ASBMB members on the new MCAT

In the Spring issue of Enzymatic, we asked ASBMB members who teach undergraduate biochemistry/molecular biology about their perspectives on the changes to the MCAT starting in 2015 and what (if anything) their departments are doing to prepare for the upcoming changes.  Responses came in from Craig Streu, Assistant Professor of Biochemistry at St. Mary’s College of Maryland, Timothy Carter, Professor of Biological Sciences at St. John’s University and Charles Brenner, Roy J. Carver Chair of Biochemistry, Carver College of Medicine, University of Iowa.  Since publication, we have received more responses from faculty members.  Here are two more from Mary Huff, Professor of Biochemistry at Bellarmine University and Teresa Garrett, Assistant Professor of Chemistry and Director of Biochemistry at Vassar College.

How has your department responded to the impending MCAT revision?

The Chair of the pre-professional committee shared the 2015 preview guide from AAMC with all department chairs that were affected (Biol, Chem, Phys, Psyc. Soc. in particular) and the AAMC Course mapping tool for the MCAT exam.  Faculty from different departments were asked to respond which classes best covered those content areas.  Of course, the greatest changes were related to psychology and sociology.  These courses were then placed into a list that is part of the pre-professional page in the catalog outlining required and recommended courses for medical school  – Dr. Mary Huff

We have not responded extensively to the revision though it has been discussed several times as it relates to enrollment pressures on courses such as Gen Chem, Organic and biochemistry.  Not due to the MCAT per se but to enrollment pressures in general we have begun to discuss different ways to teach 100 level chemistry to better meet the needs of our students  – Dr. Teresa Garrett

What types of curricular changes do you envision in your department?

Any large changes will be slow.  We have allowed for biochemistry courses to serve as biology electives to allow biology majors to fulfill those requirements.  We are strongly urging students to take psychology and sociology as general electives – Dr. Mary Huff

We have decided to institute a biochemistry course that doesn’t have a lab associated with it to relieve pressure from our current biochemistry lab that has an associated 4-hour lab.  This course would be for non-biochemistry and biology majors who do not need the lab work to meet their major requirements – Vassar College

How might this revision alter the profile of majors on your campus?

We are finding more students from a variety of disciplines (exercise science and psychology) that are now considered pre-medicine instead of the traditional biology and biochemistry and molecular biology (BMB) majors – Dr. Mary Huff

I suspect that we might have more biochemistry majors but I will add that the major currently requires Physical Chemistry which is a turn off for some students – Dr. Teresa Garrett

Do you foresee any staffing concerns for your campus in the near future?

Until we see how our students perform on the exam, it is hard to predict where the holes are in our curriculum.  Biochemistry courses are in higher demand and that could lead to an increase in instructors within that discipline.  While we would like to see a more integrated approach for biology/chemistry/biochemistry, staffing concerns will limit this type of change – Dr. Mary Huff

Staffing our current biochemistry course with the associated lab has been an issue for the past several semesters.  We hope that adding a “lab-less” course will help relieve those pressures – Dr. Teresa Garrett

How might you advise pre-med students differently than in the past?

For Biology students, we strongly urge that they make room for biochemistry in their schedule during their junior (preferably) or senior year.   We also offer an anthropology class that seems to meet many of the objectives for sociology but requires prerequisites of sociology.  All in all, we are trying to increase the social sciences into the curriculum – Dr. Mary Huff

We have been advising for years that Biochemistry is a suggested course.  Now I believe that we will be suggesting that sociology and psychology in addition to statistics – Dr. Teresa Garrett

Please share any other thoughts about the MCAT revisions?

I personally have concerns about this revision not being in line with current med school requirements.  The MCAT is essentially calling for more required classes to succeed on the exam yet the required courses for medical school haven’t changed.  Perhaps ASBMB can step up the pressure to change those requirements – Dr. Teresa Garrett

To read the previous responses, visit www.asbmb.org/Enzymatic and download the Spring, 2013 issue.

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