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Premed Curriculum

February 22, 2010 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 88, Issue 8

I could not agree more that the standard premed curriculum is in need of adjustment (C&EN, Nov. 2, 2009, page 35). I have long argued that we should ignore how we were taught chemistry and imagine from scratch how we should teach chemistry to the majority of our customers (students interested in life and health sciences).

It is highly unlikely that we would come up with what we give them; namely, an entire year of baby physical chemistry, much of which is a review of what they learned in high school. This is followed by a year of organic chemistry that starts off with many topics of little interest or use to life scientists and runs out of time before getting to the last four chapters, those that actually deal with the organic chemistry of life.

The chemistry most relevant to life scientists is organic chemistry. Why do we make premeds wait a year to get it? When you think about it, the amount of general chemistry necessary to understand organic is minimal. Far better for these students, I think, is to teach them that part of general chemistry that they need, then dive straight into organic chemistry in the first semester of freshman year. Juniata College has been doing this for 16 years, and it not only works well for the life/health sciences students but has advantages for chemistry majors as well.

I. David Reingold
Huntingdon, Pa


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