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Pre-Health Program Overview

Preparing for professional training

  • Pre-Health Curriculum Alive and Well
    “Ever since I can remember I have been interested in pursuing a career in the health field,” Ilana Sigal BA ’13 said. “At Lewis & Clark I was introduced to the many possibilities in the health field and realized my specific interests and passions.”

Professional schools also want evidence of breadth of knowledge, intellectual curiosity, adaptability to a variety of environments, and mastery of some subject in depth. Your field of specialization is much less important than your ability to accomplish mastery; dedication and genuine interest are keys to success in the intense professional training that follows the bachelor’s degree. Where better to develop these skills than a liberal arts and sciences college? At Lewis & Clark, you’ll encounter a variety of disciplinary perspectives through general education courses, as well as study one subject in depth through the major.

Preparing for life

A liberal arts education prepares you not so much for a specific career as for the ability to make your way in a complex and constantly changing world. As a health professional, you will need to continually upgrade your knowledge. You will constantly evaluate the risks and benefits of new therapies for your patients, and you will routinely encounter problems that require careful and logical analysis to diagnose accurately. The intellectual skills you need are the essence of a liberal arts and sciences education. The specific techniques for your chosen profession are what you acquire in your graduate-level training.

We emphasize flexibility in our curriculum, encourage you to explore a variety of disciplines, and promote a well-rounded approach to life in our curricular and cocurricular offerings. Many Lewis & Clark students have acted on their interest in health issues by helping the homeless, volunteering in a large urban school district or with migrant workers in small rural communities, working in wards at the state mental hospital, or doing research in laboratories at Oregon Health Sciences University. Many such opportunities are available in a metropolitan area of 1.5 million.

Doing scientific research as an undergraduate

At Lewis & Clark, you will be encouraged to experience science firsthand through original research, regardless of your professional goal. This develops your skills in identifying and solving problems and is excellent preparation both for medical practice and clinical research. Recent Lewis & Clark graduates have entered combined MD-PhD programs, allowing them to merge their love of research with their desire to practice medicine.

Research opportunities exist in each department beyond the traditional classroom. Projects in the biology, chemistry, and physics departments are at the cutting edge of scientific research, and several of them have potential applications in the health sciences. Faculty and students in each of these departments have coauthored papers that have been published in leading national and international journals such as Journal of Materials Research, Molecular and Cell Biology, American Journal of Botany, Physical Review Letters, Journal of the American Chemical Society, Biochemistry, Journal of Cell Biology, and Science.

Studying overseas

Lewis & Clark has truly distinctive overseas study programs and students from all majors are encouraged to take advantage of those opportunities. Since these innovative programs began in 1962, 65 percent of them have been in developing and non-Western nations. Students interested in health care have been able to study related issues all around the world.

If you plan on graduate school in the health professions and want to go abroad during your undergraduate years, you must plan your curriculum very carefully. A close working relationship with your adviser is essential to incorporating an overseas study experience into your four-year program.

Choosing your courses

Many of our students seeking a health care career major in biology, biochemistry, or chemistry, although no particular major is required for admission to health care professional schools. Lewis & Clark graduates with majors in art, history, international affairs, physics, and psychology have pursued professional training in health care fields. We encourage you to major in the area that has the most appeal to you.

We have found that most medical schools, and other health career programs, require or recommend the following courses:

151 Investigations in Genetics and Evolutionary Biology
200 Investigations in Cell and Molecular Biology

110 General Chemistry I*
120 General Chemistry II
210 Organic Chemistry I
220 Organic Chemistry II

English Composition
Two writing-intensive courses, which can be satisfied by
Exploration & Discovery, a required course for all first-year students.

Mathematical Sciences
131 Calculus I**
132 Calculus II**

141 Introductory General Physics I and 142 Introductory General Physics II 
151 Physics I: Motion and 152 Physics II: Waves and Matter

100 Introduction to Psychology

Students are strongly encouraged to take additional courses from the following areas:

252 Intro to Neurosciences
311, 312 Molecular Biology and lab
361 Cell Biology
375 Comparative Physiology
412 Developmental Biology

330 Structural Biochemistry
335, 336 Metabolic Biochemistry and lab (highly recommended)

103 Ethics

230 Infant and Child Development Psychology
240 Abnormal Psychology

200 Psychology Statistics OR
105 Math OR
255 Math 

The courses listed above are described in the Lewis & Clark College catalog, which can be found online.

* Students with strong preparation in high school chemistry may substitute Chemistry 115 and 135 (Accelerated General Chemistry and lab).

** Not all medical schools require calculus. However, we recommend that students complete these courses to keep all options open.

Examples of graduate studies

  • University of Washington (MD).
  • Oregon Health and Science University (MD, DDS, RN).
  • Medical College of Pennsylvania (MD).
  • Vanderbilt Medical School (MD).
  • University of Vermont (MD) .
  • Harvard Medical School (MD).
  • University of Southern California (MD).
  • University of Iowa (MD).
  • Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine (DO).
  • Oregon State University (DVM).

Examples of positions in health care professions obtained by graduates

  • Chair of the Department of Neurology, Northwestern University School of Medicine, Evanston, Illinois.
  • Director of the Center for Ethics in Health Care, Oregon Health Sciences University, Portland.
  • Family practitioner and 1986 Doctor of the Year, Philomath, Oregon.
  • Surgeon, Kaiser Permanente, Portland.
  • Veterinarian, Ontario, Oregon.
  • Obstetrician-gynecologist, Knoxville, Tennessee.
  • Pediatric physical therapist, Reno, Nevada.
  • Dentist, Kaiser Permanente, Salem, Oregon.
  • Associate professor of pharmacology, University of Nevada School of Medicine, Reno, Nevada.
  • Anesthesiologist, Elk Grove, California.
  • Optometrist, Fresno, California.

If you have not already done so, we encourage you to visit the campus. The Office of Admissions can arrange class visits, conferences with faculty, and other activities.

Several Lewis & Clark faculty members serve as advisers for students pursuing health care pre-professional studies. Our goal is to help you accomplish a broad liberal arts education and complete the specific courses required for admission to the graduate school of your choice. Your “pre-med” adviser is well informed about trends in admission to health-profession schools and can help you assess your chances of getting admitted based on your academic performance.

If you have any questions about our curriculum, please contact one of the following pre–health profession advisers:

Julio de Paula
Professor of Chemistry

Adonica De Vault
Associate Director
Career Development Center