The goal of Western University of Health Sciences’ Master of Science in Medical Sciences (MSMS) program, part of the Graduate College of Biomedical Sciences (GCBS), is to prepare underrepresented and diverse students for careers in health professions by helping them gain acceptance to professional schools, with an ultimate goal of increasing the number of health professionals in underserved areas.
MSMS students are immersed in anatomy, biological chemistry, molecular biology and other rigorous academic courses while also learning about professionalism, completing a research project, and performing community service.
Since the inception of the program, more than 230 MSMS students have transitioned to the WesternU College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific (COMP), the College of Dental Medicine (CDM), and the College of Optometry, with more than two-thirds of them considered diverse or underrepresented in medicine, said GCBS Professor and Associate Dean of Academic Affairs Christina Goode, PhD.
The MSMS Class of 2019 continues this trend, with 15 graduates entering COMP and five graduates entering CDM in fall 2019.
“Our vision for the program is to put underrepresented and diverse students into health care to close that gap in health care disparities, and we meet it,” Goode said. “Our graduates are more likely to go to rural areas and to underserved areas. They are more likely to be in concordance with their patients. At this point we have 88 percent of our graduates who are either in professional school or have graduated.”
MSMS Class of 2019 graduates are grateful for the skills and experience gained this past year. The MSMS program taught the stamina needed to be successful in professional school, said Ahmed Elsheikh, MSMS ’19, who is entering the College of Dental Medicine. He learned how to absorb the material quickly and efficiently, and gained confidence in himself.
“The MSMS program is really setting you up for success. Those who matriculated (to other WesternU programs) are doing exceptionally well,” Elsheikh said. “You gain a great deal of confidence by being around a lot of people in professional school who don’t look down on you. They came from this program. You’re around the health profession community. When you tie all this stuff together with faculty mentorship, you are highly equipped to succeed in professional school.”
GCBS graduate Joshua Chan, MSMS ’19, said the program taught him the value of flexibility. He will enter COMP in the fall, and some of the MSMS courses were taught by COMP faculty.
“We understand their expectations,” he said. “It’s great for us to learn from this experience.”
Without the MSMS program, Chan said he most likely would have been overwhelmed going into COMP.
“I knew I was not academically prepared,” he said. “I was doing research on the campus even before applying to this program. I heard through other students that a lot of the medical students who went through the MSMS program were prepared. The program helped me gain confidence going into medical school. It surpassed my expectations.”
GCBS graduate Thalia Fabian, MSMS ’19, will also enter COMP in the fall. The MSMS program helped her gain confidence in her academic abilities.
“As an undergrad, I felt so inadequate and not capable of being a doctor or getting into medical school. I had a lot of test anxiety,” she said.
The MSMS program helped her improve her study habits and techniques, so by the second semester she was not stressed about taking tests.
“It allowed me to set aside my anxiety and see how capable I am,” Fabian said. “This program has given me and my cohort an opportunity that other medical schools didn’t. They saw potential in us. They see more than GPA and an MCAT score. They saw the impact we are capable of having. We only needed this opportunity.”