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Medical Sciences: A new degree option for undergrads

- March 3, 2014

Dal's new Medical Sciences degree offers new opportunities for students. (Danny Abriel photo)
Dal's new Medical Sciences degree offers new opportunities for students. (Danny Abriel photo)

Students looking to explore the science of the human body will have a new option to consider at Dal this fall.

Starting in September 2014, Dalhousie will offer a Bachelor of Science (BSc) degree option in Medical Sciences. The program, the first of its kind in Atlantic Canada, will explore a variety of topics and help prepare students for careers in research, graduate programs in life sciences and health-related professional programs. It was officially approved by the Maritime Provinces Higher Education Commission last month.

The program responds to high demand among science students and prospective students for a degree option more targeted towards the medical sciences. Admission for the program’s 100 seats has been open since the fall, in anticipation of its pending approval, and interest has been very high.

A cross-faculty program

Housed in the Faculty of Science, the four-year undergrad program is interdisciplinary by nature, drawing on contributors from Science, the Faculty of Medicine, and the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. The collaborative, cross-faculty nature of the program sets it apart from similar programs elsewhere in Canada, according to Chris Moore, dean of the Faculty of Science.

“We’ve been working on the program for nearly three years,” says Dr. Moore. “It’s a genuinely interdisciplinary program in the biomedical sciences, covering a range of disciplines along with courses to emphasize the connections among them.”

Students entering the BSc in Medical Sciences program, which can be taken as a major or a major with honours, will be introduced to a broad biomedical science background. It will begin with foundational science courses like biology, chemistry and math, after which students will take biomedical courses like immunology, anatomy and pharmacology in the latter half of the program.

The medical sciences program also opens up an array of research opportunities for students. Third- and fourth-year students will take selective courses in a number of relevant biomedical fields, setting them up for more advanced courses in their final year. This will allow them to pursue honours research and be excellent candidates for graduate programs in a specialized field.

Dr. Tim Lee, professor in Dalhousie’s Department of Microbiology & Immunology and assistant dean of the Medical Sciences program, says the program will greatly benefit Dalhousie’s science departments.

“This program will feed students interested in graduate studies into departments like Physiology, Medical Neuroscience and Pharmacology,” says Dr. Lee. “This means more availability for undergraduate summer students and honours research students to work in basic science laboratories.”

A launching pad for careers in medical science

The medical science program was previewed to students at Dal’s Open House in the fall, where Julie Jordan, program coordinator, heard from prospective students from around the Maritimes and beyond.

“Since it’s the only program of its kind in Atlantic Canada, students are really interested in it,” says Dr. Jordan. “Until now, high school students would have to leave the region to find this type of program. Now we’ll have further opportunity to retain some of our best young minds.”

It’s expected that a significant proportion of students who enroll in the program already have their sights set on future studies, whether it’s medical school or other health-related professional programs.

“It’s clear that the interest is there. Students at the Open House were already aware that entrance exams like the MCAT are changing,” says Dr. Jordan. “They were really excited when they found out our program will help them be prepared. Those who go through the Medical Sciences program will have already taken courses like pathology, epidemiology and anatomy. We hope that the core courses we offer will enable our graduates to perform better when they are faced with those topics again in professional programs or industry, government or research.”

The new Medical Sciences degree is hardly the only option for students planning careers in medicine or medical-related sciences, as Dalhousie offers many programs that meet the prerequisites for graduate or professional programs in those areas. But for students eager to dive into questions about the inner workings of the human body, it’s sure to be an attractive offering.

For more information on the program, visit its website or email medsci@dal.ca.


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