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Suitability Of An Undergraduate Curriculum In Biomedical Engineering For Premedical Study

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2008 Annual Conference & Exposition


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Publication Date

June 22, 2008

Start Date

June 22, 2008

End Date

June 25, 2008



Conference Session

Careers and Professional Development in BME

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Page Count


Page Numbers

13.1119.1 - 13.1119.7



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Paper Authors


William Guilford University of Virginia Orcid 16x16

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William Guilford is an Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering and Undergraduate Program Director at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. He received his B.S. in Biology and Chemistry from Saint Francis College in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and his Ph.D. in Physiology from the University of Arizona in Tucson. Will's research focuses on the biomechanics of single molecules involved in muscle contraction and cell movement.

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Katherine Bishop University of Virginia

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Katherine L. Bishop is the Undergraduate Program Coordinator for the degree programs in Biomedical Engineering at the University of Virginia. Kitter received her B.A. in German and English from Washington and Lee University.

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William Walker University of Virginia

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William F. Walker is an Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Virginia. Bill received his B.S.E. and Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering from Duke University. His research explores the development of new methods that use ultrasonic waves to interrogate tissue properties, new signal processing methods to enhance ultrasound image quality, and novel system hardware to enable new experimental and clinical applications.

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J. Milton Adams University of Virginia

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J. Milton Adams is Vice Provost for Academic Programs, Professor of Biomedical Engineering and
Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Virginia. He received his B.S. in Electrical Engineering from Virginia Tech, and his
Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering from the University of Virginia.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Suitability of an Undergraduate Curriculum in Biomedical Engineering for Premedical Study

We sought to determine whether our Biomedical Engineering (BME) basic sciences curriculum would be accepted as fulfilling the de facto basic science requirements for admission to medical school, with a particular emphasis on our internal biology curriculum. 119 domestic medical schools were surveyed. Overall, 90% of responding medical schools responded favorably to our BME undergraduate biology curriculum. Data from MCAT scores and admissions rates support the conclusion that our program of study, and by implication that of many other BME programs, meets the requirements for medical school admissions without compromising the rigor of the engineering curriculum or requiring additional coursework beyond organic chemistry. Advanced physiology and cell biology lectures and labs are of key importance.


Academic advising for biomedical engineers presents special challenges, given the wide range of careers, graduate and professional education options that are open to them. Biomedical engineering (BME) programs generally find that a large portion of their graduates are bound for medical school. Anecdotally, it is often claimed that BME is superior as a pre-medical course of study to traditional pre-medical majors in academic preparation 1, or when measured in admission rates. Indeed, the field is rife with claims of supra-normal medical school admissions rates, with some program web sites claiming medical school admission rates of up to 90%.

Defensible quantitative data on the admission rate to medical schools of BME graduates is lacking. So too are concrete demonstrations that BME programs are truly meeting the needs of pre-medical students and the educational expectations of medical schools. Are BME programs generally meeting the educational expectations of medical schools without overloading pre-med students with additional coursework? To what extent are additional biology and chemistry courses needed to meet those requirements? Are BME majors indeed matching or exceeding the MCAT scores and admission rates of other engineering and non-engineering majors?

We sought to answer these questions for our undergraduate program in BME at the University of Virginia (UVa).

Our pre-medical curriculum

The biomedical engineering degree program requires 126 credit hours of coursework spanning the humanities, social sciences, mathematics, science, and engineering. During the first year of study all engineering students enroll as undifferentiated engineering students. Students select their major at the end of the first year. Once in the program, students work with their advisors to craft a program of study that includes 16 elective courses. The curriculum therefore offers ample room to customize study to students’ interests and career goals. One objective we had in designing our curriculum was to make it possible to complete typical pre-med math/science

Guilford, W., & Bishop, K., & Walker, W., & Adams, J. M. (2008, June), Suitability Of An Undergraduate Curriculum In Biomedical Engineering For Premedical Study Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--4430

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