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Re: [Phys-l] Premed Requirements Commentary

On 9/18/06, Rick Tarara <> wrote:

----- Original Message -----
From: "Dennis Krause" <>

> Here is the relevant excerpt from this editorial:
> Changing Premed Requirements and the Medical Curriculum
> Ezekiel J. Emanuel, MD, PhD

Thanks to Dennis for excerpting; it interested me enough to go to the
library and obtain my own copy.

Why are calculus, organic chemistry, and physics still premed
> requirements? Mainly to "weed out" students.

Well one might challenge Dr. Ezekiel to teach students Biochem who haven't
had organic.

Dr. Emanuel does address this: "True, some knowledge of nomenclature and
organic structures and reactions is important for biochemistry, but the
necessary material could be taught in a few weeks, rather than requiring an
entire year of irrelevant synthetic pathways".

Could someone with experience in organic chemistry and biochemistry (maybe
even Rick) address this claim? I have no ability to assess it.

While calculus and physics may be used to 'weed out'
prospective med students, it is a weeding out on their inability to think
analytically and problem solve. Personally, I would prefer that my
have those skills. ;-)

I find this to be a provocative claim, though it is a claim I would make
myself! However, are introductory calculus and introductory physics the
only place students can learn "to think analytically and problem solve"? I
don't think so, though as physicists and physics educators, we do pride
ourselves on exposing our students to these skills (I originally typed
"teaching these skills", but I've taught enough to be wary of statements
like that...).

Dr. Emanuel ends this section of his commentary with "...extra time,
students could pursue other interests in this formative period, ensuring
they received a true liberal education". I'm a strong believer that the
introductory physics course can be an important part of a liberal arts
education. But it does have to be a relevant part of the whole educational
experience of the student.

I know that appeals to authority and credentials hold little weight
(especially on PHYS-L), but Dr. Emanual doesn't seem to be some nut:

Some of his claims are weak: "Is calculating the angular momentum of a
spinning top relevant to any medical practice?" Of course it is, unless
I've vastly misunderstood NMR (of course quantum spin isn't classical spin,
etc.). However, "Researchers who need such information do not rely on their
college courses" does strike me as a valid point. I think he makes many
other interesting points as well.


Krishna Chowdary
Department of Physics & Astronomy
Bucknell University