SPU Pre Med Program
Cynthia Fitch (center), associate professor of biology, is a key component of Seattle Pacific’s astounding med school acceptance rate. Her secret is her cell phone: Fitch is always on call to answer students’s questions about the application process. Photos by Nick Onken.
A Perfect Score for SPU Premeds
100% It’s a figure that gets your attention. Would you believe that it represents the 2006 medical school acceptance rate for Seattle Pacific premed students? That’s enough to make your head spin.
In each of the last five years, while on average only 50 percent of America’s premed students were accepted into medical school, SPU achieved acceptance rates of 90 to 100 percent.
How can Seattle Pacific students achieve such incredible success?
Let’s step into the office of Cynthia Fitch, associate professor of biology and coordinator of the pre-professional health sciences program.
Oh, wait — Fitch is on her cell again. We’ll have to wait while she answers a caller’s questions about how to prepare a knockout medical school application. Fitch’s students think of her as an on-call doctor, ready to prescribe whatever they might need along the challenging path to their future in health care.
“In each of the last five years, while on average only 50 percent of America’s premed students were accepted into medical school, SPU achieved acceptance rates of 90 to 100 percent.”
Fitch concludes her “express counseling session,” welcomes us, and reveals the secret of SPU students’ success: “We have an intense advising process along the way, encouraging constant self-evaluation. Students must ask themselves, ‘Am I really ready to pay the price and make a lifelong commitment to such a challenging discipline?’”
During SPU’s rigorous process of counseling and advising would-be doctors and other health care professionals, students consider carefully whether they really have the guts, the gumption, and the dedication to endure. What distinguishes students who are up to the challenge? “They understand that they need to stay focused on their goals, dig in, and work hard,” says Fitch. “They almost have to put earplugs in and shut out those who tell them, ‘You’re not going to make it.’”
Fitch is excited about a new freshman overview course that presents many possible health care vocations for students who want to change the world. “My seniors used to tell me, ‘I wish I would have known that there were so many choices other than just medicine.’ Now, a student walks in the door and gets an overview — an introduction to the health sciences: Here’s pharmacy. Here’s optometry. Here’s dentistry. And here are the classes you’d take for each one.”
New students hear testimonies from graduates who talk about medical school, or other kinds of health science graduate programs, and about what it’s like in the profession. “I had a young man who went through two quarters, and then said, ‘You know, I don’t want to be a physician after all. I want to be a teacher.’ That’s the motivation for our new advising classes. Each person has to discover their role, where they fit, and God’s calling for their life.”
Good intentions, she says, are not enough: “A lot of students really want to help people, but medicine isn’t their calling. I say to them, ‘Don’t tell me you want to be a doctor. Show me.’”
By Jeffrey Overstreet [jeffreyo@spu.edu]
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