Medical school applicants face fierce competition at GW

Between 10,000 to 12,000 students applied for 150 spots in the University’s School of Medicine and Health Sciences this year, leaving pre-med students at GW concerned about the severe competition they face.

The GW medical school is maintaining the number of spaces at 150 as in years past, said Dee Hughes, assistant director of medical school admissions. The quota has been kept static for the past few years because the program “can only accommodate that many students.”

Occasionally the school accepts up to 152 students, Hughes said.

“Training a doctor is a serious endeavor and it takes a lot of people, and time to do it,” said freshman Neil Badlani, a pre-med student. “So any school that intends to increase medical school admissions has to make sure they are turning out the same quality of doctors.”

The school is close to saturation, and GW is not in any position to accept more students, said Professor Linda Gallows, who teaches biochemistry.

Hughes said GW was not affected by a provision in last year’s federal budget to recommend cutbacks in medical school admissions to curtail a possible surplus of doctors projected for the year 2000.

“It is not possible to have too many doctors because even if there is an excess of doctors in this country, there are more than 200 countries in the world and I don’t think that any of them have an excess – especially Third World nations,” Badlani said.

“Clinton is saying to cut back on surgeons,” said second year GW medical student Gautam Gulati. “We need more primary care physicians, and about 50 to 60 percent of the medical students (at GW) are in primary care.”

The federal proposal also does not apply to GW because the University already had started its own process to reduce the number of residents admitted, medical school officials said last fall.

This limited number of spots, and the fierce competition puts “a lot of pressure” on students, said junior Jaime Libes, a pre-med student. A lot of money and time is spent to gain admission to the selective program.

Sophomore Chetan Malpe said the competition definitely makes him nervous, but he tries to ensure he meets the qualifications needed for medical school admission.

A grade point average above 3.5 is an instrumental component to gearing up for admission to medical schools, pre-med students said.

“The higher your grade point average, the better chance you have of being admitted,” Libes said.

Medical Colleges Aptitude Test (MCAT) scores above 30, with 45 being the highest, also add to the student’s chance of admission, Libes said.

A strong academic performance, which includes coursework in English, physics, organic chemistry, chemistry and biology, gives students a solid base.

But Malpe noted medical programs look for “well-rounded, as opposed to just book smart students.”

Libes, who is a psychology and Spanish major, said medical schools give a high level of consideration to non-science majors to diversify the types of students entering the medical field.

Involvement in extra-curricular activities, such as work on volunteer and research projects, also enhances a candidate’s chance of admission, Malpe said.

“You have to try to make yourself a leader,” Malpe said.

But Ritu Kapoor, a student accepted to the GW seven-year medical program right from high school, said often pre-med students orient all their activities toward their medical school application. Students should, however, diversify their activity and involve themselves in things unrelated to medicine, she added.

Kapoor said during high school, she involved herself in varied activities such as field hockey, the student newspaper and the International Science and Engineering Fair.

“You need to have something that distinguishes you,” Libes added.

Students are offered the chance to display their leadership qualities in an interview, but only after completing the Association of American Colleges and GW medical school applications. One percent of applicants, about 1,000, are interviewed and 150 are finally chosen, Hughes said.

-Shruti Dat? contributed to this report.

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