At a time of unprecedented advancements in technology and science, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai has taken a bold step in restructuring its medical school admissions criteria to attract gifted medical students from a wide range of backgrounds through its new FlexMed program, which is the first of its kind in the nation.
Starting next fall, half of each medical school class will be guaranteed early acceptance to Mount Sinai during the sophomore year of college without having to take the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT), or a traditional premed course load, under the school’s new FlexMed program. The students will come from majors as diverse as computational science and engineering, the social sciences, and genetics and molecular and cell biology.
The goal is to provide students the opportunity to become self-directed and life-long learners, who will have time to focus on courses in health policy, ethics, genetics, or biostatistics as undergraduates without being encumbered by traditional classes such as organic chemistry or calculus. In addition, the MCAT exam often serves as a barrier of entry to medical school for students who do not do well on standardized tests, or those who cannot afford the high cost of test preparation.
“We want to attract students with bright, creative minds who understand the role of precision medicine and big data, for example,” says Dennis S. Charney, MD, Anne and Joel Ehrenkranz Dean of Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs of The Mount Sinai Medical Center. “We also want innovators in clinical care who think of medicine in the larger social context and identify new practices for better care delivery. We believe FlexMed signals a paradigm shift in how we select, prepare, and educate the next generation of physicians, and hope other medical schools will follow suit.”
The inherent value of a broad and deep undergraduate education encourages critical thinking and self-directed learning, skills that help create the kinds of physicians and scientists we will need in the twenty-first century, says David Muller, MD, Marietta and Charles C. Morchand Chair in Medical Education and Dean for Medical Education at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.
Many medical school educators have questioned the usefulness of rigid premed requirements that have not changed much in almost 100 years. They say a traditional premed program encourages aggressive competition for grades that runs counter to what is valued most in medicine: academic and intellectual rigor, creative thinking, teamwork and collaboration, and social conscience.
FlexMed is an outgrowth of Mount Sinai’s Humanities and Medicine (HuMed) program, which began in 1987, and was the first in the nation to offer early assurance of acceptance to sophomores with a background in humanities. HuMed students have performed as well as their peers and are highly represented in clerkship honors, selection to Alpha Omega Alpha, the Gold Humanism Honor Society, scholarly year research participation, first author publications, and community service.
Dr. Muller says the metrics and outcomes in medical school, residencies, and fellowships, and career paths of the FlexMed students will be prospectively tracked in an IRB-approved longitudinal research study that compares them to their peers. By documenting this in an evidence-based fashion, Mount Sinai hopes that FlexMed will serve as a model for premedical preparation, and be duplicated at other schools around the country.
This article was first published in Inside Mount Sinai.