNT Health Science Center is improving the odds for students seeking entry into medical school, and helping them excel once admitted.

Excellent preparation, a stellar academic record, laser-focus study habits and outstanding skills in test-taking and time management are keys to success in medical school. But even the brightest students may not be ready for the rigor required. The Master of Science in Medical Sciences (Med Sci) degree offered in the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences boosts students’ strengths so they can succeed.

While similar programs at other universities typically offer only a certificate, UNTHSC’s Med Sci program awards a master’s degree – after just one year of intensive study. And the results are outstanding. Since the program’s inception in 1999, 73 percent of graduates have been accepted into medical school. Among graduates with a grade-point average of 3.5 or higher, the figure is nearly 100 percent.

In addition, some graduates enter other advanced health-care fields such as dentistry and physician assistancy.

The UNTHSC Med Sci program’s coursework in structural anatomy also sets it apart from most other universities, said Patricia Gwirtz, PhD, Assistant Dean, Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences and Med Sci program director.

"Students enter the program to improve their application package for medical school, but we accept them only if they already have a competitive score on the Medical College Admission Test," Gwirtz said. "If they can handle this level of work and earn a master’s in one hectic year, they can excel in medical school."

"The goal is to give students the chance to build on their bachelor’s degree in science, with an eye toward their successful completion of medical school," said Jamboor Vishwanatha, PhD, Dean of the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences.

The experience of Med Sci grad Kristen Taylor McCormick is typical. A few years ago when her medical school applications were rejected, she feared that her dream of becoming a physician was slipping away. "I was devastated," she recalled.

Her solution was the UNTHSC Med Sci program. Though she found it challenging, she achieved her dream. "I expected it to be like undergraduate school, but it wasn’t — it was like medical school. We were asked to jump through a hoop of fire."

Now a fourth-year student at UNTHSC’s Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine, McCormick has high praise for Med Sci. "It helps transition students from the life of an undergraduate filled with extracurricular activities such as football games and parties, to a life completely focused on their studies," she said. "They learn to study massive amounts of material. Extracurricular activities here tend to support the curriculum and are directly related to the student’s career."

Med Sci graduates proceed to study medicine at prestigious universities. In 2011, 56 percent of those who opted to study medicine in Texas were accepted by TCOM. Additional medical schools where Med Sci graduates are studying include UT-Southwestern, UT-Medical Branch, UT-Houston, UT-San Antonio, A.T. Still-Arizona and Baylor Dental.

Learn more at the UNTHSC Med Sci website.

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