James Barsi has dreamed about becoming a medical doctor for years. However, he never imagined that medical schools would fight over him, or that one would offer a $10,000 scholarship. But that’s just what happened to Barsi, a chemistry major, who was pursued by Einstein Medical Center, New York University, Stony Brook, Downstate and nearly every other school to which he applied. NYU and Einstein got into a bidding war for Barsi, who ultimately chose to begin classes in September at NYU. “He had the highest MCAT scores I have ever seen,” said Diana Bray, Ph.D., chair of the chemistry department.
“He is exceptionally bright, works very hard and is a very active student. He is the first person I have heard of to receive a scholarship to attend medical school. It’s just phenomenal.” Barsi credits Fordham for contributing to his success. “I think Fordham prepared me very well,” he said. “I always knew I wanted to be a doctor. Fordham gave me a lot of individual attention, the courseware I needed and research experience. I had a lot of interaction with professors, something I don’t think you get at larger schools.” Barsi is one of at least 15 students from the University who will attend some of the country’s top medical schools in the fall. He is the only chemistry major that applied, with the bulk of Fordham’s future doctors coming out of the biology department.
“A lot of the schools like students who come with a strong liberal arts background,” said the Rev. Daniel O’Brien, S.J., assistant dean, who is the premed adviser. “What they find is that students schooled in the liberal arts are better with people and make better doctors. They are able to communicate with their patients better than people who don’t have as diverse an education.” Medical schools also like the fact that many Fordham students have done scientific research and community service work. Nicole Green, a biology major who was accepted to more than a half dozen medical schools, said she believes the opportunity to do community service at Fordham helped shape her future. “Community service work helped me to decide that I wanted to be a pediatrician and work with inner-city children,” she said. “It was a great motivator because I would keep telling myself that this was what I wanted to do, and to accomplish my goal, I had to keep going.”
Berish Rubin, Ph.D., who heads the biology department, says the University has worked hard to improve its program for students who want to attend medical school. In biology, for example, a rigorous program that includes human anatomy, human physiology and biochemistry prepares students for classes they will encounter in medical school. The department has also added state-of-the art equipment and provides research opportunities to students. Some of the new equipment is so good that it detected a minor heart problem in one of the students. “The student was sent to the hospital where it was confirmed and taken care of,” Rubin said. “These students are doing very sophisticated monitoring of themselves.” Rubin also has created The Chairman’s Circle, a club to help keep premed students majoring in biology on track.
Students who maintain the required grade point average are eligible to join. “Getting into medical school is amazingly challenging,” said Rubin. “I try to energize the students and foster success by helping them to push themselves to succeed. We meet, talk about whatever they want to talk about and encourage them to keep up the grades. We discuss everything from science, to the television show Hopkins 24/7, to dating.” Biology major John Bibko, who will attend Harvard Dental School in the fall, feels that “Fordham prepared me very well. I was really impressed with the biology department and the professors. At Fordham you are able to do research, something a lot of schools don’t allow. Research is intrinsic in getting into dental or medical school.” Additionally, students who want to attend medical school can do mock interviews with professors (an important piece of the puzzle for medical school admission) and can ask for assistance in ensuring they are meeting the criteria for admission. “The science program at Fordham is pretty rigorous and the teachers are dedicated to making sure we understand the concepts and the lab work,” said Green. “Dr. Rubin was helpful in making sure we were on track, stressing how important it was to study hard, to do well on the MCATS and to participate in activities. It was an experience that really paid off for me.”