Health Professions

Jim Russo (BBMB, Health Professions Adviser)

Careers in the health professions demand more than just achievement in the life sciences. Maturity, compassion, leadership, ethical practice, integrity, communication skills, and knowledge of health care policy are essential for the health-care professional. Since the health professions seek individuals with a broad liberal arts and science education in conjunction with a rigorous major area of study in the natural sciences, arts, humanities, or social sciences, Whitman College does not offer “premed,” “prevet,” or any “prehealth” major. Although many students choose one of our life science majors — biology or biochemistry, biophysics, and molecular biology (BBMB) — more than one-third of our successful matriculants in medical or other health profession schools enter with majors beyond the life sciences, including anthropology, art, chemistry, English, foreign languages (Spanish, French, Japanese), geology, history, music, philosophy, psychology, religion, and theatre.

Whitman’s liberal arts curriculum provides students with both the breadth and depth necessary to excel as physicians, nurses, physician assistants, dentists, veterinarians, physical therapists, pharmacists, and public health specialists. Clinicians must have the ability to communicate by speaking and writing effectively, to gather and analyze data, to continually update knowledge and skills, to work with a team of professionals, and to apply new information to the solution of scientific, clinical, and public health problems — all skills that can be acquired from a liberal arts education.

Whitman College is a founding member of the Walla Walla Clinical Shadowing Program , a collaborative effort with the Walla Walla Valley Medical Society to facilitate pre-medical student shadowing in Walla Walla County. To date, physicians, nurse practitioners and physician assistants in the Walla Walla Valley are participating in student observations. See www.wwshadowing.org.
Students considering a career in a health profession should attend the health professions orientation meeting during the opening week of their first year and meet with the health professions adviser once per semester prior to application.

For more information on becoming a strong applicant and making an application, see the Health Professions Web page: www.whitman.edu/academics/careers-professions-and-the-liberal-arts/health-professions or contact Jim Russo.
More details about select professions are given below:

Dentistry

Schools of dentistry recommend that students acquire a broad, liberal arts undergraduate education. Students interested in the study of dentistry should become familiar with the specific requirements of the schools to which they plan to apply. These requirements are contained in the ADEA Official Guide to Dental Schools. See the American Dental Education Association website: www.adea.org. Participation in a dental observation internship program is required at some schools and highly recommended for all programs.

The following courses will satisfy the requirements for admission to most U.S. dental schools:

  • Biology 111, 112, 205 Genetics, 310 or 330 Physiology, 339 Microbiology
  • Chemistry — Two semesters of general/inorganic chemistry with laboratory (Chemistry 125, 126, 135, 136; or 140, 240). Two semesters of organic chemistry with two credits of laboratory (Chemistry 245, 246, 251, 252)
  • Physics — Two semesters of physics with laboratory (Physics 155 or 165, 156 or 166)
  • Biochemistry (BBMB 325)
  • English and Writing – Two semesters of courses from English (literature or creative writing) or Composition (General Studies 170, 210, 320).

Note: Requirements vary. Some schools accept Encounters as writing intensive courses for English. A course in anatomy (e.g. Biology 259) is required by some schools. If you have AP/IB credit for Chemistry 125, Chemistry 240 is not required.

Medicine

The allopathic (M.D.) and osteopathic (D.O.) medical professions seek individuals from a variety of educational backgrounds. Although a strong foundation in the natural sciences is essential, a major in the sciences is not. A broad, liberal arts education should enable future physicians to gather and assess data, to continually update their knowledge and skills, and to apply this new information to the medical, scientific, and ethical problems they will face. Because much of the practice of contemporary medicine is preventative as well as curative, medical school admissions committees also look for well-developed communication skills and an ample exposure to the social sciences and humanities. They are concerned with both the breadth and quality of the undergraduate coursework. Students should strive to complete coursework beyond the minimum requirements.

The requirements for U.S. and Canadian allopathic medical schools are provided in the Medical School Admission Requirements (MSAR). See the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) website: www.aamc.org. The requirements for osteopathic schools are provided in the Osteopathic Medical College Information Book. See the Association of American Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine (AACOM) website: www.aacom.org.
The following courses will satisfy the minimum requirements for admission to most U.S. medical schools:

  • Biology — (Biology 111, 205); one additional 300-level course (e.g. 303, 305 Cell Biology; 310, 330 Physiology; 320 Neurobiology; 323 Neurophysiology, 319, 328, 329 Developmental; 339 Microbiology); two semesters of laboratory
  • Chemistry — Two semesters of general/inorganic chemistry with laboratory (Chemistry 125, 126, 135, 136; or 140, 240). Two semesters of organic chemistry with two credits of laboratory (Chemistry 245, 246, 251, 252)
  • Physics — Two semesters of physics with laboratory (Physics 155 or 165, 156 or 166)
  • Mathematics — Two semesters of college mathematics (Mathematics 125, 126 Calculus I and Calculus II)
  • Statistics — Mathematics 128 Elementary Statistics or 247 Statistics with Applications. Biology 228 and Psychology 210 also can fulfill statistics requirement.
  • English and Writing — Two semesters of courses from English (literature or creative writing) or Composition (General Studies 170, 210, 320).
  • Biochemistry (BBMB 325)
  • Social sciences — Three semesters in social sciences (Psychology 110, Sociology 110 or 117, and one additional course selected from Anthropology 102, Anthropology 328, Psychology 230, or Psychology 360.

Note: Requirements vary. Some schools accept Encounters as writing intensive courses for English. A course in anatomy (e.g. Biology 259) is required by some schools. If you have AP/IB credit for Chemistry 125, Chemistry 240 is not required.

Nursing

The opportunity for students to enter B.S.N. and M.S.N. programs with a bachelor’s degree has expanded tremendously. Most of the programs are two years and lead to the RN certification and the opportunity to pursue advanced practice specialization in such areas as family practice, midwifery, pediatrics, critical care, infectious diseases, or Doctor of Nursing programs. The schools vary greatly in terms of courses required for matriculation. The courses most frequently required for admission include:

  • Biology — Nutrition (Biology 127), Microbiology + Lab (Biology 339); Human Anatomy and Physiology + Lab; (can be taken as 2 or 3 quarter sequence at most community colleges; see Jim Russo for other options)
  • Chemistry — Two semesters, to include general, organic, and biochemistry
  • Mathematics — Statistics (Mathematics 128 or 247)
  • Psychology — Psychology 110; Developmental Psychology throughout the Lifespan

Pharmacy

All pharmacy programs now result in the Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.) degree. The requirements for U.S. pharmacy schools are provided in the Pharmacy School Admission Requirements (PSAR). See the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP) website: www.aacp.org. The following courses will satisfy the requirements for admission to most U.S. pharmacy schools:

  • Biology 111, 205 Genetics, 310 or 330 Physiology, 339 Microbiology
  • Chemistry — Two semesters of general/inorganic chemistry with laboratory (Chemistry 125, 126, 135, 136; or 140, 240). Two semesters of organic chemistry with two credits of laboratory (Chemistry 245, 246, 251, 252)
  • Mathematics — Calculus (Mathematics 125, 126) and Statistics (Mathematics 128 or 247)
  • English and Writing — Two semesters of courses from English (literature or creative writing) or Composition (General Studies 170, 210, 320).
  • Social Sciences — Psychology 110 plus two additional semesters, (Sociology 110 or 117, Anthropology 102 or 328, Psychology 230 or 360 recommended)

Note: Requirements vary greatly. Many schools require courses in anatomy (Biology 259), biochemistry (BBMB 325), physics (Physics 155, 156), speech, and economics. Some schools accept Encounters as writing intensive courses for English.

Physician Assistant

Similar to nursing programs, many PA programs have expanded to select students completing bachelor’s degrees. Most programs require two to three years to complete certification. The courses most frequently required for admission include:

  • Biology — 111, 127 Nutrition, 205 Genetics, 310 or 330 Physiology, 339 Microbiology
  • Chemistry — Three semesters, to include inorganic, organic, and biochemistry
  • Mathematics — Statistics (Mathematics 128 or 247)
  • English and Writing — Two semesters of courses from English (literature or creative writing) or Composition (General Studies 170, 210, 320).
  • Social Sciences — Psychology 110 required. Psychology 230 or 360 recommended

Note: Requirements vary greatly. Many schools require courses in human anatomy. Some will allow Comparative Anatomy (Biology 259). Some schools accept Encounters as writing intensive courses for English.

Public Health

Many of the approximately 45 schools of public health offer M.H.S., M.P.H, or Ph.D. programs for students to enter directly with a bachelor’s degree. Others require one to two years of health-care experience, which can include service in the Peace Corps, international health programs, internships with county/state public health departments, or work with the CDC. The five core academic disciplines of public health are biostatistics, epidemiology, health services, health education and behavior, and environmental health, with many schools offering additional focus in international health, maternal and child health, nutrition, and public health policy and practice. Since each program and track sets its own requirements, it is difficult to list a recommended set of prerequisite courses. Majors in mathematics, chemistry, or the life sciences are beneficial for students interested in environmental health, epidemiology, or biostatistics, while anthropology, psychology, or sociology are good preparations for health education and behavior and global health. Economics can provide a sound background for health policy.

Veterinary Medicine

Schools of veterinary medicine recognize the importance of a liberal arts education with a strong foundation in the sciences. The requirements are provided in the Veterinary Medical School Admission Requirements (VMSAR). See the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC) website: www.aavmc.org.

The following courses will satisfy the requirements for admission to most U.S. veterinary medical schools:

  • Biology 111, 112, 205 Genetics, 259 Comparative Anatomy, 310 or 330 Physiology, 339 Microbiology
  • Chemistry — Two semesters of general/inorganic chemistry with laboratory (Chemistry 125, 126, 135,136; or 140, 240). Two semesters of organic chemistry with two credits of laboratory (Chemistry 245, 246, 251, 252)
  • Physics — Two semesters of physics with laboratory (Physics 155 or 165, 156 or 166)
  • Mathematics — Three semesters of college mathematics (Mathematics 125, 126 Calculus I and Calculus II and 128 Elementary Statistics or 247 Statistics with Applications)
  • English and Writing — Two semesters of courses from English (literature or creative writing) or Composition (General Studies 170, 210, 320).
  • Biochemistry (BBMB 325)

Note: Requirements vary. Some schools accept Encounters as writing intensive courses for English. If you have AP/IB credit for Chemistry 125, Chemistry 240 is not required.