More than half of the physicians in Louisiana began their academic careers in the LSU College of Science. Our alumni include a litany of successful obstetricians, podiatrists, surgeons, pediatricians and general practitioners, not to mention successful graduates in dentistry and optometry. What sets the LSU College of Science apart from its peers? Many credit our high-achieving students and carefully crafted coursework, supported by an experienced group of advisors, counselors, faculty and practicing medical professionals. This approach has helped LSU set a national standard for university pre-health programs and solidifies the College of Science’s reputation for producing quality graduates who are prepared for the rigor of professional health programs.
Bridging the Gap Between Theory and Practice
A key to our students’ success is the opportunities for them to receive first-hand, in-field experience through job shadowing, externships and cooperative learning opportunities.
This year, Cynthia Peterson, dean of the LSU College of Science, partnered with Dr. Erich Sturgis, a 1985 graduate of LSU’s biochemistry program and professor in the Department of Head and Neck Surgery at MD Anderson Cancer Center, to make the MD Anderson Cancer Center Summer Externship for Undergraduate Students available to LSU students. This program provides an opportunity for high-performing students to gain valuable insights into medical training and care delivery, and to experience oncology as a potential area of specialization. Five students were selected to participate in the program this past summer. Among the externs selected from LSU were Nicole Dominique, a microbiology and English literature double major, and Harley Bordelon, a biological sciences major with a minor in psychology.
“This was my first experience working in a hospital setting,” says Dominique. “My month at MD Anderson opened my eyes to medical specialties that I was not initially considering, but overall, it reinforced to me that medicine is the field I want to be in after I graduate.”
During the externship, Dominique was paired with an MD Anderson anesthesiologist. This pairing allowed her to interact with other anesthesiologists, radiologists, surgeons, nurses and a variety of other medical professionals.
“All of the people I interacted with were very willing to help and teach, but I think I really enjoyed interacting with the anesthesiologists and nurse anesthetists because it allowed me to better understand the network of medical professionals at the hospital,” says Dominique.
Boderlon who is currently applying to medical schools across the south for admission in August 2017, rotated through the MD Anderson orthopedic oncology department observing the clinic settings in orthopedic oncology and sarcoma centers.
“This experience showcased the interconnections of academic medicine: teaching and practice. It also provided new motivation to continue my journey,” says Bordelon. “I hope to one day be in the position to foster a learning atmosphere to future residents and medical students, similar to the one at MD Anderson.”
Promoting Diversity in Medicine
According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, or AAMC, report on undergraduate institutions supplying applicants to US medical schools by applicant race and ethnicity for 2015-16, LSU ranks in the top one percent in the nation in total number of African American and Hispanic applicants. LSU is making strides towards increasing the number of women and minority healthcare professionals, but on a national scale there continues to be a need for more diversity. According to AAMC data, the total number of students enrolled in U.S. medical schools from 2016-16 is 86,746. African Americans make up 5,505 (6.3 percent) of this population and Hispanics only 4,401 (5 percent).
For Kristian Black, 2015 biochemistry graduate at LSU, it was the need for more diversity in the medical community that attracted him to medical school.
“I took it personally that people of color made up such a small percentage of providers, not only in my community, but nationwide,” says Black in an online interview posted by the AAMC. “As a first generation college student, I was not and I’m still not familiar with the higher education process. I’m learning everyday so I can better instruct other first generation students.”
Today, Black is pursuing his MD at the University of Michigan Medical School and anticipates graduating in 2019.
“The LSU College of Science gave me one-on-one application advice that motivated me to challenge myself and push the competitive envelope,” says Black. “The University of Michigan was my best offer, hands down. It was a top ten university, had an inclusive family feel, and they showed determination in recruiting me.”
Dr. Cheree Schwartzenburg, a 1991 biochemistry graduate from LSU, is a practicing obstetrician and gynecologist with Schwartzenburg Lafranca & Guidry Obstetrics in Baton Rouge.
“LSU and the College of Science provided the perfect complement of academic excellence and personal attention that allowed me to pursue my career in medicine,” says Dr. Schwartzenburg, who also served as chief of staff at Woman’s Hospital in Baton Rouge, the highest elected leadership position among the medical staff.
College of Science students make up more than half of the students in LSU’s professional health programs. Our students are also accepted at other prestigious medical schools throughout the nation including Baylor College of Medicine, Meharry Medical College, Vanderbilt, University of Michigan, University of Kentucky, Tulane and Texas A&M.
“We start working with students as soon as they arrive, to begin preparing them for the process of gaining admission,” says Robby Bowen, newly named director of pre-health programs at LSU. “We have information sessions specifically for first-year students, to give them a four-year plan of what they should focus on each year to develop into competitive applicants.”
Bowen serves as the key advisor for all LSU students pursuing health careers with the exception of nursing and allied health fields such as physical therapy and pharmacy. Bowen also chairs the university’s Premedical/Predental Review Committee, a team of faculty, advisors and healthcare professionals that helps students navigate the application process for professional health schools. The review committee also writes hundreds of letters of recommendation each year for students preparing their medical and dental school applications.
“LSU has a very successful and long standing review committee that is well respected around the nation,” says Bowen. “Admission deans rely on the review committee to evaluate the quality of the student’s record in ways in which they are unable and give them clear insights. They know the committee evaluation is going to be thorough and unbiased.”
In the 2015-16 academic year, 212 students used the Premedical/Predental Review Committee and 65 percent were accepted to medical schools throughout the U.S., which is higher than LSU’s overall success rate.
Proof Positive of Success
Like most universities, LSU does not have a “pre-health major,” but has a program of study that can be incorporated into just about any major. The university’s acceptance rate is proof positive of the program’s success. Last year, applications to medical school came from 26 different departments at LSU. For the 2015-16 entering medical class, over 83 percent of LSU’s accepted medical school applicants were graduates of the College of Science. Overall, 323 LSU students applied to medical school and 54 percent were accepted, which is significantly higher than the national average of 42 percent.
Dental School and Other Health Professions
Among the hundreds of students pursuing medical careers at LSU, a significant number are opting to apply to dental school and other professional health programs. In 2015-16, 64 LSU students applied to dental school and 58 percent were accepted. This rate surpasses the national dental school acceptance rate of 47 percent.
More than 300 LSU students affiliated with LSU applied to allopathic medical schools, but not all were in a formal LSU degree-granting program. Eighty applied to osteopathic medical schools and 18 were accepted. All three who applied to podiatry school were accepted.
Support from Experienced Faculty and Staff
“Our success is grounded in our commitment to providing our students in the pre-health program of study with the coursework, advising and experiential learning opportunities that prepare them to be successful in medical school and other professional health programs,” says Cynthia Peterson, dean, LSU College of Science. “We also have experienced faculty who keep up with the latest course requirements for students pursuing health-related disciplines, and advising staff who stay abreast of current trends in medical school admissions, so that our students have the most recent information about school application processes.”
Bowen serves on the executive board of the National Association of Advisors for the Health Professors, or NAAHP, and is the current president of the regional Southeastern Association of the NAAHP.
“Through my involvement with these organizations, I have firsthand information from deans around the country about admission trends,” says Bowen. Medical school admission deans know that LSU students are going to be well prepared. We are committed to providing excellent advising and opportunities along with high caliber students.”
High Achieving Students
College of Science students are among LSU’s top academic performers. Our majors represent the largest number of students in the LSU Honors College (more than 26 percent) and nearly 40 percent of LSU's University Medalists, graduating seniors with the highest grade-point averages.
More than 75 percent of the students in the College of Science are biological sciences majors[ many of whom plan to attend medical school. Here’s a snapshot of a successful LSU applicant to a professional health program.
The College of Science continues to set itself apart from its contemporaries in its ability to prepare students to be successful healthcare professionals. The support provided by our staff, the expertise of our faculty, and partnerships with established medical institutions and medical professionals have provided a strong foundation for our students’ success.
If you are interested in learning more about the pre-health program of study in the LSU College of Science, go to science.lsu.edu to schedule an appointment with an advisor. You can also follow us on twitter (@prehealth) or join the LSU Pre-Med /Pre-Dent community page on facebook.