A Liberal Arts Education as Preparation for Medical School: How Is it Valued? How Do Graduates Perform?

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Purpose.This study examines the utility of a liberal arts education on medical students' preparation and performance.Method.Data included a survey of admission committee members, a preadmission survey of two cohorts of students, and academic performance and extracurricular involvement during medical school.Results.Some admission committee members perceived applicants with liberal arts backgrounds to have certain advantages. These students preferred “discussing issues,” and showed an initial preference for the practice of psychiatry. Despite entering with lower total grade-point average and being less involved in extracurricular activities, they were more likely to receive formal commendation and be elected to Alpha Omega Alpha.Conclusions.Although similarities outweigh differences, students with liberal arts backgrounds may benefit from an educational breadth well-suited for practicing the “art of medicine.”

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