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Re: [Phys-l] Premed Requirements Commentary

Here are some initial observations.

(1) Remember that not all MDs go into "general practice." Many
specialize, and many who specialize also try to do medical research.
Once people get an MD degree they seem to think they can do anything,
including medical research. I've observed enough MDs trying to do
research, and I've talked to enough PhD/MDs who actually can do
research, to know that MDs (without PhD) are rather poor researchers.
This is true even for those who took physics (with lab), organic
chemistry (with lab), and at Bluffton premeds also take physical
chemistry and analytical chemistry (with labs). So right now, MDs doing
research get their primary lab experience in their undergraduate science
coursework. If that's taken away or substituted with moldecular biology
and genetics, then where do they get it? Molecular biology and genetics
labs exists, but don't require the kind of analysis of data as physics
and analytical and physical chemistry.

The point is that MDs are already poor researchers. If we take away the
physical science courses and labs in their undergraduate training, MDs
will be even worse as researchers. We need to improve their research
skills rather than weaken them. Otherwise we shouldn't allow MDs to do
research. (Good luck on that.)

(2) A doctor going into general practice and who never intends to do
medical research might make a better case for not needing physics and
chemistry, but not that much better. I still expect my GP-MD to be a
problem solver. Stated another way, I expect my MD to act like a
scientist. The more science training, the better.

(3) The idea that MDs need more courses in ethics and things like that
seems weak. Acting more like a scientist is more likely to help the
patient than being able to deal better with ethical issues. Perhaps an
exception would be a psychiatrist.

(4) It's a slippery slope when we start judging what is in or out of
education on the basis of whether the student will "ever need to know
this" in their future career. You might as well throw out everything in
college. Just send HS students right to med school. If we can ask what
doctor is going to use calculus and physic... well... what doctor needs
English composition, literature, history, fine arts, etc. Is there
anything in college that an MD really needs? Not really. But if we
want them to act like medical scientists and have some basic
understanding of the body (which is a physical system) it still seems
like basic sciences are the most appropriate courses.

And the "weeding out" idea is not all that bad. If they can't handle
the basic sciences, can they handle the day-to-day stuff of being a good

Michael D. Edmiston, Ph.D.
Professor of Chemistry and Physics
Bluffton University
Bluffton, OH 45817