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Medical School At Mt. Sinai Pays More Attention To Humanities

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As the nation adjusts to ongoing health care reforms, the need for more doctors, especially from varying backgrounds, is even more important. Mount Sinai's Icahn School of Medicine has a plan to lay some traditions aside to attract prospective students from a wider pool of applicants. NY1's Health reporter Erin Billups filed the following report.

Ronnie Tisdale joined a South Asian a capella group during his undergraduate studies. It was an extracurricular activity he was able to enjoy only after he was granted early acceptance into Mount Sinai's Icahn School of Medicine.

"I was really able to explore and really appreciate the beauty of a college education, to be able to take foreign languages, to study music," he says.

Tisdale is part of Mt. Sinai's Humanities and Medicine program, which allows students to forego traditional pre-med requirements like organic chemistry, physics and even the MCAT exam.

Now the school is expanding the 25-year old program, recruiting from different undergraduate disciples to eventually make up half of its class. Dean David Muller says they want to free students from the culture of aggressive competition and outdated requirements, which may sap creativity.

"They've done as well as their peers," Muller says. "This program will provide a very different approach for people who are creative and can sustain, nurture their creativity throughout college and bring that to medical school and help us change medical school, help us change the practice of medicine."

Mt. Sinai hopes the now Flex-Med program will also attract less privileged students and those disadvantaged due to systematic inequalities.

"We don’t have enough students of color in medical schools. We don't have enough students who are from the LGBT community," Muller says. "It clearly translates into worse care for people who come from groups that are underrepresented in medicine."

Recently, Tisdale saw this in action while shadowing doctors at Elmhurst Hospital. He was able to assist a Lebanese patient, because he now speaks Arabic.

"Whether it's knowing someone's language, knowing a little bit more about someone's culture, that enhances the doctor patient relationship," Muller says.

Mt. Sinai hopes its curriculum shift will start a trend at other medical schools, providing patients with more doctors that understand them and their cultures.

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