Interview with Columbia Postbac Premed Program

Session 10

Session 10

In today’s episode, Ryan talks with Dr. Victoria Rosner, the Associate Dean of GS Coordinator of Academic Affairs at Columbia University’s Postbac Premed Program where Dr. Rosner leads the premedical advising team and support of postbac premed students.

Columbia University is the first and largest postbac program in the country with close to 500 students in the program altogether and focusing mostly on career changers, most of which have never taken science classes before and many of them have turned away from their successful careers in various industries but realized they had to dedicate their life to being healers.

Today, they discuss things like the growing popularity of postbac programs across the country, the types of students Columbia is looking for, and the immense support the school is offering to help their students really excel in their passion.

Here are the highlights of the conversation with Dr. Rosner:

Where most of the postbac students come from:

  • Going through undergrad thinking they’re not going to be doctors
  • Some want to be doctors but they think they can’t
  • A very diverse group

Common characteristics of postbac students:

  • Extremely driven and highly motivated
  • Not a financial decision but a “passion” decision
  • All Columbia postbac students are involved in volunteering in various clinical and research settings

Why are postbac programs becoming so popular:

  • Around 140 programs across the country
  • Career changers – mostly intentional
  • Economy as a possible factor

Victoria’s background:

  • Undergrad and graduate (PhD) student at Columbia
  • Teaching English classes in Columbia
  • Getting exposed to School of General Studies (the only college in the Ivy League which has become a destination for nontraditional students who want to have a rigorous, elite education)

Postbac premed advising:

  • 4 full-time advisers in the program
  • Support services at the School of General Studies

Admissions process at Columbia:

  • Accelerated track through the postbac (1.5 years instead of 2 years)
  • 1st half of the program – students may choose some classes per semester
  • 2nd half of the program – students are required to attend full-time

Shadowing opportunities:

  • All students are required to complete at least 120 hours of clinical work during their time in the program
  • Access to the largest municipal hospital system in the US
  • Active and robust database of clinical opportunities
  • Standing relationships with a number of New York City hospitals

The struggles of transitioning into science-based curriculum:

  • Reacquiring that student identity
  • Not having done any science studies

How Columbia University is supporting their postbac students:

  • Academic resource center
  • Postbac coaching program
  • Seminars on transferable skills, best way to study for the sciences, etc.
  • Mentorship
  • Classes geared towards MCAT prep and MCAT prep advising and panels
  • Glide year counseling
  • Interview advising (Mastering the Art of the Medical School Interview workshop and for the Multiple Mini Interviews or MMIs)

What is the glide year?

  • Students who don’t apply for linkage admissions (which is like early admission to medical schools) take a glide year
  • Students get access to a database of glide year opportunities so they can spend the glide year related to health care locally, nationally, and internationally

What Columbia University is looking for in their applicants:

  • Strong academic credentials (GPA 3.6-3.7)
  • Great stories about how they got to this point
  • Dr. Rosner shares some incredible stories of their postbac students

Some pieces of advice for premed students:

  • There are times when what you’re learning feels disconnected from the future that you imagine for yourself as a medical provider. Find a way to spend time in clinical settings (shadowing, volunteering, etc.) to get yourself out into the world of health care and use that as the engine to drive you through your studies.
  • Find the program that works for you.

Links and Other Resources:

Social Justice Medicine organization at Columbia

AAMC’s list of postbac programs

New York Times article about postbac programs

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