The Great Pre-Med Boom

The desire to be a doctor is suddenly grabbing hold of more and more Harvard and Radcliffe students.

Although official statistics are still unavailable, premedical advisors at three Harvard Houses estimated independently that the number of Harvard seniors applying to medical school this year exceeded last year's figure by 20 per cent.

At Radcliffe the number of applicants has risen from 30 two years ago to about 50 this year.

The number of special students enrolled in a fifth year to complete pre-medical requirements jumped from nine last year to 15 this year. This means six more seniors had last minute changes of heart and decided to be doctors.

A jump in enrollments in basic pre-medical courses strongly suggests that the recent development is only the beginning of a trend.

The Biology 2 enrollment jumped from 215 last year to 363 this year. Chemistry 20 had 244 students last fall, compared to 205 the fall before. The ranks of premed physics have swelled similarly over the past year, from 141 to 233 in Physics 1 and from 138 to 157 in Physics 12.

According to assistant professor D. Michael Gill, five-sixths of last semester's Biology 2 students-of whom nearly all are freshmen and sophomores-said they were interested in going to medical school.

While the total number of applicants to American medical schools has risen constantly and sharply since the beginning of the last decade-from 14,000 in 1960 to a record 26,000 this year-the number applying from Harvard hovered around 180 from 1960 until this year, when a figure closer to 215 is expected.

Why do so many Harvard students suddenly want to become physicians?

"What else is there to do?" responded an Adams House sophomore, when recently asked by a doctor why he planned a medical career.

The spectrum of careers deemed suitable by Harvard students has shrunk considerably over the past few years, said James D. Wickenden, associate director of the OG and CP. Students shy away from business careers, fearing that "their identities would be subsumed and their energies misdirected," he said.

Adam M. Keller '73 said, "The business career has acquired a stigma it didn't possess a few years ago. Students think of business careers as money-oriented and as careers in which they won't be able to question the use to which their work is put."

The number of Harvard seniors planning business careers decreased from 147 in 1960 to 30 last year.

Interest in doing scientific research has also taken a big spill.

The Federal Government cutback in funds for research-which resulted in bleak job opportunities for scientists-and the dissatisfaction among scientifically-minded students with the ivory-tower nature of most laboratory research have probably effected this change.