APRIL 28, 2006 | Twenty-four college juniors and seniors aspiring to become doctors have been preparing for the admission test through a
The diverse group of students, who are minorities or from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, from all parts of the state have been meeting every weekend since Jan. 14 with some UAMS medical students and faculty as part of a Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) preparation program conducted by the
The program has a track record of success and organizers hope to see it grow in the future. The first African-American M.D.-Ph.D. candidate at UAMS was a product of the first UAMS MCAT prep program in 1995.
Through a combination of practice tests, individual and small group review of questions about the physical and biological sciences and verbal reasoning, the students are meeting now to prepare for the April 22 test. It’s not so much about the content of the test, but more on developing test-taking skills through practice said Billy Thomas, M.D., M.P.H., associate dean of diversity affairs in the UAMS College of Medicine.
“There is a large amount of data in the literature that supports the fact that minorities or disadvantaged students do not score as well on standardized examination as non-minorities,” Thomas said. “Improving a student’s score on a standardized exam is an acute way to improve their overall competitiveness for admission. The overall outcome being increased diversity, which will indirectly result in a reduction in health care disparities.
“A diverse work force delivers better health care to a diverse population, making it possible to overcome barriers in language or other cultural differences that can directly impact the level of care.”
James Pasley, Ph.D., assistant dean for educational advancement and a professor of physiology and biophysics in the UAMS College of Medicine, has been directing the program and leading the sessions. “We changed the approach this year to a more active learning format which has meant some long hours for the students,” he said, “But they tell us that they feel more confident and better prepared as test day approaches.
“The feedback is positive, so I’m optimistic we are making a difference,” Pasley said.
Pasley noted that the students are not just competing against others from
UAMS was able to expand the program this year thanks to some state funding, said Bill Bauknight, director of student affairs in the
“The use of medical students in implementing the program has been both unique and helpful,” Bauknight said. “Students learn best from other students.”
Bauknight said the Center for Diversity Affairs would like to see the program expanded to other locations across the state in the future. Other medical schools have similar MCAT prep programs, he said, but none that are statewide.
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UAMS MCAT Preparation Program: http://www.uamsoma.org/mcatp/