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The education required of physicians officially begins with medical school, which typically takes four years to complete. In the United States, the Liaison Committee on Medical Education, a national organization that reviews M.D. degree programs, accredits 126 medical schools. Each year, these schools graduate about 17,000 students. Carver College of Medicine medical students come from a wide range of backgrounds, though all begin medical school having completed at least a four-year bachelors degree program at a college or university. Some studied the sciences while others majored in social sciences, humanities or other non-science subjects.
Many go straight to medical school after completing their bachelor's degrees, but some turn to medicine after years in other careers. In a typical Carver College of Medicine medical class, 70 percent of students are Iowa residents, and 40 to 45 percent are women. About 10 percent are from minority groups underrepresented in American medicine. Like other medical schools, the UI Carver College of Medicine strives to recruit students who reflect the diverse communities they will serve.
Medical schools seek students who possess certain key characteristics, including the ability to analyze information and solve problems, to establish relationships and communicate with patients and colleagues, to display good judgment, and to make sound decisions under pressure. Students must show a sincere interest in medicine and public service and demonstrate the commitment necessary to complete a rigorous educational program. Admitted students tend to have records of high academic achievement, including good scores on the Medical College Admission Test, a standardized exam taken by most medical school applicants. They also visit campus for personal interviews, an integral part of the admissions process. Once enrolled, Carver College of Medicine medical students learn both the science and the art of medicine, studying subjects such as biochemistry, anatomy, and genetics alongside skills like problem solving, teamwork, and communication.
The Carver College of Medicine medical curriculum emphasizes professionalism and lifelong learning. The curriculum's first two years stress both factual knowledge and key skills such as critical thinking, establishing rapport with patients and colleagues, and conducting medical histories and physical examinations. In the final two years, students rotate through clerkships in the primary care fields and other specialties, and apply what they have learned in the classroom to supervised experiences with real patients.
During medical training, students must take the United States Medical Licensing Examination, a three-part test that all physicians must pass in order to practice medicine in the United States and Canada. Step 1, which covers basic science principles, is taken near the end of the second year of medical school. Step 2, which evaluates students on their knowledge of clinical diagnosis and disease development, is taken in the fourth year. A final section on clinical management usually is taken in the first or second year of postgraduate training. Recently, a clinical skills assessment was added to the second part of the exam.
Students make important career decisions as they reach their final years of medical school. They choose the specialties in which they hope to practice and begin applying to graduate medical education programs usually referred to as residencies.
Most students secure residency positions through the National Residency Matching Program, which pairs the top choices of students and residency program directors. These pairings are simultaneously announced at schools across the country every March on "Match Day," an occasion that students look to with anticipation.
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