Taking Charge of Your Health

To become a medical doctor is a long process.
It takes a minimum of eleven years to become a medical doctor. The first step along this
path is to complete a bachelor’s degree at a college or university. Now, most premed
students will elect to major in a science; chemistry, or biology, or something of that
nature; however, it is not required that you major in a science to go to medical school.
If you do not major in a science however, you do need to complete certain science prerequisites.
You’ll need to complete a year in general chemistry, a year of organic chemistry, a
year of physical sciences, and two years of biological sciences in order to be ready for
the applications process to medical school. During the bachelor’s program, you really
want to focus on keeping up your GPA. To become a a strong candidate for a medical school,
you want to have a GPA 3.75 or higher, and strong scores on the medical college admissions
test. The MCAT, as it’s known, tests your knowledge of physical sciences, biological
sciences, as well as verbal reasoning and writing. All applicants to medical school
must take this exam. Then the next step is to actually apply to medical school. There
is a standardized application service that is run by the American Association of Medical
Colleges. It’s called AMCAS, and most medical colleges in the United States participate
in this service. In fact, 121 of the 129 accredited medical schools in the continental United
States participate in AMCAS. You can apply to one or all of those schools through this
applications process. And in fact, most candidates for medical school will apply to multiple
schools because it is so competitive. Typically, less than half of those who apply to medical
school will be admitted for that year, and it is not uncommon for students to apply two
or three times before they’re finally accepted to medical school. Once you begin medical
school, the first two years are typically reserved for didactic education in health
sciences, in disease theory, and in treatment modalities, with some clinical experience
during this phase. Now at that point, after completing the first two years of medical
school, you need to pass what’s known as the United States Medical Licensing Exam Step
I, which assesses your basic knowledge of health sciences. Then, your second two years
of medical school really focus on learning clinical knowledge and clinical skills. This
is where you learn the art of healing. And upon finishing your second two years of education
you need to pass what’s known as the USMLE Step II, which assesses your competency in
basic clinical knowledge. At this point, you graduate, and are given the degree of medical
doctor, or doctor D.O. if you’re attending an allopath, an osteopathic school. Whether
you receive the M.D. degree from an allopathic school, or a D.O. from an osteopathic school,
your scope of practice in the United States is the same; however, you’re not ready to
practice medicine yet. The next step is to complete a residency program, and it’s here
that the physician has an opportunity to to narrow their focus, and specialize in a particular
field. Now, residency programs vary in length, from anywhere from three years to eight or
more years; depending on the specialty that you wish to practice. For specialties like
family medicine or pediatrics or psychiatry, it’s a three year residency requirement; however,
for surgery it is a minimum of five years. Once you complete your residency program,
you can take the state licensing exam in the state in which you wish to practice, and you
can now practice independently as a clinical physician. Now, for some who wish to go on
to either a sub-specialty, or who want a career in academic medicine, you can go on to complete
what’s known as a fellowship program, and this is an additional two to three years of
specialized study in that sub-specialty or field. And at this point, then you are ready
to practice as a clinical physician.

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