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UArizona College of Medicine – Tucson’s Accelerated Pathway to Medical Education Welcomes First Class

The UArizona College of Medicine – Tucson has accepted six high school graduates in a new program that reduces the time to a medical degree to seven years.
From left: Makenna Ley, Ivan Carrillo, Kyra Singh and Yi-Jen Yang are among the first high school graduates who will participate in the Accelerated Pathway to Medical Education program.

UArizona College of Medicine – Tucson’s Accelerated Pathway to Medical Education Welcomes First Class

Six high school graduates will make up the first class of students in the new Accelerated Pathway to Medical Education (APME) program at the University of Arizona College of Medicine – Tucson

Nikhil Mathur is one of six students who will begin the Accelerated Pathway to Medical Education this fall.Acceptance to the APME program guarantees students entry to the UArizona Honors College as undergraduates and, after three years, early admission to the College of Medicine – Tucson. Students are not required to complete a bachelor’s degree, which reduces the length of time from undergraduate to medical degree from eight years to seven. The program also waives the Medical College Admission Test requirement for medical school admission.

The APME students are: Ivan Carrillo, Nogales High School, Nogales; Makenna Ley and Nikhil Mathur, University High School, Tucson; Kyra Singh, BASIS North High School, Tucson; Pu-Kai “Phil” Tseng, Union High School, Camas, Washington; and Yi-Jen Yang, BASIS Oro Valley High School, Oro Valley. They will begin classes when the UArizona fall semester starts August 23. 

The recent high school graduates already have had many of the experiences aspiring medical students typically have in college, including research and clinical exposure, said Zoe Cohen, PhD, director of the APME, Honors College Early Assurance Program (HEAP) and Baccalaureate Programs at the College of Medicine – Tucson.

“This group has so much diverse experience,” Dr. Cohen said about the students’ awards and their participation in various organizations. “They really are amazing.”

APME, which is the only program of its kind in the southwestern United States, received nearly 100 applications. It was launched at the behest of College of Medicine – Tucson Dean Michael M.I. Abecassis, MD, MBA, who saw the value of an accelerated program at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, where he previously was dean of clinical affairs. 

“This program allows students to explore their interests without the sole focus being on stringent academic thresholds for admission into medical school,” Dr. Abecassis said. “They have to meet the prerequisites for medical school and maintain a minimum GPA, but otherwise, they can study whatever they would like. The program offers a level of flexibility that will result in a very interesting mix of students who will be admitted to medical school after three years of undergraduate education if they continue to meet the requirements.”

That flexibility was a key point of interest for applicants. 

“I already knew medicine was what I wanted to do,” said Tseng, who was accepted as a physiology and medical science major in the college’s Baccalaureate Program before he learned about the APME program. “I researched a lot of different programs and realized this rigorous, accelerated program was perfect for me. I felt like it was different because it doesn’t force me to acquire a bachelor’s degree but allows me to really explore in my undergraduate years.”

Phil Tseng will be majoring in physiology and medical science as an undergraduate in the APME program.Singh, one of four alumni of the UArizona BIO5 Institute’s KEYS Research Internship in the group, liked not having to stress about the MCAT.

“With the seven-year program, specifically, I love the ability to do whatever I want as an undergrad. I know it’s not exactly the case. But a lot of times, people are like ‘I have to major in a STEM subject or else I’m not going to do well on the MCAT.’ For me, it’s really exciting I can now pursue other interests. I’m debating between either majoring in philosophy or neuroscience.”

APME is the latest addition to the college’s Baccalaureate Programs, which include the Honors College Early Assurance Program (HEAP) and a recently approved Bachelor of Science in Medicine. HEAP welcomed its first class of medical students last year.

“We’re reaching out to students who are committed to medicine for their future,” said Associate Dean for Admissions Tejal Parikh, MD. “With APME, they now have the flexibility to take classes that will help them become a more well-rounded individual and a better future physician.”

As undergraduates, students will have faculty and student mentors from the College of Medicine – Tucson, as well as a regular program of activities and reviews to stay on track for the full medical curriculum in three years.

“It’s not only about getting in,” Dr. Parikh said. “We want them to be successful in this undergrad journey, and also when they get to medical school.”