Humanities and Medicine Early Assurance Program at Mount Sinai Accepts Liberal Arts Students into Medical School
The Mount Sinai Humanities and Medicine Early Assurance Program provides a path to medical school for undergraduate students studying humanities and social sciences at top liberal arts colleges and research universities. Students apply to this unique and highly selective program in their sophomore year of college. If they are accepted into the early admissions program, undergraduates are free to spend the rest of college pursuing a full liberal arts curriculum rather than focusing on science courses and laboratory exercises. Typically, candidates have demonstrated a strong scholastic record and aptitude for science and math in high school and show promise for developing into compassionate and humanistic physicians.
“I always say that being accepted into the Humanities and Medicine Program was the best gift I ever received,” says Suzanne Garfinkle, MD, Director of the Mount Sinai Academy for Medicine and the Humanities who is a board-certified psychiatrist. “Being able to major in English opened my eyes to the complexities of people and the way that experiences such as suffering, illness, and loss are metabolized differently by each of us. I am a better and more caring physician because I had that unique experience.”
Like Dr. Garfinkle many students in the program show an aptitude for patient-centered fields like psychiatry and primary care. In fact, a review conducted by the program’s founder, Nathan Kase, MD, Dean Emeritus and Professor of Medicine and Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Science, with David Muller, Dean for Medical Education at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, found that approximately 14 percent of students pursued residencies in psychiatry compared to only 7 percent of non-humanities students. Their findings were published in Academic Medicine, a journal of the Association of American Medical Colleges.
“As medical training becomes more technical, physicians are increasingly diagnosing patients based on numbers not symptoms, and are at risk of losing focus on how patients feel, think, communicate, and relate to the experience of being ill,” says Ronald O. Rieder, MD, Professor of the Psychiatry Residency Program Director and Vice Chair for Education in the Department of Psychiatry. “These students bring the unique perspective of the humanities and social sciences to our medical school and as a result, tend to be more tuned in to their patients’ emotions, lives, and how they make decisions, which significantly impacts medical care.”
Amy Egolf, MD, a resident in general adult psychiatry who attended the humanities program, says her diverse background has made her a better communicator with both her patients and colleagues. “Such a large part of my day in psychiatry is spent simply sitting and speaking with my patients,” she says. “With my humanities background, I feel that I have a wealth of broad experiences to draw from, which makes me better able to connect with a patient.”
Drs. Kase and Muller’s research also showed that the majority of students in the humanities program were in the top quarter of their graduating class. What’s more, their study found that in addition to being actively involved in research publications and receiving Doris Duke research awards, humanities students are also significantly more likely to devote a year to research.
The Academy for Medicine and the Humanities
Recently, in an effort to offer humanities education to all medical students, Mount Sinai created the Academy for Medicine and the Humanities. The goal of the academy is to enhance the humanistic capabilities of medical students by offering courses and events that incorporate art, music, writing, and philosophy to the study of medicine. Seven courses are being offered this year including Words to Live By, Music in Medicine, The Pulse of Art, and the Dream Machine, a class where medical students anonymously submit their dreams and learn about Freud’s theory of dream interpretation.
Research has shown that arts and humanities can be used to teach physicians important skills such as observation, listening, and understanding patient’s stories,” explains Dr. Garfinkle who helped found the Academy during her residency training at Mount Sinai. “Reading, writing, and listening to music help build the humanistic skills that medical students need to be well-rounded clinicians.”
The Humanities and Medicine Early Assurance Program
Students who are accepted into the program participate in an eight-week summer program at Mount Sinai after their junior year, which consists of classroom study in basic medical sciences and an introduction to various clinical disciplines through weekly rotations. Students also attend seminars and lectures on Global Health, Translational Science, Health Policy, and Medicine and the Arts. Students apply to the program in the first semester of their sophomore year. MCAT examinations are not required as part of the application. In 2012, Mount Sinai accepted 30 students into the program.