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Know Your AAMC

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By Glenn N. Cummings, Ph.D., Director of Health Professions Advising

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AAMC = Association of American Medical Colleges.  For anyone aspiring to allopathic medicine (becoming an MD some day), the AAMC is the governing body of the U.S. medical schools you’ll apply to for that important next step in your education.  There are many reasons to spend some time on the AAMC website.  Here are just a few:

Start with the Resources for Pre-med StudentsThe AAMC recently pulled together the most general materials for the pre-med student, starting with tips for deciding if medicine is the right career for you.  The guide includes information about AMCAS, the centralized online application that is your first step when applying to med school; a comparison of the old and new MCAT; and the basics of paying for med school.  Frankly, this booklet’s primary function seems to be promoting the more in-depth AAMC products available for purchase, a sort of guide to other guides, each with their own price tag.  Please remember that you have a full-time pre-health advisor to go over many of these pre-med topics for you.  I also have a gripe with the “typical path to medical school” depicted in this booklet since it implies that the standard timeline is to go straight into med school after college, when in fact at least half of applicants these days take a year off.  Nevertheless, it’s nice to have a resource that gives you a general overview of all the ways the AAMC is involved in your life as you move from college to the next step.

You might also be interested to see the Core Competencies for Entering Medical Students, which have been endorsed by the AAMC’s Committee on Admissions.  A centralized organization that represents diverse and widespread constituents, the AAMC surveyed med schools, listened to the opinions of the most vocal and engaged admissions personnel, and debated the list of competencies among several committees.  The result is this list of characteristics that the AAMC would like entering medical students (and applicants) to demonstrate.  As a guide for presenting yourself to medical schools, it can be enlightening to see what personal and academic competencies they came up with.  Are you “resilient and adaptable”?  How’s your “capacity for improvement”?  What about “teamwork”?

One of the most practical places to land on the AAMC site is MCAT Home.  There’s a lot here, about both the current MCAT and the MCAT that many of you will be taking, which is coming in 2015 (see my blog posts from last April and May).  Registration is now open for MCAT dates through May 2014.  I recommend you pick your date and register early.

While no one is expecting you to know what you want to specialize in, people love to ask.  Just yesterday I heard a woman behind the counter at a local coffee shop ask a pre-med what kind of doctor he wanted to be.  “Cardiologist?” he said tentatively.  It’s just a way that friendly people make conversation with pre-meds, I guess.  Anyway, I’ve found the Choose Your Specialty part of the AAMC’s Careers in Medicine section a fun place to peruse.  It’s designed for medical students who are preparing to apply for residency programs.  If nothing else, it’ll show you the immense and intricate possibilities for specialization within our immense and intricate healthcare system.

So as we head into the semester’s final stretch and you’re seeking ways to procrastinate, you can always take a moment to get more familiar with the AAMC.  Procrastination comes in many forms, after all.  Maybe after you spend an hour exploring the official, oh-so-helpful, and (dare-I-say-it) dry AAMC resources, reviewing those problem sets for your final exam or writing that last paper won’t seem so impossible.

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