The undergraduate premedical experience in the United States: a critical review

Katherine Y. Lin1, Sonali Parnami2, Andrea Fuhrel-Forbis2, Renee R. Anspach1, Brett Crawford3 and Raymond G. De Vries2

1Department of Sociology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, USA

2Center for Bioethics and Social Sciences in Medicine, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, USA

3School of Business Administration, Wayne State University, Detroit, MI, USA

Submitted: 31/08/2012; Accepted: 26/01/2013; Published: 10/02/2013

Int J Med Educ. 2013; 4:26-37; doi: 10.5116/ijme.5103.a8d3

© 2013 Katherine Y. Lin et al. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use of work provided the original work is properly cited.

Objectives: To better understand the consequences of the premedical years for the character of (future) physicians by critically reviewing the empirical research done on the undergraduate premedical experience in the United States.

Methods: We searched ERIC, JSTOR, PubMed, Scopus, ISI Web of Science, and PsycINFO from the earliest available date for empirical, peer-reviewed studies of premedical students in the United States. We then used qualitative methods to uncover overall themes present in this literature.

Results: The initial literature search identified 1,168 articles, 19 of which were included for review. Reviewed articles were published between 1976 and 2010 with the majority published prior to 1990. Articles covered two broad topics: explaining attrition from the premedical track, and investigating the personality traits and stereotypes of premedical students. Self-selection bias and high attrition rates were among the limitations of the reviewed articles.

Conclusions: There is very little current research on the premedical experience. Given the importance of the premedical years on the process of becoming a medical professional, it is imperative that we do more and better research on how the premedical experience shapes future physicians.