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Physician (MD or DO current students or graduates)


What do physicians do? 

Physicians are medical professionals who diagnose and treat patients, order and interpret a variety of tests, prescribe medications, and perform procedures.  Primary care physicians include practitioners of family medicine, internal medicine, pediatrics, emergency medicine, and obstetrics and gynecology.  There are many other specialties and subspecialties.  Doctors may practice in academic medicine (teaching hospitals training medical students and residents), community hospitals, or stand-alone clinics.  

What training is required?

Physicians complete either a four-year MD (Doctor of Medicine) or DO (Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine) degree plus a minimum of 3 years of residency (many specialties require 4 or more years). MD and DO programs consist of didactic (coursework) and clinical training.  Traditionally the first two years of programs were primarily didactic with clerkships (rotations through primary care and specialties) in the third and fourth years but many institutions now introduce clinical training in the second or even first year.  Step One of the USMLE board exams is taken before beginning the third year and Step Two during the final year.  Step Three is taken during residency. Only after passing Step Three is an individual licensed to practice independently.

How do I best prepare for admission to a program?

Coursework: All of the courses required for entrance to an MD or DO program are part of the Genetics curriculum so every graduate with a 3.0 GPA meets the minimum requirements for admission.  We recommend selecting Psychology 101 and Sociology 134 among your social sciences choices because these subjects are tested on the MCAT (Medical College Admissions Test). You should have completed these, your Statistics (101 or 104) choice, the 300 level Biology and Genetics classes, Chemistry and Biochemistry sequences through BBMB 405, and Physics 111 and 112 before taking the MCAT, typically during the summer after your Junior year if planning direct entrance after graduation.  Consider becoming a tutor or SI leader for General Chemistry or Organic Chemistry as a way to be paid for reviewing that material before taking the MCAT.  Courses to consider for advanced science electives include Microbiology 310, Biology 335, Biology 350, Genetics 340, Psychology 310 among others.

GPA: You should attempt to achieve a cumulative GPA equal to or exceeding the mean GPA of successful applicants to the medical schools you are considering.  These are generally available on the schools’ websites. The mean GPA’s are in the 3.8 to 3.9 range which is much higher than the minimum 3.0 for eligibility.

Other Recommendations:  Additional coursework in Psychology, Microbiology, and Medical Terminology may be useful.  Research can develop organizational, problem-solving, analytical, and communication skills and a close relationship with mentors who can then provide meaningful letters of recommendation.  Teaching experience (as a tutor, undergraduate TA or LA, peer mentor, or SI leader) will be valuable in developing communication skills and learning how to interact with a variety of individuals. While no specific number of patient contact hours are required, you will need to volunteer in a hospital or clinic, job-shadow physicians, complete EMT or CNA training, or become a medical scribe to get some patient contact and learn whether this profession is for byou.  Also consider joining the PreMed Club, the Rare Disease Awareness Club, and meeting with the prehealth advisors in the LAS College office (102 Catt Hall). They will have the latest updates on relevant opportunities and admission requirements.


Bilal Baig

Education:  BS, Genetics, ISU, 2016; DO program, Des Moines University, Des Moines, Iowa, entered 2017

Majoring in Genetics at Iowa State was extremely beneficial in both preparation and acceptance into medical school. The classes I took while majoring in Genetics truly helped me prepare critical thinking skills and scientific reasoning that have helped me succeed on the MCAT, medical school course work, as well as the USMLE Step 1 licensing examination. Having a degree in Genetics has really helped me in the understanding of the molecular basis of medicine and pathology. From the ample resources majoring in Genetics offers, from the learning community to the excellent and caring faculty, majoring in Genetics allowed me to easily build a successful medical school application. I would highly recommend students with a passion for science and an interest in applying to medical school to choose a Major in Genetics.

Brianna Brun

Education: BS Genetics, ISU, 2013; MD, University of Iowa 2018

Current Position: Child Neurology Resident, Nationwide Children’s Hospital

Dr. Brianna BrunThe genetics program at Iowa State University was monumental to my career path. The coursework not only prepared me well for the MCAT and medical school but having a fundamental understanding of genetics aided clinical discussion with families and provided access to research projects. Even many years after completing my degree at ISU, I lean heavily on the information I learned to help understand new research articles and current gene therapies for patients. As a future pediatric neurologist, genetics remains at the forefront of new research and patient care. I am incredibly thankful for the education and experiences I had at Iowa State University.


Joy Carroll

Education:  BS Genetics, ISU, 2010; MD, University of Iowa, 2014, Residency in Ophthalmology, Vanderbilt University, 2014-2018

Current Position: Ophthalmologist, McFarland Clinic, Ames, Iowa

Dr. Joy Carroll

The genetics program at Iowa State provided the foundation of knowledge which I now apply to better understand the translational research within my medical specialty, ophthalmology. As medicine becomes more personalized, it will be necessary to understand and explain the genetic treatment options available to patients. Already there are research studies recruiting patients with specific eye diseases for gene therapies. 


Ben Janson

Education: BS Microbiology/Genetics, ISU, 2012; MD, Johns Hopkins, 2016; Residency in Ophthalmology, University of Iowa, 2016-2020

Current Position: Ophthalmologist, Iowa City starting in June 2020

Dr. Ben Janson

I am very thankful for the opportunity to have studied genetics at Iowa State, and I feel that it launched my career in medicine. As an ophthalmologist, a comprehensive understanding of biology and the underlying genetics has been incredibly important in basic and clinical research, the counseling of patients with inherited ocular disease, and with medical and surgical treatment of a broad spectrum of ocular diseases. I felt very well prepared for medical school and beyond because the basic and advanced genetic didactics were taught by experts in the field and had well-designed lab applications. 




Bailey Mooney

Education: BS Biochemistry/Genetics, ISU, 2019; MD program David Geffen School of Medicine, UCLA, entered 2019

Bailey Mooney

I am currently a medical student at David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. My genetics education gave me a great foundation and has been relevant to all areas of medicine! I am also grateful for the great extracurricular opportunities, like Genetics Club President and GEN 313L TA, that helped me build invaluable skills I continue to use every day.  


Bryn Myers

Education: BS Genetics, ISU, 2019; MD program, University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine, entered 2019

Bryn Myers

The coursework and research opportunities made available to me through the ISU genetics program prepared me well for medical school. The advanced genetics classes that I took at Iowa State prepared me well to succeed in my first-year med school courses. Thanks in-part to my great experience studying genetics at ISU, I plan to pursue pediatric genetics as a medical specialty following medical school!


Erica Nelson

Education: BS Genetics, ISU 2016; MD, University of North Dakota, 2020

Current Position: Resident in Pediatric Genetics, Vanderbilt University starting in 2020

I know I wouldn’t be here today pursuing a career in medical genetics without ISU. I truly believe that having a Bachelors in Genetics set me a part from other applicants on the residency interview trail. I specifically remember talking about the genetics program multiple times! This genetics program was crucial in my decision to pursue a career in medicine. That decision was based on the ability to tailor my education towards human genetics. With the help of ISU genetics department, I am on the path to becoming a Pediatric Medical Geneticist.  


Lauren Reagan

Education: BS, Genetics, ISU, 2015; MD, University of Minnesota, 2019

Current Position:  Resident, Anaesthesiology, Virginia Commonwealth University

Dr. Lauren Reagan

My name is Lauren Reagan and I am a 2015 ISU genetics graduate, after college I attended the University of Minnesota Medical School and I am now an anesthesiology resident at Virginia Commonwealth University. I couldn't have asked for a better undergraduate experience at ISU, I still remember dissecting a fetal pig in biology lab which is what first gave me the idea of pursuing medicine! Genetics was a fantastic major and prepared me extremely well for a lot of the "tougher" courses in medical school, such as genetics and biochemistry, Jack Girton's course on human genetics was one of the classes whose material is still extremely relevant to my medical practice!


Richard Uhlenhopp

Education: BS Genetics, ISU 2017; MD program, University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine, entered 2017

Richard Uhlenhopp

I am a medical student at the University of Iowa’s Carver College of Medicine. The classwork I received while pursuing a Bachelor's degree in Genetics put me far ahead of my medical school classmates in our genetics coursework. I believe the advanced genetic courses we were exposed to are superior in quality and usefulness compared to pursuing a generic biology degree. My genetics major helped me stand out to potential medical schools and I would recommend this degree course to anyone on the fence between genetics and biology.