Seize the moment
BY DR. STEVEN J. BRECKLER • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR FOR SCIENCE
A much-anticipated revision of the Medical College Admission Test
(MCAT) is now official. In February, the Association of American Medical
Colleges (AAMC) approved changes to the MCAT. Starting in 2015, the
exam will include a new section on Psychological, Social, and Biological
Foundations of Behavior.
This will be the first major revision of the venerable
MCAT exam in 20 years. Future physicians will now need to
demonstrate a basic understanding of human behavior before
they will even be considered for admission to medical school.
As APA fellow Barry A. Hong, PhD, explained to the Monitor
in its September 2011 coverage
of this development, “People, in
particular physicians, see how
psychological principles are
enmeshed in life and biology.”
Dr. Hong should know — he
was a member of the AAMC
committee that recommended
the MCAT revisions.
In setting the stage for this
dramatic revision, AAMC
prepared a report on Behavioral
and Social Science Foundations
for Future Physicians. AAMC
has stated clearly what most of
us have known for quite some
“A complete medical education must include, alongside
physical and biological science, the perspectives and findings
that flow from the behavioral and social sciences.”
In the long run, this is sure to improve public health. In
the short run, it represents an enormous opportunity and
responsibility for psychology. We must seize the moment.
More students than ever will be flowing into psychology
classes, especially the introductory class. They will be highly
motivated, science-oriented students. We need to make sure
that our courses prepare them well for the MCAT, and that we
provide them with a fundamental understanding of human
behavior that they will need as future physicians.
In addition to these basic responsibilities, we have before
us an incredible opportunity. Most students who complete
introductory psychology courses in college do not continue
with advanced psychology courses, and even fewer pursue
graduate education in psychology. We have always recognized
that most future business
people, artists, writers,
politicians and scientists get
their one and only exposure
to psychology from the
introductory college class.
But now the psychology-literate among us will include
most future physicians. Thus,
one opportunity is to acquaint
an even broader segment of
society to psychology.
Yet an even greater
opportunity lies before us. It
is to capture the hearts, minds
and passions of new students.
Some among the would-be future physicians will discover
something in psychology that appeals to them deeply. Many
may decide — as I did — to shift their career goals and
interests to psychology. Some will see psychology as a better
path for satisfying their interests in service delivery. Others
will see psychology as a way to pursue their passion and
talent for science.
Accommodating the flood of new students into college
psychology classes will be a challenge. Rising to that challenge
— seizing the moment — will yield great benefits. Physicians
will be better educated, health care will improve and the
psychology workforce itself may benefit from one of its greatest
expansions in decades. n
Yet an even greater
opportunity lies before
us. It is to capture the
hearts, minds and
passions of new students.