Weed or Flower?

Aug 07 2013 Published by under Life of a Physician

Lots of students aspire to medical careers. Being a physician seems like a noble calling, you can always find a job, and it will make your parents proud. Over the years, interest in obtaining the coveted MD often exceeded the openings in medical colleges. Pre-med courses often served not only to provide essential knowledge for a medical career, but also to "weed-out" marginal students.

Earlier this week, I saw something that suggested organic chemistry was one of these weed-out classes. What could future doctors learn from the dreaded O-chem? Persistence and fortitude?

How about organic chemistry itself?

I am a graduate of a 6-year BA/MD program. Yes, I entered college and medical school simultaneously from high school. I never took the MCATs. I never took calculus or college physics either. I have managed to succeed as both a clinician and a scientist despite these "gaps" in my education.

I cannot imagine skipping organic chemistry.

All life on  this planet is based on carbon compounds, and those building blocks are the focus of organic chemistry. From understanding the interactions of these molecules, we can then move on to biochemistry and pharmacology and physiology and other more medically-focused disciplines.  Do I use the "raw data" from O-chem on a daily basis? No, but without that background I do not think I could be a good physician.

Over the years, we all learn a lot of stuff that we will never use again. Sometimes this material provides the base to understand the next rung on the ladder of knowledge; other times, this stuff is just crap someone assigned.

O-chem is not crap (although crap is made of organic materials).


4 responses so far

  • Jim Thomerson says:

    When I had gotten organized to enter a PhD program and become an ichthyologist, I read the catalog. Entrance criteria called for a 'laboratory course in organic chemistry'. I was going to a PhD program at a university with a Medical School, so I knew what organic was like there. I looked at the catalogue where I was, and found Organic Chemistry for Agriculture Majors, three hours with lab. I took same and made a B. When I arrived at my PhD institution, the department chair advised me. He asked, "Well, young man, have you had a laboratory course in organic chemistry?" " Yes Sir, I surely have." So here I am, a professor emeritus, while some of my cohort flunked out because of having to take organic chemistry with the premeds.

  • I can't speak to other basic sciences or the clinical realm, but fundamental physics and general chemistry are *way* more important to understanding medical physiology than orgo. Maybe you are forgetting what college orgo is all about, but reaction mechanisms of carbon-containing chemical bonds, stereochemistry, and non-equilibrium synthetic schemes don't have jacke shitte to do with understanding how the human body works. Basic mechanisms of mechanics, hydrostatics and dynamics, electricity-magnetism, and basics of chemical reactions and equilibria are absolutely central to every single aspect of medical physiology.

  • Goo says:

    "reaction mechanisms of carbon-containing chemical bonds [...] don't have jacke shitte to do with understanding how the human body works"

    Come on now PP. Think before you click submit.

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