Why is studying chemistry at school or college essential to becoming a doctor?


A few posts back I did a piece on the biology of physics.

It was based on a report published by the Institute of Physics in October called ‘It’s Different for Girls’, which provides evidence that girls in English mixed state schools are far less likely to study A-level Physics than girls in single sex independent schools. I went on to comment about a possible link between studying the 3 core sciences at A-level (biology, chemistry and physics) and entry to medical school. This post will now expand more on the issue.

The British Medical Association, the very powerful trade union for doctors in the UK, has a list of qualifications requirements for entry to UK medical schools in 2013 . Out of 31 medical schools only 8 do NOT require candidates from England, Wales or Northern Ireland to have studied A-level Chemistry (students from Scotland have different qualifications but generally fit this case).

There are of course some exceptions to improve access to the medical profession from underrepresented socioeconomic groups. King’s College London School of Medicine, one of the largest providers of healthcare training in Europe, runs a special undergraduate course for students who come from non-selective state schools in its catchment area and may not have the same high grade levels as those on the normal route. Not surprisingly there are about 450 applications for the 50 places on the course every year. But they still MUST have A-level Chemistry to get in.

So in the UK and probably many other countries chemistry is the gatekeeper subject for undergraduate medicine, with biology coming second and physics back in third place, if featuring at all. Saying that, in the US a top medical school runs a special course for humanities undergraduates who have dropped sciences after high school but still want to go into postgraduate medicine – they apparently often manage to catch up with more chemical peers and can have better communication skills. Food for thought.

With this in mind I would like to hold a poll on why you think studying chemistry at school or college is essential to becoming a doctor. There is one version for females and one for males to separate out any gender differences, but the questions are the same, if perhaps a bit simplistic – this is not meant to be scientific and please forgive the stereotypical templates!

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5 thoughts on “Why is studying chemistry at school or college essential to becoming a doctor?

  1. I’m sure there are many reasons for this, but I was told that it’s because the medical degree covers all the biology you need to know, and goes over all the human biology you learn at A-level, however they expect medical students to already have a solid understanding of chemistry as they don’t teach this during the medical degree…

    Plus, A-level biology, although it teaches a lot of human biology, rarely talks about medical conditions or the treatment of conditions. Personally I think they’re equally as important…

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