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New prescription for aspiring doctors

Sally Herships Feb 20, 2012

Adriene Hill:  Health care is changing fast and medical school is no exception. The group that runs the Medical College Admissions Test — or MCAT — is rolling out a new exam in 2015. It’ll still test hard science skills. But the new exam will also ask wannabe doctors about the psychological and social underpinnings of medicine.

Marketplace’s Sally Herships explains.

Sally Herships: Math skills? Great. biochemistry — fantastic. But hey doc, how ’bout some people skills?

Dr. Lee Goldman is dean of Columbia University’s medical school.

Lee Goldman: Medicine isn’t just about finding people who can memorize the most facts it’s about finding people who can help patients and people the most.

Which is why the Association of American Medical Colleges will add a new section on social and behavioral sciences to the MCAT.

Dr. Ronald Franks is chair of the committee that recommended the changes. As the population becomes more diverse, it’s important for physicians to be culturally sensitive. Some patients may need a treatment which involves their family or accommodates their religion.

Ronald Franks: There’s no sense writing a prescription for someone if they don’t follow through and get the prescription filled because it doesn’t fit with their beliefs on how their disease should be addressed.

The new test will take six-and-a-half hours — two hours longer than now. But Columbia’s Dr. Goldman says there are some skills no written exam can test for. That’s why most medical schools require an interview.

In New York, I’m Sally Herships for Marketplace.

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