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Health Science Intensive Program Gives Students Another Chance at Med School

Ambareen Ahmed applied to medical school last year but didn’t get in.

Rather than give up on her dream of becoming a doctor, Ahmed, 25, enrolled in the inaugural class of the Post-Baccalaureate Health Science Intensive (HSI) Program at Johns Hopkins University. She is hoping that good grades coupled with solid advising from professors and the program director serve as a springboard to medical school when she applies again next spring.

“This is what I always wanted to do,” Ahmed said. “It makes me determined not to give up on it.”

The Post-Baccalaureate Health Science Intensive Program started at Johns Hopkins in June. It is part of the Krieger School of Arts & Sciences Advanced Academic Programs.

All courses are held on the Montgomery County Campus. Seventeen students are enrolled in the inaugural class.

The idea behind the program is to give students the opportunity to enroll in rigorous courses in the life sciences to prove their aptitude to study medicine. The hope is that after completing HSI, students will be more attractive medical school candidates, said Dr. Alexandra Tan, program director.

Students studying in classroomThat’s why Ahmed is enrolled. The Germantown resident received her bachelor’s degree in biology from the George Washington University in 2010. She said she applied to medical school but underestimated the competitiveness of the admissions process. Her grades and scores weren’t high enough. But Ahmed said she loves studying the human body and is interested in medical innovation and research and still wants to be a doctor.

Ahmed knows enrolling in HSI doesn’t come with a guarantee of medical school acceptance, but it does come with a degree. Students who successfully complete their coursework earn a master’s in biotechnology education, an attractive degree in the Maryland region.

Some students in HSI have not yet applied to medical school but know their undergraduate college grades could have been better.

Priyanka Chugh, 21, is from New Jersey and came to Johns Hopkins for the HSI program. The New York University graduate majored in psychology and graduated this past spring. She hasn’t applied to medical school yet nor has she taken the MCAT.

“I looked at my GPA and I thought there is no way I am getting in,” Chugh said. “I was being honest with myself.” As for the MCAT, she said, “I thought if I take this test right now, I’m not going to do well.”

Chugh said she is getting outstanding counseling from Tan and is learning from the group projects. The daughter of doctors, Chugh said she wants to go into the medical profession because of the impact she can have on people’s lives. HSI, she said, hopefully will help her reach her goals.

“This has definitely helped me develop a better work ethic,” Chugh said. “I am forced to schedule my time and focus on what I really want in my life.”

“They really have to do their part,” Tan said. “I am offering an opportunity to put your best foot forward and work with someone who knows what they are doing.”

The average age of students in HSI is 25. The ideal applicants, Tan said, are students who have worked out any prior academic problems and are passionate, driven and genuine about their desire to be doctors.

Students in the 12-month program are required to take Biochemistry, Cell Biology and Molecular Biology, plus four science electives. In addition to their science classes, students in  the HSI program take three non-science courses: Communication for Health Care Professionals; Building and Leading Teams in Health Care; and the Psychosocial Determinants of Health, Implications on Diagnosis. Learning how to communicate and work in a team are key skills in the medical profession, Tan said.

The Building and Leading Teams class is taught by Dr. Roberto Trujillo, president and chief executive of TruBios, a company located on the Johns Hopkins Montgomery County Campus.

Tan accepts applicants on a rolling basis. She hopes to have at least 40 students in the program in 2014.

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