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Premedical & Health Professions

Medical and Health Professions Programs

Overview of the Medical and Health Professions Programs

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Employment of healthcare occupations is projected to grow 18 percent from 2016 to 2026, much faster than the average for all occupations, adding about 2.4 million new jobs. Healthcare occupations are projected to add more jobs than any of the other occupational groups. This projected growth is mainly due to an aging population, leading to greater demand for healthcare services.” https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/home.htm. This is an excellent time to pursue a career in healthcare.

The RIT Premedical and Health Professions Advisory Program provides information, guidance and assistance in earning admission to the graduate programs listed in this section of the website. In general, all graduate programs in the healthcare fields require candidates to do the following:

  • Complete a series of published pre-requisite courses with grades of C or better.
  • Earn a competitive cumulative and science Grade Point Average (GPA). A common goal is 3.5 in a 4.0 system.
  • Complete and earn a good score on a standardized exam (MCAT, DAT, PCAT, OAT, GRE).
  • Obtain relevant practical experience in the field, which includes at least shadowing practitioners.
  • Demonstrate a commitment to service, as evidenced by volunteer work.
  • Develop key intrapersonal qualities (ethics, resilience, adaptability, responsibility, professionalism).
  • Develop key interpersonal qualities (communication skills, leadership, team-work, appreciation of diversity).

The application process is often long, taking nearly one year or more to complete. Most applications are submitted in the summer following the third year of undergraduate study or in the fall of the fourth year. Medical schools are now recommending that students take a “gap year” and apply in the summer following graduation. In all cases, admission is highly competitive.

Typically, the application process includes submitting an application form. Often there is a standard application submitted to an electronic platform, which then assembles and sends the application, with the standardized test score, to each graduate program. On occasion, students apply directly to each program. Additionally, the candidate must arrange to have a certain number of letters of recommendation submitted in support of the application. Letter writers may submit their letters directly to the application service, or they may utilize the services of the Premedical and Health Professions Advisory Program to submit a single “committee letter” which contains all letters in a single packet.

The most competitive applicants are those who develop a plan early and work diligently to carry out that plan. The system does not reward procrastination. The best advice we can offer is to meet early with a premedical adviser and to develop a plan.

Medicine—Doctoral Programs in Allopathic and Osteopathic Medicine

The two doctoral programs that provide the training for students to become physicians are the MD (allopathic medicine) programs and the DO (osteopathic medicine) programs. Upon completion of additional specialty residency programs, the graduates of both MD and DO programs become licensed to practice medicine, prescribe drugs, and perform surgery in all 50 states. There is no distinction between the two degree titles by the licensing boards. Both are practicing physicians. The MD programs have been around the longest and are familiar to most students. Because of that, most students equate being a doctor with being an MD. The DO degree (doctor of osteopathic medicine) has been offered only since the mid-nineteen century and may not be familiar to students who live in areas where there are few practicing DO physicians. In all ways, the medical training of those who become MDs and those who become DOs is identical, except for one aspect. The DO physician has also learned to diagnose and provide treatment for certain conditions using manipulation of the musculoskeletal system, called osteopathic manipulative techniques (OMT).

Both programs require four years of medical education following the undergraduate bachelor’s degree. Medical schools do not require the completion of any particular undergraduate program and will accept competitive students for science as well as non-science programs. The MCAT exam is required.

For more information about osteopathic medicine, consult: http://www.aacom.org/become-a-doctor/about-om. For more information about allopathic medicine, consult: https://www.aamc.org/. For information from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics on physicians and surgeons, consult: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/physicians-and-surgeons.htm.

Dentistry

The DMD (Doctor of Dental Medicine) and DDS (Doctor of Dental Surgery) are equivalent degrees that are awarded to dental students upon completion of four years of dental school. There are currently fifty-six US and ten Canadian dental schools. While many dental schools give preference to students who have earned a bachelor’s degree prior to starting dental school, some schools will accept students who have three years of pre-dental education and completed the necessary pre-requisite courses.

The majority of dentists in the US are in private clinical practice while others choose to specialize in areas such as public health, endodontics, oral pathology and radiology, oral surgery, orthodontics, periodontics or pediatric dentistry. These specializations may require an additional year or two of study. Other dentists may combine careers in private practice, teaching and research. Course requirements for dental school are similar to those of the other medical professions, and most schools require the DAT exam. Students can register for the Pre-Dental Advisory Program in the Premedical Studies Office. For more information about dental medicine, visit the Association of American Dental Education Association (ADEA) website. For more information from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics on dentists, consult: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/dentists.htm.

Pharmacy

Pharmacists provide pharmaceutical care in a variety of settings. Most visible is the community pharmacist who practices in the local, independently-owned pharmacy, chain pharmacy or pharmacy department in a food or discount store. Pharmacists are also employed by firms that discover, develop and produce chemicals, prescription and nonprescription drugs and other health products. Pharmacists in the pharmaceutical industry conduct research, develop and market products, maintain quality control, and administer programs.

A sound high school and college education in math and science is essential in preparing for the study of pharmacy. Also, good communication skills are important as well as a broad general education in the social sciences and humanities. The structure of the pharmacy programs vary from college to college. Some require two or three years of pre-pharmacy education which can be taken at any junior college or university and include the core courses required by most premedical programs. The majority of students enter pharmacy school after three-four years of undergraduate study. Most schools require a standardized entrance exam (PCAT).

For more information about pharmacy programs, visit the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP). Information on the occupational outlook for pharmacists can be found at: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/pharmacists.htm.

Physical Therapy

According to the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA): “Physical therapists (PTs) are highly-educated, licensed health care professionals who can help patients reduce pain and improve or restore mobility - in many cases without expensive surgery and often reducing the need for long-term use of prescription medications and their side effects. Physical therapists can teach patients how to prevent or manage their condition so that they will achieve long-term health benefits. PTs examine each individual and develop a plan, using treatment techniques to promote the ability to move, reduce pain, restore function, and prevent disability. In addition, PTs work with individuals to prevent the loss of mobility before it occurs by developing fitness- and wellness-oriented programs for healthier and more active lifestyles. Physical therapists provide care for people in a variety of settings, including hospitals, private practices, outpatient clinics, home health agencies, schools, sports and fitness facilities, work settings, and nursing homes. State licensure is required in each state in which a physical therapist practices.” (http://www.apta.org/AboutPTs/).

The current standard of education is the clinical doctoral degree, the DPT. To obtain this degree, most programs require candidates to complete a Bachelor of Science degree prior to admission, although some programs offer a 3+3 curriculum that allows for matriculation following three years of undergraduate study. There are currently 199 colleges and universities offering the DPT degree. Board certified DPTs can become specialty certified in a variety of specialized areas of practice, including orthopedics, pediatrics, sports PT or geriatrics. For the job outlook, see: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/physical-therapists.htm

Optometry

Optometrists are independent primary health care providers who examine, diagnose, treat and manage diseases and disorders of the eye and associated structures. Optometry is the nation’s third largest independent healthcare profession. Optometrists are really primary care providers for patients seeking ocular or visual care and should not be confused with ophthalmologists who have an MD degree with specialization in eye diseases and surgery. Most optometrists work with patients to prescribe glasses or contact lenses to correct vision problems.

There are currently seventeen schools of optometry in the US and Puerto Rico. While many optometry schools give preference to students who have earned a bachelor’s degree prior to starting optometry school, some schools will accept students who have three years of pre-optometry education. Some schools may have additional course requirements such as biochemistry, cell biology and genetics and the OAT exam is mandatory for all applicants.

For more information about optometry programs, visit the Association of Colleges of Schools and Colleges of Optometry (ASCO). For more information about the occupational outlook for optometrists, visit: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/optometrists.htm.

Podiatry

A podiatrist is a doctor of podiatric medicine—a physician and surgeon who specializes in treating illnesses, injuries or conditions of the foot, ankle and related structures of the leg. There are currently nine podiatric medical schools that grant the DPM (Doctor of Podiatric Medicine) degree. To apply, a candidate must complete a minimum of 3 years (or 90 semester hours) of an undergraduate Bachelor of Science degree with pre-requisite courses in biology, chemistry, physics and English. The MCAT is also required. For more information on admissions, refer to: https://www.aacpm.org/becoming-a-podiatric-physician/admissions/. For additional information on the job outlook for podiatrists, see: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/podiatrists.htm.

Chiropractic

According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Medicine of the National Institutes of Health: “The term 'chiropractic' combines the Greek words cheir (hand) and praxis (practice) to describe a treatment done by hand. Hands-on therapy—especially adjustment of the spine—is central to chiropractic care. Chiropractic is based on the notion that the relationship between the body’s structure (primarily that of the spine) and its function (as coordinated by the nervous system) affects health. Spinal adjustment/manipulation is a core treatment in chiropractic care, but it is not synonymous with chiropractic. Chiropractors commonly use other treatments in addition to spinal manipulation, and other health care providers (e.g., physical therapists or some osteopathic physicians) may use spinal manipulation.” (https://nccih.nih.gov/health/chiropractic/introduction.htm). Some of these treatments include electrical stimulation, relaxation, counseling about lifestyle choices, and dietary supplements. Chiropractic colleges that offer the DC, Doctor of Chiropractic, degree require a minimum of three years or 90 credit hours of coursework, from a Bachelor of Science degree-granting undergraduate university. For information about the job outlook for chiropractors, see: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/chiropractors.htm.

Occupational Therapy

Occupational therapy is not about a patient’s occupation, or job, it is about helping patients to participate in types of things they would like to do in their ordinary lives and activities. According to the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA): “Common occupational therapy interventions include helping children with disabilities to participate fully in school and social situations, helping people recovering from injury to regain skills, and providing supports for older adults experiencing physical and cognitive changes. Occupational therapy services may include comprehensive evaluations of the client’s home and other environments (e.g., workplace, school), recommendations for adaptive equipment and training in its use, and guidance and education for family members and caregivers. Occupational therapy practitioners have a holistic perspective, in which the focus is on adapting the environment to fit the person, and the person is an integral part of the therapy team.” See: https://www.aota.org/About-Occupational-Therapy.aspx.

Starting in 2026, all students seeking to become occupational therapists must complete a clinical doctoral program (OTD). Currently, the standard of education is the Master of Science in OT. There are 21 accredited programs and 51 programs seeking accreditation for the doctoral degree. Typically, PTD programs require a candidate who has completed a Bachelor of Science degree with a minimum GPA of 3.0, completion of the GRE and three letters of recommendation. Pre-requisite courses include biology, anatomy & physiology, two courses in psychology, human development, a social science course and statistics. In addition, all candidates must complete a minimum of 40 hours of observation, work, and/or volunteer experience with populations that would normally seek the services of an OT. At least 10 hours must be served with a licensed occupational therapist. The typical OTD program takes three years to complete and may require an additional residency. For information on job prospects: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/occupational-therapists.htm.

Physician Assistant

Physician Assistants are medical professionals who are trained and able to diagnose illness, develop and manage treatment plans, prescribe medications and practice in most, if not all, of the medical specialties, such as primary care, pediatrics, internal medicine, emergency medicine, surgery, and cardiology. They must have a practice agreement with a licensed physician who plays a supervisory role. They work in doctor’s offices, hospitals and clinics. Known as a “mid-level” provider, they function in much the same way as nurse practitioners. There are 218 accredited PA programs in the US and more in development to meet an increased demand. Although RIT offers a 5-year program that admits graduates directly from high school and leads directly to the MS degree in PA, most programs are stand-alone master’s program that require the completion of a Bachelor’s degree. Pre-requisites include courses in the sciences and humanities. Several programs require a specified number of hours of patient care experience, often reaching 1,000 hours. To practice, PAs must pass the Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam and log at least 100 hours of continuing medical education hours every two years. They must also re-take the PANCE every 10 years. See the website of the American Association of Physician Assistants (AAPA) for more information on the profession. For more information on job prospects see: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/physician-assistants.htm.

Public Health

A very simple definition of a very complex and multifaceted program is that offered by the American Public Health Association (APHA): “Public health promotes and protects the health of people and the communities where they live, learn, work and play.”

Public health professionals seek to educate the public in health and wellness by promoting healthy behaviors. “From conducting scientific research to educating about health, people in the field of public health work to assure the conditions in which people can be healthy. That can mean vaccinating children and adults to prevent the spread of disease. Or educating people about the risks of alcohol and tobacco. Public health sets safety standards to protect workers and develops school nutrition programs to ensure kids have access to healthy food.

Public health works to track disease outbreaks, prevent injuries and shed light on why some of us are more likely to suffer from poor health than others. The many facets of public health include speaking out for laws that promote smoke-free indoor air and seatbelts, spreading the word about ways to stay healthy and giving science-based solutions to problems. Public health saves money, improves our quality of life, helps children thrive and reduces human suffering.” There are a variety of public health programs leading to certificates, master’s degrees, and doctoral degrees. There are also combined degrees, such as MD/MPH, JD/MPH, and MPH/MBA. Most applications begin in mid-August and run for one calendar year. There are several online programs leading to the MPH degree, the most common of the public health degrees. Typical programs run for two years and require 48 credit hours of coursework. A thesis may or may not be required.

Pathologists’ Assistant

According to the American Association of Pathologists’ Assistants (AAPA), this healthcare professional: “provides various services under the direction and supervision of a pathologist. Pathologists' assistants interact with pathologists in a manner similar to physician’s assistants in surgical and medical practice, carrying out their duties under the direction of their physicians. PAs are academically and practically trained to provide accurate and timely processing of a variety of laboratory specimens, including the majority of pathological specimens. PAs are key components to helping make a pathologic diagnosis, but it is the sole province of the pathologist to render a diagnosis.

The majority of pathologists’ assistants are responsible for the gross examination and dissection of anatomic pathology specimens and the performance of postmortem examinations. PAs prepare tissue for numerous pathological tests including frozen section, flow cytometry and immunohistochemical staining. PAs may photograph gross and microscopic specimens, help prepare educational conferences and provide training to pathology personnel, including pathology residents. The duties of a pathologists’ assistant are not always limited to anatomic and surgical pathology; many PAs fill administrative, instructional and supervisory roles as well. PAs are a crucial extension of the pathologist in the healthcare setting, working as a liaison to other departments and laboratories to ensure quality healthcare.

Pathologists' assistants contribute to the overall efficiency of the laboratory or pathology practice in a cost-effective manner. With increased pressure on healthcare systems to control costs, the demand for qualified pathologists' assistants is growing every year." https://www.pathassist.org/page/AboutUs_WhatIsAPA

A pathologists’ assistant is a MS-level health profession. Pre-requisites include a BS degree in the biological or health sciences with required courses in biology, anatomy & physiology, chemistry, microbiology, mathematics and biochemistry. Most programs are two years in duration. For more information on job prospects: https://explorehealthcareers.org/career/allied-health-professions/pathologists-assistant/.

Genetic Counselor

According to the National Society of Genetic Counselors (NSGC): “Due to the rapid development of genetic technologies and the expanding need for genetic counselors, genetic counselors can be employed in a variety of settings. Many counselors work in the clinic providing face-to-face counseling to families, and some provide counseling on the phone or via video conferencing. Other counselors work in the clinical labs that provide genetic testing, writing and interpreting test results and answering questions for physicians, other genetic counselors, and patients. Roles that genetic counselors take on are constantly expanding. Other examples of settings genetic counselors may work include: government, education, industry, and research.

Becoming a genetic counselor requires completion of a master’s degree at an accredited genetic counseling program. These programs include rigorous didactic coursework, clinical training, and a research component. Accredited programs can be found here: http://gceducation.org/Pages/Accredited-Programs.aspx. Pre-requisites for competitive candidates include the completion of a Bachelor of Science degree and courses that include human genetics, biochemistry, psychology, and statistics. Many schools require you to have counseling or crisis intervention experience as well as experience shadowing a genetic counselor.

After completing this training, graduates must pass a board examination to become certified. Some states require genetic counselors to have a professional license to practice in that state, and the number of states with this requirement is increasing. More information about the licensure requirements in your state can be found here: http://www.nsgc.org/p/cm/ld/fid=19. Information on future employment opportunities can be found at: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/genetic-counselors.htm.

Veterinary Medicine

The DVM degree is awarded after successful completion of four years of study at an accredited college of veterinary medicine. There are currently 28 schools of Veterinary Medicine in the US as well as several schools in Canada, Scotland and New Zealand. The DVM degree can lead to diverse career opportunities and different lifestyles from a solo mixed-animal practice in a rural area to a teaching or research position at an urban university, medical center or industrial laboratory.

The majority of veterinarians in the US are in private practice and may choose to become specialists in a clinical area or work with one specific species. These specializations usually involve a 1-year internship program available at veterinary colleges or with private veterinary hospitals.

Course requirements for veterinary school are the same as those for medical school although some schools may have additional course requirements such as microbiology, psychology and biochemistry. Selection criteria include academic achievement and aptitude, Graduate Record Exam, and extracurricular experience. Most schools require a significant number of hours of experience working with animals and with the veterinary profession. For more information, visit the Association of American Veterinary Medical College (AAVMC).

Advisement of pre-veterinary students is in the College of Science and under the direction of Dr. Larry Buckley, Associate Dean. Dr. Buckley can be reached at the Gosnell Building (08)-1106. His phone number is (585)-475-7507 and his email is LJBSBI@rit.edu. His website is: https://www.rit.edu/science/people/larry-buckley

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