Students interested in becoming a physician should be aware that it is a long and challenging—
but rewarding—path. The long path—at least 11 years—requires extraordinary dedication and
patience, as well as excellent grades and test scores. Many ask themselves the question: why
become a doctor? Why do you want to be a doctor? It stems from a desire to learn and the
compassion to help people, but it’s also helpful to do research as far as why be a doctor before
deciding if this is the path for you.
Students who decide on a medical career should explore all the options available, get real world experience in the field, and have meaningful and informative conversations with physicians and other medical professionals. The steps to becoming a doctor—undergraduate study, medical school, and residency—are detailed below.
Consider everything well—it is a big decision to start down the medical path. If you think you might want to be a physician, ask yourself some questions:
- Are you fascinated by human anatomy and the biological sciences?
- Do you want a challenging and rewarding career?
- Do you value the choice of a wide variety of career paths and opportunities?
- Are you dedicated to helping people lead healthier, happier lives?
- Are you an excellent student who wants to continue learning?
If you answered “yes” to one or more of these questions, then a career as a physician may be for you
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO BECOME A DOCTOR?
You might be curious to know how long does it take to become a doctor and how to become a doctor? Ideally, you should start preparing while still in high school. Excellent high school students should look for a university with a good premed program and do their best to gain admission. Typically “premed'' is not a major, but rather a set of prerequisite courses needed for medical school. A premed program typically includes:
- Biochemistry (one semester)
- Biology (two semesters with a lab)
- English (two semesters)
- General chemistry (two semesters with a lab)
- Math (two semesters)
- Organic chemistry (two semesters with lab)
- Physics (two semesters with a lab)
- Psychology and Statistics are sometimes required
Premed students must achieve strong grades in these courses. During the process of how to become a doctor, it is important to keep in mind the importance of getting good grades. Grade point average (GPA) is one of the critical factors of acceptance to Caribbean medical school. Students can major in whatever they like if they take the necessary premed courses. Most premed students, however, major in such hard sciences as biology, biochemistry, biomedical sciences, or chemistry. While in university, premed students should also participate in such related extracurricular activities as:
- Assisting in faculty research projects
- Participating in summer health education programs
- Shadowing a physician
- Working in emergency medical services (EMS)
- Volunteering in health programs
Your premed classes and medical experiences help you prepare for the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT), a standardized, multiple-choice exam administered by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC). The test is required for students wanting to enter a fouryear medical school—such as American University of Anguilla School of Medicine (AUA). Students should take time to study MCAT preparation guides, take MCAT practice tests, and consider an MCAT prep course in order to position themselves to earn a strong score. The test has four sections:
- Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems
- Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems
- Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior
- Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills
With a high GPA, medical experience, and excellent MCAT scores, students must decide which
type of medical school they want to attend—schools that offer a traditional Doctor of Medicine
(MD) degree, or schools that offer a Doctor of Osteopathy (DO) degree. DOs and MDs complete
much of the same training, but DOs also learn osteopathic manipulative treatment (OMT) of the
musculoskeletal system as a diagnostic and treatment tool. Most medical schools, including AUA,
offer MD degree programs.
Another part of the process of how to become a doctor is preparing applications to multiple medical schools. This can be a costly and time consuming process. The American Medical Association (AMA) reports that students apply to an average of 16 medical schools. Applications are done in stages, with primary applications, secondary applications, and interviews all coming before acceptance.
Some universities offer combined baccalaureate-MD programs, which are partnerships between an undergraduate institution and the Caribbean medical school at the same university or a nearby university. These highly competitive programs can bypass the difficult application process. For university graduates who want to pause a while or add to their undergraduate education before applying to Caribbean medical schools, a “gap year” may include working in a medical field or attending a health care master’s program or postbaccalaureate premedical program. A gap year can take place over more than one calendar year.
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