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January 3, 2007

Changing Premedical Requirements

JAMA. 2007;297(1):37-39. doi:10.1001/jama.297.1.37-b

To the Editor: Dr Emanuel1 provided a thought-provoking discussion of the current status of premedical and medical education. While we agree with many of his views, we think it is misguided to exclude courses in organic chemistry and physics as premedical requirements.

The value of organic chemistry and physics may be difficult to appreciate because medical care does not directly require remembering physics formulas or analyzing chemical structures; however, these disciplines contribute a great deal to providing the framework for understanding basic principles of medicine. For most medical students and physicians, the familiarity of these subjects may aid them most. When encountering terms such as cis- or trans- isomers, enantiomers, or alkenes in biochemistry and pharmacology, medical students can recall these concepts with no more than a quick refresher because they learned them in organic chemistry. Similarly, a background in physics allows students to more easily understand such concepts as blood flow by having baseline knowledge of Bernoulli's principle of fluid dynamics, or to appreciate an aneurysm's risk of rupture by recalling Laplace's law relating wall tension to the radius of a cylinder.

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