Family doctors treat common health problems. They are often the first doctor a patient sees when a new symptom occurs. Aspiring family physicians must complete prerequisite courses in the physical, life and social sciences, mathematics and liberal arts as specified by the medical schools to which they plan to apply. Earning the highest grades possible in all undergraduate courses is important, as medical school admissions are notoriously competitive.
Physical and Life Sciences
Virtually all medical schools require biology and chemistry with accompanying labs and many require physics. Both overall and science GPAs are considered by admissions committees, so your grades in these courses are critical. The Medical Colleges Admissions Test assesses your knowledge of scientific concepts, so the more exposure you have to science classes, the better chances you have of scoring well. According to Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center School of Medicine, the majority of aspiring medical students major in biology.
The social sciences have a direct connection to the practice of family medicine and a strong foundation in these courses will enhance your doctor-patient relationships. Psychology, sociology and cultural studies courses will give you a solid foundation in the social sciences at the undergraduate level. A semester of public health will help you understand the political, economic and social factors that influence the health care system.
Most medical schools require applicants to take calculus and statistics prior to applying. Family doctors use statistics and probability to read test results and select treatment plans. You must have a firm grasp of the basic mathematical concepts required for calculating medication dosages, interpreting health-related measurements and assessing x-rays and CAT scans. Algebra courses beyond the basic level and trigonometry are applied to the analytical and problem-solving skills that physicians use every day, as well as preparing you for the quantitative reasoning portion of the MCAT, the standardized test required of all medical school applicants.
As the United States becomes more diverse, so do its patients seeking medical care. According to Mount Sinai Medical School, there is a "need for medical professionals to understand the cultural backgrounds and language abilities" of the Hispanic population. Achieving proficiency or fluency will enable you to care for your patients more efficiently and compassionately.
Liberal arts coursework will help you become the thoughtful, well-rounded candidate medical admissions committees desire. Critical thinking and creativity are fostered by the study of literature, philosophy, history and the arts; these are skills you will use on a daily basis as you evaluate information and problem-solve as a physician.
Based in the Southeast, Sally Miles has been a freelance writer and editor for nearly a decade. She has written for "For Me" magazine and holds a master's degree in English from Columbia University.