Alexander Malik was a junior in high school when he held an amputated leg in an operating room for the first time. That was the moment that he decided to become a doctor.
“When I was younger, I had a bad experience getting my blood drawn,” Malik said. “I didn’t know if I was ever going to be able to see blood. But that [experience] made me say, with certainty, this is something I can do through this program and say as a high school senior that this is what I want to do for the rest of my life.”
Malik is one of 35 students in the first year of the Bachelor of Science/Doctor of Medicine Degree program, or BSMD, at Kent State, an accelerated program that helps students accomplish a medical degree in six years instead of the typical eight with the cooperation of Northeast Ohio Medical School.
Lucy Omar, the academic advisor for the BSMD program, said that Kent State, along with the University of Akron and Youngstown State University, selects up to 35 students through application and interview to participate in the program. Students must be high school seniors or graduated with no post-secondary credit. Students begin their undergraduate degree the summer immediately after they graduate high school.
“They come in their first summer a freshman and end the spring semester as a junior, and that’s because of the classes they take,” Omar said. “It’s a very competitive program, so there’s a lot of work that goes into choosing the students for this program. Everyone who gets chosen has the ability to make it to the medical school.”
Each student must meet the requirement of a 24 or higher on the MCAT and at least a 3.2 GPA. Omar said Kent State BSMD students average at a 28 on the MCAT.
“They are great students and they work very hard,” Omar said.
Hannah Johnson, a first year BSMD student, connected with the program when she found out her mother’s OB-GYN went to NEOMED as well. She applied to the program and got in, but said it was hard work.
“When I was little, I used to get C’s in class,” Johnson said. “Then in eighth grade I started stepping it up and getting all A’s. I wasn’t born smart. I was always in the extra-help reading classes and always struggled. It’s the hard work that really got me through everything.”
Johnson said she decided to be an OB-GYN in eighth grade when she witnessed her first cesarean section.
“I went from wanting to be an actress to wanting to be a doctor,” Johnson said. “That experience changed me. I just think the miracle of life is a wonderful thing.”
Because the program is accelerated, first year students often take upper level courses starting the spring semester.
“On FlashLine it says I’m a sophomore, but I still feel like a freshman,” Malik said. “When someone asks what are you, I just say I’m a first year.”
Johnson said being in an upper level class motivates her to do better.
“I think it pushes me more. I just think that I’m the underdog and that I’m going to prove myself. If anything I feel better about myself with all these older people in my classes.”
Even with a full course load, Johnson said she still finds time to relax and have fun.
“I was actually surprised,” Johnson said. “It wasn’t so overwhelming like I thought it would be. I can watch five episodes [of TV] and still get my work done. I was thinking that it would be hard with all-year-round schooling, but it’s been a breeze.”
If each of the students meets the requirements, a spot is reserved for them at the medical school. However, Malik said he works just like any other pre-med student.
“I really value my spot at NEOMED and I’m grateful for this opportunity,” Malik said. “But I don’t like to rub in in anyone’s face so I study just like any other pre-med student: study hard and stick to the books.”
To learn more about the BSMD Program, visit https://www.kent.edu/cas/undergraduate/bs-md/.
To learn more about NEOMED, visit http://www.neomed.edu.
Contact Haley Baker at [email protected].