You can't tell by looking which students at Mount Sinai's school of medicine in New York City were traditional pre-meds as undergraduates and which weren't. And that's exactly the point.
Most of the class majored in biology or chemistry, crammed for the medical college admission test and got flawless grades and scores.
But a growing percentage came through a humanities-oriented program at Mount Sinai known as HuMed. As undergraduates, they majored in things like English or history or medieval studies. And though they got good grades, too, they didn't take the MCAT, because Mount Sinai guaranteed them admission after their sophomore year of college.
Adding students who are steeped in more than just science to the medical school mix is a serious strategy at Mount Sinai.
Dr. David Muller is Mount Sinai's dean for medical education. One wall of his cluttered office is a massive whiteboard covered with to-do tasks and memorable quotations. One quote reads: "Science is the foundation of an excellent medical education, but a well-rounded humanist is best suited to make the most of that education."
The HuMed program dates back to 1987, when Dr. Nathan Kase, who was dean of medical education at the time, wanted to do something about what had become known as pre-med syndrome. Schools across the country were worried that the striving for a straight-A report card and high test scores was actually producing sub-par doctors. Applicants — and, consequently, medical students — were too single-minded.
Kase, according to Muller, "really had a firm belief that you couldn't be a good doctor and a well-rounded doctor — relate to patients and communicate with them — unless you really had a good grounding in the liberal arts."
So Mount Sinai began accepting humanities majors from a handful of top-flight liberal arts schools after their second year of college. These students are expected to continue to follow their nonscientific interests for the remainder of their college careers.