Frequently Asked Questions

When does the UW-L Pre-med club meet?

The UW-L Pre-med club meets every other Wednesday at 7:00PM in Cowley 151.

What are the chances of being accepted to medical school?

According to the AACOM website, “admission is competitive, but if you apply, you will have a chance. Here's why: Every completed application is carefully considered for admissions based on a variety of criteria. AACOMAS sends your application to the admissions department at each school that you select. When admissions officers consider your applications, they consider more than just your grades and test scores; they consider how well you will “fit” with their school.” By and large your chances of getting in vary from school to school. For example the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health had a mean science GPA of 3.67 and a mean cumulative GPA of 3.71 for the entering class of 2010. However, a GPA of over 3.5 is generally considered competitive.

How well do UW-La Crosse students do?

For the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, there were 29 completed applicants and five were accepted for the entering class of 2010. All five enrolled. This was more than any other UW System school other than the University of Wisconsin - Madison.

How many medical schools do students generally apply to?

Most students generally apply to several medical schools, with eight to ten being the most common.

What does it take to become a doctor?

The typical physician completes a four-year undergraduate degree usually in biology or chemistry although any major is acceptable providing all pre-medical prerequisites have been met. The undergraduate degree is followed by four years of either medical or osteopathic school, followed by a minimum of three years of residency training. This is equal to a minimum of 11 years after high school.

Medical School
The first two years (didactic) of medical school involve intense study in the basic sciences, which mainly is performed and taken place in the classroom. There is little patient contact, learning about disease, or time spent in hospitals or clinics. The third and fourth years of medical school are spent in hospitals and clinics where an “on-the-job” type of format is used. The medical student evaluates patients, and with the help of resident physicians and staff physicians, develops treatment plans and performs procedures. Different areas of medicine are explored through one to two month long rotations. The student is part of a team composed of other medical students and resident physicians directed by a staff physician. Students work weekends and spend some nights on call in the hospital. A written test typically follows each rotation.

During your third year of medical school, you must decide which medical specialty area you would like to pursue. Once decided, you apply for a residency program for your chosen specialty. The earlier you decide which specialty you would like to pursue, the better.

What is a residency? How long does it take?

Following the completion of medical school, you are an M.D. or a D.O. and now carry the title doctor. However, you cannot practice medicine in the United States until you have completed your residency. The first year of residency is the “intern” year. Residencies are intense and generally take place in large hospitals. Training involves days, nights, weekends, and holidays. As much as every third night is also spent “on-call.” Typically two weeks of vacation are given per year. During the residency, specifics on specialties are learned.

Residency Lengths

Residency lengths can vary from three years to eight years depending on the specialty and subspecialty, such as family practice, gastroenterology, neurosurgery, and pathology.

It is important to understand that residencies and fellowships provide financial support for their students that culminate with years after graduation. For example, PGY-1 stands for post graduate year one and have an annual salary of around $50,000. A PGY-7 (post graduate year seven) may have a slightly higher salary around $60,000.

What is the difference between a D.O. and an M.D.?

There are two ways in which one can acquire the education necessary to become a physician and practice medicine in the United States. The most common route is to obtain an M.D. (Doctorate of Medicine). The other, less common alternative is to obtain a D.O. (Doctorate of Osteopathic Medicine). In general, the educational requirements and the length of training are the same, as are the opportunities for specializations, job scope, job availability, and salaries. Hospitals and clinics typically employ both M.D. and D.O. physicians and use them interchangeably. The difference between the two doctorate degrees is that the D.O. degree includes exposure to spinal manipulation and tissue palpation as a means of diagnosis and treatment. The overall emphasis in osteopathic schools is slightly different as well. Osteopathic education claims to emphasize how a disease affects the entire person/body. This is called a holistic emphasis. There are 17 D.O. (osteopathic) and 122 M.D. (allopathic) medical schools in the United States.

What is the difference between a D.O./M.D. and a PhD?

Many medical schools offer joint programs where a student can simultaneously earn an M.D. and Ph.D. These training programs emphasize research and prepare students for research and teaching careers as opposed to clinical careers in medicine. Graduates of these programs are typically employed in medical schools, research facilities, and pharmaceutical companies. Depending on the situation, these physicians have little or no patient contact. They usually do not complete residencies.

I applied to the medical school that I wanted but was not accepted. What should I do now?

As you may know, every year more students apply to medical school than there are seats available. Moreover, becoming a physician is not an easy task. Many students who begin their undergraduate careers with a pre-med intention later decide to go into something else. This section will bring explore alternative options if you decide to change your major or do not get accepted into medical school the first time. We will explore two options: (1) I still want to be a physician, and (2) I want to stay in healthcare, but I do not want to be a physician because it’s just not right for me.

Just because you are not accepted into medical school the first year you apply does not mean that you are not a candidate for future admission. In fact according to the AAMC, in 2007 only 44% of students who applied to medical school got into at least one school they applied for. With this being said, taking time off between the end of the undergraduate year and the beginning of medical school is becoming increasingly popular. If you are not initially accepted, and want to apply again, it is to your advantage to contact admissions offices in regards to how you can improve your application. Many schools will gladly speak with you about this. Remember to be polite, as they may remember you the next time you apply. To improve your application, there are two options. One is to work independently on improving your application, and the other is to enter a post-baccalaureate pre-med program.

If you chose to work at a university without a specific program, you should consider:

  1. Research opportunities
  2. Advising opportunities
  3. Access to professors

Others may choose to enter a university with a post-baccalaureate program. For a list of post-baccalaureate programs, click here. There are several kinds of programs that fall into a plethora of categories, such as enhancement programs, master programs, and minority/disadvantaged programs.

If you have stellar grades and a great application but you didn’t get into the school of your choice, you may want to consider taking a year off for traveling or working. Reapplying will show maturity and your wish to enter that program.

I love the healthcare field, but I have realized that I do not want to be an M.D. or D.O. Do I have any other options?

Students who are interested in the health care field but aren’t sure that they would like to be a physician may want to consider an undergraduate major in Clinical Laboratory Science, Radiation Therapy, or Nuclear Medical Technology. Students who complete these programs become licensed health care practitioners or may be working in a behind the scenes field by working in a lab. In addition, students may wish to consider a program in physical therapy or physician assistant.

I have a question, but it’s not listed. Who do I contact?

You can contact a staff or faculty member by looking under the Contacts section located on the left-hand side or if you want to contact a current student at UW-L who is on the pre-med track, you can email