Pre-Medical Advising Notes

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This information is intended to provide you, the student intending to pursue medicine as a profession, with advice on planning your undergraduate education at Dordt University. The advice is mostly geared toward those wishing to become a medical doctor (M.D. or D.O.), but students interested in other health professions such as those mentioned below may also benefit from this information.

This information is intended to bridge the gap between the general information you may have regarding medical school preparation and the specifics of the Dordt University curriculum.

Please note that this information is not comprehensive and should be used in consultation with other medical school information such as the AAMC publication "Medical School Admission Requirements" (MSAR) or the AACOM publication "College Information Booklet" (CIB) and discussions with your adviser.

The links page includes a variety of useful references in addition to those linked above.

Pre-college planning

Pre-medical planning should start in high school if possible. In high school, you should take college preparatory courses and as much science and math as is available. It is not necessary to take calculus; advanced algebra, trigonometry, and geometry are more useful. You should be getting high grades in these courses. Develop and practice the best study skills and time-management habits.

You should also participate in extra- or co-curricular activities. Volunteering in a medical setting is ideal, but any activity that demonstrates a genuine commitment to helping people in need is valuable. It is more important to do something that you enjoy, can be passionate about, and that you can make a long-term commitment to doing, than to do something that looks medical in nature.

AP or Not AP

Many high schools offer Advanced Placement (AP) courses. AP is administered by the College Board and offered through high schools. These courses can give students college credit that can be applied to a degree program. Dordt University accepts AP credit for a number of courses, including biology, chemistry, and calculus.

Unfortunately, medical schools do not have uniform policies regarding AP credit. Some medical schools accept AP credit, some accept it with conditions, others do not accept it at all. The best thing you can do is to check the AP policy of the medical schools that interest you before taking the AP course. (Notice that this requires you to at least consider, during high school, which medical schools interest you. This list must include the state or provincial schools within your state of residence.)

Medical schools appear to have some question about the quality of AP courses. Even though AP courses cover college-level material, they are offered in high school and may not, in the medical school's view, meet the same level of rigor or depth that a college level course has. In addition, the grading system is not as useful to medical schools.

As a result, prospective pre-medical students are advised against taking AP courses. If you do choose to take one or more, make sure that the medical schools you plan to apply at will accept the credit.

If you have AP credit and find that a medical school won't accept it, you still have two options. First, you can take the equivalent college course. You should be able to do well as it will be largely review. At Dordt, the course credit will overwrite the AP credit for GPA purposes. Second, you can determine if the medical school will accept more advanced coursework in the same discipline. This is the preferred option as this will demonstrate your ability to do college-level work in that discipline while also giving you more depth, rather than simple review.

It is our understanding that most medical schools will not accept CLEP credit for required coursework, largely because CLEP is not based on formal education.

Undergraduate Program Planning

Choosing a Major

It is important to note that there is a difference between the pre-medical program and your academic major. The pre-medical program is simply a label we use at Dordt University to identify students who intend to pursue a medical profession so that we can properly guide, advise, and teach these students. There are no formal course requirements because different medical schools have different requirements (although there are more similarities than differences in these requirements). Nor is there an expectation on the part of a medical school that you have been in a pre-medical program.

Your academic major is the area of study you choose because of your interests, abilities, and career plans. Once chosen, your major does have specific course requirements as defined in the college catalog. Therefore, you do not have to have a particular major (e.g. biology or chemistry) to be in the pre-medical program or to apply to medical school.

Medical schools do desire a diverse student population in terms of academic background, so it is perfectly acceptable to choose a non-science major. On another note, students with certain majors tend to do better on the MCAT than others, as this table from AIP shows. For example, Physics majors average a 31.0 on the MCAT, Chemistry majors average 28.7, and Biology majors average 26.9.

The total number of available seats in medical school has been rising over the past decade (from 16,300 to 20,300), however, the number of applicants has also risen, so the acceptance rate has been fairly constant, with an average of 42%.

Nationally, between one third and one half of medical school applicants gain admission, so keep in mind these questions: What will I do if I do not get into medical school? or What is my back-up plan?

While about 85 percent of Dordt pre-medical students who have applied to medical school over the past 15 years have gained admission, the majority of pre-medical students who enter Dordt as freshmen do not follow through on that career plan. Your selection of a major will have a significant impact on your career opportunities should medical school not work out.

Academic Performance

One of the big questions on the minds of pre-medical students is the matter of GPA and MCAT scores. You should be working for a GPA of 3.69, although if you can do better, you should, and if you do somewhat poorer, you need not panic. The 3.69 GPA is an average, so basically you improve your chances if you can do better than 3.69.

Note also that the AMCAS application asks you to distinguish between science GPA and overall GPA, so high grades in your science courses is a must. The AAMC reports an average GPA of 3.69 (+/-0.25) for matriculants. Within the pool of matriculants, only 25% had a GPA below 3.5, and 50% had a GPA above 3.75.

The AAMC has published data on scores and GPAs. The simplest table is located here. In this table you see several years worth of data: average scores (scale ranges from 1-low to 15-high) and standard deviations for each section of the test. Applicants are everyone who took the test, matriculants are those who actually started medical school (ie. the accepted students). Note that for each section, scores of matriculants averaged about one point higher than the average score of all applicants. The average score of matriculants ranges from 9.9 to 10.9, so you should be working to get 10s or higher on your MCAT.

A Suggested Pre-Medical Program

Every medical school has its own particular set of entrance requirements, so it is important early in your undergraduate education to identify a few medical schools to which you will likely apply. You should choose a public medical school in your home state (or in a state which provides tuition reciprocity with your home state), since most state medical schools are required by law to give preference to state residents. Attendance at Dordt does not affect your state of residence. You might also choose a few other private and out-of-state public institutions. You should consult the MSAR and CIB books, the schools' websites, or contact the schools directly to determine the specific requirements of these schools and plan your program accordingly.

Most medical schools base their required course prerequisites on the same prerequisites for the MCAT. The MCAT, or Medical College Admissions Test, is a comprehensive test based on the science content found in introductory courses including general chemistry, organic chemistry, biochemistry, general biology, physics, psychology, and sociology. Many medical schools have their own specific requirements beyond those required for the MCAT, and it is important for you to determine these requirements for any school you have interest in.

Table 1 lists those courses at Dordt which will meet the requirements for the MCAT and which are frequently found in medical school admissions requirements. Two topics merit special mention:

1. The MCAT does not specifically require a math background; however, the test does assume an ability to do basic calculations, algebra, trigonometry, and make statistical inferences from data without the aid of a calculator. In addition, medical schools vary in their math requirements, so do your research.

2. Dordt's introductory sequence in biology, Cell and Molecular Biology and Zoology, are sufficient to meet an entrance requirement stated as "one year (8 credits) of general biology". Also, while the MCAT claims that all the biological content of is available through an introductory course. However, there is sufficient evidence to support a recommendation that you ought to take several advanced biology courses in addition to the introductory courses. As we gain more experience with the new MCAT, the recommended list of courses will become more specific.

Table 1. Suggested Pre-Medical Coursework
MCAT/Med School Requirements Recommended Courses Optional Courses
  • Chem 111 Principles of Chemistry
  • Chem 225 Organic Chemistry I
  • Chem 261 Biochemistry
  • Chem 321 or 322 with 323
  • Bio 125 Cell and Molecular
  • Bio 122 Zoology
  • Phys 115-116 General Physics
  • Math 115, 152, Stat 131, or 132
  • Writing course: Core 120, Eng 220, 301, 305, or KSP 151
  • Psychology 201, 204, 210, 215 or 218
  • Sociology 201, 210, 215, or 216
  • Bio/Chem 180
  • Bio 225-226 Human Anatomy
  • Bio 226 Human Physiology
  • Bio 310 Advanced Microbiology
  • Bio 335 Cell Biology
  • Chem 212
  • Bio 301 Developmental Biology
  • Bio 304 Histology
  • Bio 324 Advanced Genetics
  • Bio 357 Medical Terminology
  • Social Work 313
  • Nursing 390
  • Comm 222 Interpersonal Communication

Table 2 reorganizes the above courses into the typical sequence taking by a student who begins the pre-medical program in their freshman year. It is designed to enable you to complete all the prerequisite courses before you take the MCAT in your junior year. Variations on this schedule are possible depending on your choice of major. It is possible to start the pre-medical program in your sophomore year or beyond, however, in such circumstances you may need to delay taking the MCAT and applying for a year beyond graduation.

Table 2. Suggested Course Schedule
Year First Semester Second Semester
Freshman BIO 125 Cell and Molecular Biology
CHEM 111 Chemical Principles
BIO/CHEM 180 First Term Seminar
BIO 122 Zoology
CHEM 212 Chemical Analysis
Sophomore CHEM 225 Organic Chem. CHEM 261 Biochemistry and Molecular Biology


BIO 225 Human Anatomy
BIO 335 Cell Biology
Math/Stat Course
Psychology Course

BIO 226 Human Physiology
BIO 310 Advanced Microbiology
Sociology Course
Junior PHYS 115 Physics PHYS 116 Physics

BIO 301 Developmental Biology
BIO 357 Medical Terminology
CHEM 361 Advanced Biochemistry
CHEM 362 Advanced Biochemistry Lab
Advanced Psychology Course
COMM 222 Interpersonal Comm.

BIO 304 Histology
BIO 324 Advanced Genetics
Advanced Writing Course
Social Work 313
Nursing 390

Many medical schools require courses in the broadly defined areas of the behavior or social sciences and the humanities without being specific about the course requirements. Dordt's CORE program may fulfill these requirements, but do your homework. For example, Psychology 201, General Psychology, is occasionally required by medical schools and will be necessary for the MCAT, but it does not fulfill a CORE requirement.

In addition, it is wise to choose electives of your own to provide you with experiences outside of the sciences. You also need to recognize that your undergraduate years will be the last opportunity to pursue interests outside of medicine or the biological sciences, so choose electives accordingly.

Extra- and Co-Curricular Activities

Medical schools look not only at academic ability, but also at what you do outside of the classroom. Evidence of maturity, character, passion, concern for others, commitment to helping those in need, an ability to put work (or academics) before play, and leadership will have a significant impact on your application. Experience in health care will show an interest and commitment to medicine.

Here are some suggestions for developing these traits outside of the curriculum. This list is by no means exhaustive, so be creative.

  1. Shadow a physician. In this experience, you simply follow and watch what a physician does on a day-to-day basis. You might spend one afternoon per week for a semester doing this. This lets you see the profession from the perspective of the physician and build a relationship with that physician that could be useful when you need a letter of recommendation. You can contact a physician on your own, or the premedical adviser maintains a list of physicians willing to provide shadowing opportunities.
  2. Volunteer at the local hospital, daycare center, or retirement home.
  3. Become an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT). EMTs make up the majority of Sioux Center's ambulance squad. As such, they are some of the first people to reach accident scenes to provide first aid and transport to emergency rooms. They also provide transport services when ambulance transfers are needed. The course work is offered through NCC in Sheldon, in conjunction with the local EMT squad. It begins in the fall and continues into the spring.
  4. Become a nurse's assistant (CNA) at an area hospital. NCC teaches a course which leads to certification as a nurse's assistant, which then allows you to work in a hospital setting.
  5. Work for a department as a Teaching Assistant (TA). TAs provide Dordt faculty with much needed assistance in a variety of tasks. TAs help out in labs, grade homework, tutor, and the like. It provides you with a good review of subject material and allows faculty members who will need to write letters of recommendation to get to know you outside of the classroom. You also gain experience in communicating, especially in explaining concepts to students unfamiliar with the material, a skill useful in talking with patients. You might be approached by a faculty member sometime after Spring Break regarding such a position, but it shows initiative to bring it up yourself.
  6. Be an R.A. for a year. Such a position builds leadership and communication skills which are important in the medical profession. Student Services solicits applications for these positions early in second semester.
  7. Spend a summer or semester on a research project in the sciences. Several of Dordt's faculty have projects in which you might be able to play a role. Many universities have summer research programs for undergraduates (often used as a recruiting tool for their graduate programs). In each case, working on an independent research project requires organizational skills, self-motivation, and intellectual ability and builds research skills and problem solving ability.
  8. Get involved with Student Forum to gain leadership and communication skills.
  9. Be involved with any campus club, music ensemble, or athletic teams, which shows interests and abilities outside of the basic curriculum.
  10. Go on PLIA or AMOR. Participation in such an outreach program shows an interest in helping those in need. You show commitment to a cause if you participate several times.
  11. Join and actively participate in the Pre-Health Professions Club (PHPC). The club exists to provide a means by which pre-medical students can get to know each other and to help each other with planning, MCAT preparation, and medical school applications. The club brings in practicing doctors, current medical school students, and medical school recruiters, all of whom can help you understand the profession and give you advice on getting into medical school. Dr. Joseph Keryakos will provide the names of freshmen pre-medical students to the club's leadership so you will likely be contacted by the club soon after school starts.

The Medical School Application Process

There are two major steps in medical school applications. First is the MCAT (Medical College Admissions Test). Second is the actual medical school application, which may utilize an application service (AMCAS or AACOMAS). The chart below summarizes the application process.

Medical school application process (detailed below)

Medical College Admissions Test

The MCAT is to medical schools what the ACT or SAT are to college. This test measures your understanding of those subjects important to medical schools. The exam has four sections:
  • Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems
    • structure and function of biomolecules
    • organisms function via organs, cells, and molecules
    • complex organs and tissues respond to their environment to maintain stability
  • Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems
    • physical principles underly material transport, sensing, and processing external signals
    • chemical principles underly molecular dynamics in living systems
  • Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations
    • biopsychosocial factors influence perception, cognition, and behavior
    • social stratification influences well being
  • Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills
    • comprehension, analysis, and synthesis of a text

The test is administered over 20 times between January and August of each year. It is an entirely computer-based test. It cannot be over-emphasized that preparation for the test is critical. You need to treat this as a comprehensive and cumulative exam of chemistry, biology, physics, and social sciences, and prepare accordingly.

To ensure that you have the scores available for medical school applications, you should plan to take the test by the end of May of your junior year. You will get the scores back during the summer and can arrange to have the scores automatically sent to medical schools. Actual dates and application materials can be obtained from the AAMC website.

The Pre-medical Advisory committee asks that when you take the MCAT, please have the scores sent to Dordt University. There is a place on the MCAT registration form that allows you to release your scores to your undergraduate Health Professions Adviser. Be assured that your scores will be held in the strictest confidence by the committee.

U.S. Medical School Applications: AMCAS & AACOMAS

There are two types of medical education available in the U.S. Conventional medicine leads to the M.D. degree and is the most common (most of the U.S., including all public institutions, and all Canadian medical schools award M.D.s). use the MSAR book to find information about M.D. schools.

There is also osteopathic medicine, which has a more whole person philosophy. Osteopathic medical education leads to the D.O. degree. The CIB book contains information about osteopathic schools. Both M.D.s and D.O.s can be licensed in all 50 states, so the choice between the two depends more on career interests rather than education (the status of U.S.-trained D.O.s in Canada and elsewhere is in transition, with a movement toward full privileges). M.D. education can lead to the large variety of specializations while D.O. education typically leads to more general practice positions.

In the summer prior to and into the fall of your senior year, you will fill out and submit applications to medical schools. Both the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) and the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine (AACOM) have application services (American Medical College Application Service--AMCAS--and AACOM's Application Service--AACOMAS).

These services allow you to apply to several medical schools by submitting a single application to the service, which then distributes them to schools designated by you. Not all AAMC schools participate in AMCAS, so be sure to check the MSAR book. All AAMOC schools participate in AACOMAS.

AMCAS and AACOMAS applications cannot be submitted before June 1 and usually must be submitted before November 1. Early application is strongly recommended. Each school has its own selection criteria, so your application may be looked at more favorably by one school but not another. It is best to emphasize your unique characteristics that will make your application stand out.

You should apply to more than one school. Certainly apply to the public university(ies) in your state and/or those in neighboring states (or provinces) which provide reciprocity with your state. Public universities are required to give preference to state residents and do not accept applications from foreign students.

It is recommended that you apply to no less than six schools; the national average for applications is about 10 schools. Reviewing fact sheets or websites from various medical schools may help you identify those which suit your unique qualities or interests. For example, if you are interested in rural family practice, you should probably apply to the University of Minnesota-Duluth rather than the Johns Hopkins School.

Even though you may use the application service, you will probably need to submit additional information to individual medical schools such as official transcripts and letters of recommendation. They will ask you for this information after they review your application, which will occur between September and November. Many schools request these "secondary applications" from most, if not all applicants that meet admissions criteria, along with the application fee. Despite the fee, do not pass up an opportunity to submit a secondary application.

Among the most important pieces of information are your letters of recommendation. There are two types. Dordt University has a Pre-medical Advisory Committee who will collectively work up an evaluation form during the summer following your junior year. One of these persons will be designated as your primary contact for the committee and will forward the evaluation form to each school to which you apply. That contact person will write personal letters of reference for you. In addition, you may need to submit personal letters of recommendation from up to three people. Letters from faculty who are familiar with you are usually given greater consideration than letters from other persons. It is proper etiquette to personally ask for the favor of a letter of reference.

Most schools will require you to come for a personal interview prior to acceptance. This interview gives the school a personal look at applicants, but it also gives you an opportunity to see the school and get a feel for how well it fits you. It is in your best interest to be as flexible as possible in scheduling this interview. Never decline an interview invitation. Don't worry too much about skipping a class or two at Dordt, because your professors should be understanding. Do keep in mind that you have to reschedule tests, etc., so prior communication with professors is very important.

U.S. medical schools will notify you if you are accepted no earlier than October 15, but no later than March 15. While a given school will usually give you some indication of when you will hear from them, you usually have to wait for acceptance and/or rejection letters or emails. You could be accepted at more than one school. If so, you should decide which school you want to attend and inform the others of that decision as quickly as possible.

If you are not accepted by any schools initially, you may end up on a waiting list. For example, the University of Iowa has 157 openings and has accepted 157 applicants. An additional 50 applicants are put on the waiting list and you may be told that you are #30. If 30 of the initial 157 applicants choose not to attend Iowa, you will be granted admission. In such a case, you might have to wait until the summer before you are accepted. Keeping in regular contact with the medical school is helpful in this instance.

Many medical schools have an option called the Early Decision Program. In this program, you need to get all your application materials submitted by early August. You will have an interview in August or September, and will be informed of the school's decision on October 1. The catch is that you can apply to only one EDP program, you are required to accept the offer of admission, and you may not submit any general applications to other medical schools until after the October 1 deadline. If you are attracted to a specific medical school, and you have a strong academic record and application, this could be a good choice. If not accepted, you usually get placed in the general applicant pool for that school, but your chance of acceptance is no greater at this point.

Please inform your adviser or Dr. Keryakos which medical schools have accepted you and which school you will attend.

Canadian Medical School Applications

The process for Canadian medical schools is similar to U.S. schools. Note that osteopathy in Canada does not have the same standing as the U.S. All Canadian medical schools are based on conventional medicine. All the Canadian medical schools are members of AAMC and are listed in the MSAR book.

Admission requirements to Canadian medical schools are similar to the U.S., although it is more common to see a full year of biochemistry and more biology. A few schools have required Dordt students to have their transcript processed through a secondary credential evaluation service as a means of assuring the medical school that your academic background is adequate. This should not present a problem, but it does add a layer of paperwork. Residency issues are typical, the school in your province of residence will give you preference, but you are not limited to applying to that school.

Only Ontario medical schools have a common application service, known as OMSAS. According to OMSAS, online applications start in mid-July, and must be submitted by October 1. Between October and May you will communicate directly with schools regarding secondary applications and interviews. First offers are made on May 15, which is considerably later than U.S. schools.

Outside of Ontario, you will need to apply directly to each individual school. The timeline is similar to OMSAS, but it is important to check with schools regarding particular dates.

Please inform your adviser or Dr. Keryakos which medical schools have accepted you and which school you will attend.

Budgeting for the Application Process

Applying for medical school takes money: for tests, for applications, and for travel to interviews. The table below is a estimate of such a budget.

Table 3. Application Fees
Item Fee
MCAT $305
AMCAS Fee (First School) $160
4 more schools 4@$37 = $148
Secondary Applications: 5@$75 = $375
Total Fees $988
Note: Fees for Osteopathic Schools (AACOMAS) are similar to AMCAS fees. If you apply through both systems, you pay for both.
Interview Travel:
600 mile auto trip
night in hotel
one day of meals

Where Have Dordt Grads Gone to Medical School?

Recently, Dordt pre-medical students have been accepted into a number of medical schools. Between 2005 and 2014, 88% of applicants from Dordt were accepted into medical school (some required a second application). The following schools accepted students over this time frame.

  • University of Iowa
  • Des Moines University-Osteopathic Medical Center (Iowa)
  • University of South Dakota
  • Loma Linda University (California)
  • University of Minnesota-Twin Cities
  • University of Minnesota-Duluth
  • Creighton University-Omaha
  • University of Nebraska-Omaha
  • Kansas City University of Medicine & Biosciences: College of Osteopathic Medicine
  • University of British Columbia
  • University of Western Ontario
  • University of Indiana
  • University of Ottawa
  • University of Alberta
  • Michigan State University (MD)
  • A.T. Still University: Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine
  • Campbell University (DO)
  • St. Georges University

For Physician Assistant, students have matriculated at the following schools.

  • Grand Valley State University
  • Creighton University
  • University of Colorado: Boulder
  • Harding University
  • South University
  • Rosalind Franklin University
  • Des Moines University
  • Univeristy of Nebraska Medical Center

What if I'm Not Accepted?

Perhaps you will not be accepted by any medical schools. If you are not accepted, you should contact the schools and ask why you were not accepted. They will often give you some useful feedback about where your application was weak or deficient. Should you wish to reapply, you will need to repeat the entire application process (without necessarily retaking the MCAT) the following year. In the interim, you should do some activities which will enhance your application. These may include:

  • Retaking the MCAT. If you feel that your MCAT scores are lower than your actual academic ability, a retake may be wise. This may have occurred because you were ill the day of the test or you had not completed all of the needed coursework prior to the test. You should attempt to raise each section's score by 2-3 points. Note that when MCAT scores are released to medical schools, previous scores are also sent so the medical school will see all the scores, and the change in score (or lack thereof) from one test to the next will be a strong factor admission committees will consider.
  • Retaking college coursework. If you got a low grade in one of your classes, particularly one of the core requirements, you may wish to retake it to improve the grade. Transcripts sent out by Dordt show both grades, but only the more recent grade counts toward your GPA.
  • Take additional coursework. You may wish to take one of the suggested electives to gain some additional background or demonstrate academic ability. You may even wish to take the coursework at the institution where you are applying to medical school (if possible). That gives the school an opportunity to see your work up close.
  • Obtain additional experiences in medical practice. Do additional (possibly different) activities which get you into a patient care environment.
  • If the medical schools have a particular student type that they are interested in, demonstrating your commitment to that type can be helpful. For example, a student who was initially rejected by UMn-Duluth (which has a program for training rural doctors) was told to spend a year working in a rural environment (he worked on a pig farm) to demonstrate a commitment to rural life. He was later accepted by the school.
  • If you have a CNA license, obtain a position in hospital or nursing facility to gain additional medical experience. Other entry-level medical jobs that require minimal training include phlebotomy, respiratory therapy, or home health aides.
  • Consider graduate school as an interim position. In the sciences, masters programs are typically two years in length, and admissions are much easier than medical programs. Most programs offer research or teaching assistantships that pay a stipend and provide reduced tuition, so you should not incur any new debt, and can continue to defer your existing debt. You may need to get some applications submitted before hearing from medical school if you wish to start immediately after graduation.
  • There are a number of local and regional biotech and medical tech firms which may have laboratory technician positions available. These technicians typically work in a laboratory setting, doing routine procedures.


Dordt University offers several scholarships specifically for pre-medical students. A single application can be filed with the Scholarships Coordinator for all three scholarships. The deadline is February 15.

Minnie Julia Dahm Scholarships for Pre-Medical Students

Awards of ~$400 are given annually. All pre-medical students are eligible to apply, but preference will be given to applications from students who will be entering their junior year. Recipients must have a minimum grade point average of 3.00 and must demonstrate an understanding and application of Christian principles.

Al Mennega Honors Scholarship

One scholarship of ~$700 is awarded each year to a student who is in a pre-medical or related health care professional program at Dordt University. Special consideration will be given to applicants who show strong aptitude and motivation for service in medicine, dentistry, and optometry. The recipient must have a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.00 and must be entering the junior or senior year.

The Talsma Memorial Pre-medical Scholarship

Two ~$1,500 scholarships are available for sophomore or junior pre-medical students with a minimum cumulative grade point average of 3.50. A student may apply and receive this scholarship for more than one year.

The Pre-medical Advisory Committee


Advising of pre-medical students is usually done by members of the college's Pre-medical Advisory Committee. If you indicated an interest in medicine when you applied to Dordt, you would have been assigned an adviser familiar with the pre-medical program, regardless of your choice of major. These advisers, and other members of the faculty and staff, are members of the Pre-medical Advisory Committee. While pre-medical students typically do not have much direct interaction with the committee, the committee performs some important duties which you should be aware of.

The purpose of this section is to provide you with a brief overview of the role of the Pre-medical Advisory Committee at Dordt University. To accomplish this goal, this page goes through the description of the committee's mandate as found in the Faculty Handbook (FH 12-13-99 edition). Quotations from the handbook are in bold, explanations are in italics.

Committee reports to the dean of natural science division. This places the committee within the administrative structure of the college. Should you have a issue that cannot be resolved by your adviser, you would go to the committee. If the committee cannot resolve the issue, your next action would be to contact the dean of natural science division.


  • Joseph Keryakos, professor of health sciences. Dr. Keryakos serves as the chair of the committee and principle on-campus adviser. If you have questions about the pre-medical program, start with him.
  • Anthony Jelsma, professor of biology
  • Robbin Eppinga, assistant professor of biology


  1. Serve as advisers for students in the pre-medical program. As noted above, Dr. Keryakos serves the primary role. If you were pre-med when you entered Dordt, Dr. Keryakos was probably assigned as your adviser. Even if you have another adviser, Dr. Keryakos is very willing to help you in pre-medical planning.
  2. Develop recommendations in support of students' applications to medical schools. This is one of the most important functions of the committee. Many medical schools ask that you send in a recommendation from a committee (sometimes referred to as a health professions committee or office). The committee meets right after classes end in May and works up an evaluation for each pre-med student who anticipates applying to medical school during the following academic year. The committee also selects one representative who will send that evaluation to the medical schools of your choice. That representative should be listed among your references. These evaluations are kept confidential. A copy of a blank evaluation form can be obtained from the chair if you are interested in its content. Because of this role, it is vital that you get to know these faculty members. The better they know you, both in class and out, the better the recommendation they can give.
  3. Coordinate students' visits to medical schools. Several regional medical schools sponsor visit days for prospective students. Dordt has frequently attended the one held by the University of Iowa. The committee acts to coordinate the visit and the college provides financial support for transportation and lodging for attendees.
  4. Determine who shall be the recipients of scholarships. Dordt has several scholarships available for pre-medical students. The committee evaluates the applications and determines who recipients shall be.
  5. Review and distribute advisory material. Dr. Keryakos maintains a collection of materials regarding the specifics of medical education and promotional material for various schools and programs.
  6. Encourage and support the activities of the Pre-Health Professions Club. One committee member shall be the club sponsor. The committee and the club are two different entities. We believe it is in the best interest of the pre-medical student that the club is student driven, as this gives the students opportunities to demonstrate and practice the initiative and leadership needed to succeed in medical school. The advisory committee can provide some organizational and infrastructure support by coordinating a kick-off meeting, reserving rooms on campus, acting as contacts with the local medical community, and the like.
  7. Review the program by:
    1. Collecting and reviewing records regarding acceptance rates, MCAT scores and GPAs, and...By keeping track of this information, we can help future pre-medical students in their preparation. This information is, from our perspective, an assessment tool. This is why we ask you to provide MCAT scores to Dordt.
    2. Advising departments regarding curricular issues pertaining to medical school preparation. Because the pre-medical program is not a major, we do not have direct control of the curriculum. That's fine. Medical schools do not want students who have taken a curriculum geared specifically for pre-medical students; they want liberally educated students with a strong and broad science background. Thus the committee acts by advising departments how to best serve pre-medical students within their curriculums.

Other Health Care Professions

There are a variety of opportunities in the health professions. Below is a brief description of several different health professions. These illustrate opportunities you may not have considered or been aware of.

Medical Doctor (M.D.)

Physicians are trained to provide acute and preventative care to patients, including diagnosing disease, supervising care, prescribing and delivering treatment. There are 24 different specialties within medicine, including the more generalist areas of internal medicine, general pediatrics, and family practice. A student's choice of specialty usually occurs during the third year of medical training. As an undergraduate, students take a series of courses in the basic sciences. Medical school training takes four years, followed by a period of residency (supervised training), usually lasting at least two years, in a specialty.

Osteopathic Physician (D.O.)

Osteopathic medicine is based on a system of manual manipulations of the musculoskeletal system which act to aid the body's own ability to resist and overcome disease. A core aspect of this philosophy is that the body must be treated as a whole, with the result that osteopathic medicine has a strong primary care emphasis. In the U.S., osteopathic physicians are trained in all aspects of modern medicine and are accepted as equals to M.D.'s in terms of medical licensing and practice. The period of education is similar to M.D.'s; four years of graduate education followed by residency in a specialty.

Dentist (D.D.S. or D.M.D.)

Dentists diagnose and treat diseases and provide preventative care, surgical restoration, and aesthetic improvement of the hard and soft tissues of the mouth. Most dentists are generalists, but there are a number of specialties available. After college, dentists take a four-year graduate program leading to the D.D.S. or D.M.D. degree. General practitioners can enter practice with no further training while specialists with take on postdoctoral training.

Optometrist (O.D. or D.O.)

A Doctor of Optometry is an independent primary health care provider who examines, diagnoses, treats, and manages diseases and disorders of the visual system, the eye and associated structures. Among the services optometrists render are: prescribing glasses and contact lenses, rehabilitation of the visually impaired, and the diagnosis and treatment of ocular diseases. The D.O. degree requires completion of a four-year graduate program.

Podiatric Physician (D.P.M.)

Podiatric physicians specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of diseases and disorders of the foot and ankle. They care for patients with poor circulation, gout, arthritis, diabetes, structural deformities, poor locomotion, and athletic injuries. Education involves four years of graduate education and usually one or more years of residency.

Chiropractic (D.C.)

Chiropractic is a natural form of health care with a rich history. Spinal manipulation, chiropractic's primary treatment, is used instead of drugs or surgery to promote the body's natural healing process. Chiropractic colleges require a minimum of four academic years of professional resident study, including clinical experience under strict supervision, preceded by a minimum of two years of college work with a curriculum concentrated in the biological and basic sciences, and clinical disciplines.

Veterinarian (D.V.M.)

Doctors of Veterinary Medicine are medical professionals, whose primary responsibility is protecting the health and welfare of animals and people. Veterinarians diagnose and control animal diseases, treat sick and injured animals, prevent the transmission of animal diseases to people, and advise owners on proper care of pets and livestock. They ensure a safe food supply by maintaining the health of food animals. Veterinarians are also involved in wildlife preservation and conservation and public health of the human population. Training involves four years of graduate education and an additional one to four years of residency. (See Dr. Bajema for more information regarding veterinary medicine.)

Physician Assistant (P.A.)

Physician Assistants are health professionals licensed to practice medicine with physician supervision. Within the physician/PA relationship, P.A.s exercise autonomy in medical decision making and provide a broad range of diagnostic and therapeutic services. P.A.s are generalists in medicine, emphasizing primary care. P.A.s are qualified to: take medical histories, order laboratory tests, diagnose and treat illness, give medical advice, counsel patients, perform physical exams, assist in surgery, and set fractures. Admission requirements vary depending on whether the program is a baccalaureate program (B.S.) or graduate program (usually M.S.). Most require coursework similar to pre-medical programs. Many programs require or encourage prior experience in health care (as much as six months full-time). The programs are typically two years in length, with one year emphasizing classroom study and one year emphasizing clinical study. (See Dr. Keryakos for more information on becoming a physician assistant.)

Medical Technology (B.A. or B.S.)

The medical technologist is an allied health professional who is qualified by academic and practical training to provide service in clinical laboratory science. Medical technologists develop procedures for collecting, processing, and analyzing biological specimens and other substances; and perform analytical tests of body fluids, cells, and other substances; and establish and perform preventive and corrective maintenance of equipment and instruments. Dordt University offers a major in medical technology that involves three years of pre-clinical education at Dordt and one year of clinical training at a school of medical technology. (See Dr. Jelsma for more information on medical technology.)

Pharmacist (B. Pharm. or Pharm.D.)

Pharmacy is a profession which cares for patients' drug-related needs in community pharmacies, hospitals, long-term care facilities, and home health care settings. In addition, pharmacists serve the community by providing information and advice on health and by referring patients to other sources of help and care, such as physicians, when necessary. Many pharmacy programs include two years of pre-pharmacy college courses followed by four years of a pharmacy program leading to a doctor of pharmacy degree.

Physical Therapist (P.T.)

Physical therapy is a health profession whose primary purpose is the promotion of optimal human health and function through the application of scientific principles to prevent, identify, assess, correct, or alleviate acute or prolonged movement dysfunction. Physical therapy programs require completion of a B.A. program including a series of preprofessional courses in the sciences followed by a masters degree program in physical therapy. (See Coach Hanson for more information on physical therapy.)

Occupational Therapist (O.T.)

Occupational therapy is the health profession that uses everyday activities as the means of helping people to achieve independence. A variety of rehabilitative, educational, social and vocational activities is used to treat adults and children with disabilities resulting from physical injury, disease, developmental delays, aging, and psychological dysfunctions. Occupational therapists help individuals to adapt or improve performance in areas of work, school, independent living or play. The goal for all patients is to attain the maximum level of independence and productivity possible. Occupational therapy programs require completion of a B.A. program including a series of preprofessional courses in the sciences followed by a masters degree program in occupational therapy. (See Dr. Christians for more information on physical therapy.)

Registered Nurse (R.N. or B.S.N.)

Nurses are the primary providers of hospital patient care, and deliver most of the nation's long-term care but also provide care and services in private medical practices, public health agencies, public clinics, home health care, and nursing homes. Dordt offers a program in cooperation with St. Luke's Hospital in Sioux City, Iowa. A Bachelor of Science in Nursing (B.S.N.) can be completed at Dordt following the St. Luke's program. (See Dr. Bomgaars for more information on nursing.)

It is important to note that all of the above professions require some type of license to practice. To obtain a license, you must pass one or more exams administered by a state or national board which sets the standards for each profession.

In addition to the above clinical areas, it is also possible to become a research scientist in any of the life sciences or health fields. This can be done in conjunction clinical programs (e.g., many medical schools offer a combined M.D.-Ph.D. program, called the Medical Scientist Training Program) or as a pure research program leading to a M.S. or Ph.D. degree. The entrance requirements are as varied as the programs, so careful planning is a must.

Additional Resources:

  1. Pre-medical Advisory Committee members: J. Keryakos (chair), T. Jelsma, and R. Eppinga are willing to provide advice and assistance wherever possible. Dr. Keryakos is most acquainted with pre-medical issues.
  2. The library has on reserve several MCAT preparation books.
  3. The links page has links to a number of web resources, including college information, MCAT information and advice, and the like.
  4. Upperclass premed students are valuable resources. They have done shadowing and volunteer work. They have gone on mission trips. They are studying for or have taken the MCAT. They are applying to medical school. They know a lot and are usually willing to share. Take advantage of these people.