Health Sciences First Year Courses

Committee ChairJ. Chanatry
Program Site

The Health Sciences Advisory Committee is composed of faculty who are interested in counseling students planning for careers in the health professions. The committee believes it is important that first-year students receive complete and accurate information related to planning careers in medicine, dentistry, veterinary medicine, and other health science professions. Admission into professional schools in the health sciences is highly competitive; consequently, an undergraduate must show consistently high academic performance throughout his or her undergraduate career. Colgate has prided itself on providing students with an excellent background preparation for the health sciences without sacrificing the ideals of a liberal arts education.

The following comments may be helpful in scheduling your courses. Although specific requirements for science competency vary among medical, dental, veterinary schools, and other health professions schools, most require courses in animal biology (with laboratory), general chemistry (with laboratory), organic chemistry (with laboratory), biochemistry, physics (with laboratory), statistics, and English or Writing. In addition, individual schools may have special requirements in psychology, the social sciences, foreign languages, and so forth; these requirements are usually met when choosing courses to fulfill the areas of inquiry requirement.

At Colgate, minimum science requirements are usually met through BIOL 182/182L and an additional laboratory course in genetics, molecular biology, physiology, virology, immunology, or developmental biology. Many students choose BIOL 202/202LBIOL 204/204LBIOL 205/205L, or a 300-level Biology course.  BIOL 181/181L or any of the laboratory courses in animal or cellular biology may also fulfill the minimum biology requirement. BIOL 181/181L is a prerequisite course for all upper-level physiology courses. CHEM 101/101L-102/102L or CHEM 111/111LCHEM 263/263L-264/264LPHYS 111/111L-112/112L or PHYS 232/232L-233/233L; one to two semesters of statistics (MATH 105, CORE 143SBIOL 320, and PSYC 309 can be classified as statistics courses), or one semester of statistics and one semester of calculus, or one to two semesters of calculus (the number and type of math courses will depend on choice of major); and one to two semesters of English or Writing and Rhetoric. Students frequently take one course in English literature and another English (or Writing and Rhetoric) course that emphasizes writing. The biochemistry competency requirement can be achieved by taking CHEM 353 (or by a combination of two of the four following half-semester courses: CHEM 452, CHEM 454, CHEM 456, CHEM 468). In addition, relevant topics in biochemistry are covered in CHEM 264. The behavioral and social science topics are covered in a number of courses at Colgate and these courses will often fulfill an area of inquiry requirement.

CHEM 101/101L-102/102L (or CHEM 111/111L) is strongly recommended for the first year because of its value as a background for health sciences students and students who may major in chemistry, biology, or neuroscience. For students who may major in one of the physical sciences, MATH 161-162 is recommended for the first year because of its value as a background for physical science courses. A course in statistics is strongly recommended by the majority of health science professional schools. Although BIOL 182/182L and the upper-level courses are not open to first-semester first-year students, students can enroll in BIOL 181/181L or another 100-level biology course, which will count toward a major in biology or molecular biology.

A student may major in any field, science or non-science, and is urged to explore all possibilities. General experience has shown, however, that those majoring outside of the sciences must perform proportionately better in their required science courses because they will have fewer science courses to present on applications to health professional schools. The Health Sciences Advisory Committee strongly recommends that a non-science major take additional science courses beyond the minimum required by the professional school for admission in order to further demonstrate proficiency in science subjects. Students who are uncertain about entering the health professions should proceed under the premise that they will do so. It is far more difficult to begin the required prerequisite courses in the sophomore and junior years and still be admitted to a medical or dental school immediately upon graduation.

If students are planning to attend professional school directly after graduating from Colgate, the required courses should be completed by the end of the junior year to assure proper preparation for the standardized admissions tests or other appropriate entrance examinations. These are usually taken during the early summer of that year. The academic record, recommendations, non-academic activities, health-related experiences, and personal interviews are also evaluated by the professional schools.

Students are urged to participate as fully as possible in extracurricular activities. However, some caution should be observed that academic performance does not suffer as a result. The first year is a period of adjustment to a new life, new surroundings, and new people. Students who in high school were able to participate in rigorous, competitive athletics, take part in student activities, and still perform very well academically may find that the demands of college life no longer allow them the luxury to do so. Students needing advice or having difficulties, academically or non-academically, should seek help as soon as possible. Your first-year seminar instructor and your administrative dean are ready to help you in any way that they can. Similarly, the members of the Health Sciences Advisory Committee are eager to assist students. The committee currently consists of the following individuals: Julie Chanatry, Chemistry Laboratory Instructor;  Pricilla Van Wynsberghe, Professor of Biology; Anthony Chianese, Professor of Chemistry; Rebecca Upton, A. Lindsay O'Connor Chair of American Institutions in Sociology and Anthropology & Africana and Latin American Studies; Karyn Belanger, Associate Director for the Center for Learning, Teaching, and Research; Dr. Ellen Larson, Director of Student Health Services; Dr. Merrill Miller, Student Health Services; and James Reed, Career Advisor, Center for Career Services.

It is important that first-year students attend the Health Sciences Advisory Committee meeting during Orientation. This will provide an opportunity for students to become acquainted with members of the committee and to ask specific questions. For additional information, email Professor Julie Chanatry ( or visit the Health Sciences Advising web page.