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Health Professions Advising FAQs

Who falls into the category of "pre-health"?

Pre-health students demonstrate a potential interest in pursuing graduate-level study in a health field such as allopathic (M.D.) or osteopathic (D.O.) medicine, physician assistant, dentistry, optometry, podiatry, veterinary medicine, pharmacy, nursing, physical therapy, occupational therapy, etc.

Are there "pre-med" or "pre-dent" majors at Lehigh?

Because health professional schools are looking for students who have well-rounded educational backgrounds, there are no “pre-med” or pre-dent” majors at Lehigh for our traditional four-year students. Pre-health students have the opportunity to major in any area, provided they also complete the prerequisite coursework set forth by the medical, dental, or other professional program in which they are interested. Choosing a major is an individual decision. Pre-health students must demonstrate an aptitude for science (the basis of the curriculum at health professional schools) but should choose a major they enjoy and in which they can demonstrate scholarship. Admissions committees understand that students can obtain the skills necessary to be an effective health professional (i.e., able to acquire, synthesize, apply, and communicate information successfully) through the study of a wide range of disciplines, from philosophy to mechanical engineering to finance to behavioral neuroscience. Committees look for applicants demonstrating such attributes as intellectual curiosity, self-disciplined study, and a willingness to accept challenging academic material.

What about preparing for a career as an allied health professional such as a physical therapist, physician assistant, occupational therapist, etc., at Lehigh?

Allied health schools also look for specific prerequisite coursework. They typically require at least one year of biology and chemistry, but the remaining prerequisites are not as standardized across programs as are the pre-medical and pre-dental prerequisites. Students must clarify the requirements of each individual program in which they are interested, which they can do in collaboration with the pre-health advisor.

How are pre-health students advised at Lehigh?

Students at Lehigh have both a major advisor (a faculty person within their major discipline) and the pre-health advisor. The pre-health advisor works closely with students to help them integrate their goals and interests with their academic and co-curricular experiences to become well-rounded and competitive candidates for a career in the health professions. Lehigh’s Health Professions Advisory Committee (HPAC), composed of faculty members from the life and social sciences and engineering along with the pre-health advisor, offers academic guidance for pre-health students. Students work with HPAC to obtain a committee letter (an institutional letter of support) for their application to medical, dental, optometry, and podiatry schools (it is not required for the other health professional programs). Students should contact Center for Career & Professional Development (careercenter@lehigh.edu; 610-758-3710) to be enrolled in the Pre-Health Advising Course Site for up-to-date information about being pre-health at Lehigh and to schedule individual appointments with the pre-health advisor.

What are the pre-med prerequisite courses?

In addition to major and university course requirements, pre-med students are encouraged to take the following courses to prepare properly for the MCAT and to fulfill the requirements of most US medical schools. It is the responsibility of each student to determine the course requirements for the specific med schools to which they wish to apply. The courses listed below, however, will fulfill the requirements of most med schools and will prepare students for the MCAT:

3 semesters (with labs) biology (bio cores 1-3)                       2 semesters calculus (rec.)

2 semesters (with labs) general chemistry                               1 semester statistics               

2 semesters (with labs) organic chemistry                               1 semester psychology                       

2 semesters (with labs) physics                                                    1 semester sociology

2 semesters biochemistry (lab not needed)                             2 semesters English                                                                                            

Note: For a score of 4 or 5 on the AP Biology exam, Lehigh will provide general distribution science credits (4). This will not satisfy the pre-med biology requirement; bio core 1 (BIOS 41/42) must still be taken. Acceptance of AP credit for prerequisite courses is not standardized across the medical schools. In general, if students are going to utilize AP credit for premed prerequisite courses, they are strongly advised to take at least one higher-level course in that discipline. Consult the pre-health advisor for more information.

What are the prerequisite courses for other health professional programs besides medical school?

Health professional programs such as dentistry, physician assistant, veterinary medicine, physical therapy, etc., all require a strong foundation in the basic sciences, math, and English.  The required coursework for these professions, however, differs not only from discipline but also from school to school.  Students should plan their curriculum with input from the pre-health adviso and the information in the Pre-Health Advising Course Site and the websites of individual professional schools.

Dentistry. Predental students should take, in addition to their major and university requirements, the following courses: two semesters each (with labs) of biology, general chemistry, organic chemistry, and physics, along with two semesters of English and calculus (recommended).  Biochemistry is highly recommended by many dental schools (and required by some).

Physician Assistant. The prerequisite coursework for PA schools varies, but most programs require two semesters each of general chemistry and biology (with labs), math (calculus is recommended), English, and human anatomy and physiology.  Many require courses in psychology, upper-level biology, and other humanities and social sciences.  These courses must all be taken in addition to major and university requirements.

Veterinary Medicine. The prerequisite coursework for veterinary schools varies, but most programs require two semesters each (with labs) of general chemistry, organic chemistry, biology, physics, calculus, and English.  These courses must all be taken in addition to major and university requirements.

Physical Therapy. The prerequisite coursework for physical therapy programs varies, but most require two semesters (with labs) of general chemistry, biology, physics, and English.  Additionally, many require coursework in human anatomy and physiology (with labs), statistics, and psychology, among others.  These courses must all be taken in addition to major and university requirements.

Occupational Therapy. The prerequisite courses for occupational therapy programs vary, but most programs require coursework in biology, anatomy and physiology, psychology, and statistics.  These courses must all be taken in addition to major and university requirements.

Optometry. The prerequisite courses for optometry schools vary, but most require coursework (with labs) in general chamistry, biology, physics, calculus, English, human anatomy and physiology, statistics, and psychology.  These courses must all be taken in addition to major and university requirements.

Podiatric Surgery. The prerequisite courses for podiatry schools vary, but most require two semesters each (with labs) of general and organic chemistry, biology, physics, and English.  These courses must all be taken in addition to major and university requirements.

Pharmacy. The prerequisite courses for pharmacy programs vary significantly, but most require substantial preparation in the natural sciences.  These courses must all be taken in addition to major and university requirements.

What else do you need to be thinking about?

As a pre-health student, it is important to be academically successful throughout your career at Lehigh. This means learning and implementing effective time management skills to balance your academics and your personal life. Students should also plan to participate in meaningful experiences relevant to health care, such as research, independent study, volunteering, and community service.

Who can you contact for more information?

Mary Ellen B. Raposa, MEd, NCC, LPC, Associate Director for Pre-Professional and Pre-Graduate Study, The Center for Career & Professional Development at (610) 758-3710.