College adds more majors to seven-year baccalaureate/MD program

Students applying to the College’s seven-year baccalaureate/MD program, which is offered in conjunction with the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ), will now have the option of entering with one of eight separate majors.

According to Dennis Shevlin, associate professor of biology and coordinator of the program, students have always been allowed to enter the seven-year program in any major they choose.

However, only recently were majors besides biology formally recognized as options.

“I have always encouraged students to consider a set of majors,” Shevlin said, who also advises all students who are accepted into the program. Currently, the recognized majors are English, history, philosophy, mathematics, biomedical, electrical and mechanical engineering, and biology. The departments themselves will set the curriculum for accepted students so that the requirements for medical school can be met without disrupting a major’s program of study.

Most of the department chairs are supportive of the changes with only minor detractions. “This is very attractive in that it varies the students’ backgrounds,” Martha Stella, assistant dean of the School of Engineering, said. She noted that already about 50 percent of biomedical engineering graduates from the College enter medical school.

“I know we have some majors who academically would qualify,” Ed Conjura, chair of the mathematics department, said. “But I didn’t know if there would be an interest.” However, he believes that future students may be interested.

Lisa Houston, admissions coordinator at UMDNJ, also supported acceptance of the new majors. “This may be helpful, because we look for well-rounded students (in the program)” Houston said.

The baccalaureate/MD program currently has only one student in a major other than biology. Melanie Kaufer, English and biology seven-year medical double major became an English major because of her interest in literature.

When applying to various eight-year programs, she looked for those that offered majors other than biology.

Kaufer’s coursework consists of the regular requirements of an English major as well as the basic requirements for acceptance into UMDNJ’s medical school, including biology and chemistry courses.

Kaufer was happy that other options in the seven-year major are now being advertised. “I think there are too many doctors out there that are one-dimensional,” she said.

The program itself has run for 12 years now, with an average of 100 applicants each year nationwide. “I’ve interviewed students from all sorts of places,” Shelvin said.

Of applying students, about 20 are accepted and half choose to attend. The minimum requirements for the program are a 1400 or higher SAT score and ranking in the top 10 percent of one’s class, although accepted students generally have SAT scores over 1500 and are in the top one to two percent of their class, according to Shevlin.

Students are first interviewed by the College and about 60 percent are approved. These students then receive interviews at UMDNJ, and those who are finally accepted receive their letters by early April.

The academic program itself consists of students spending three years as an undergraduate at the College, followed by four years at UMDNJ for medical school. Students receive their bachelor’s during their first year at UMDNJ and their doctorate after the final year.

While students have very busy schedules during the three years at the College, their Advanced Placement credits from high school allow them freedom in their schedules. According to Shevlin, six of the 10 students in the program last year were able to spend a semester abroad.

While there are several colleges in New Jersey involved in the program, Shevlin proudly noted that three-quarters of the students in the program enter through the College.

The program itself has grown recently, with a 50 percent increase in the number of applicants this year.

Shevlin attributes the sudden rise in interest to word of mouth, the reputation of the College and its programs and the expansion into new majors.

“I think this is a great program, a no-lose situation for students, the medical school and (the College),” Shevlin said.