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How is a Doctor Educated The Journey of a Medical Student from Pre-Med to a Physician

by Faalik Zahra

The journey to becoming a physician is lengthy. It starts early in an individual’s life when they first discover their passion for medicine. This passion then guides them into a decade-long journey where they undergo various coursework and experiences as they prepare to treat patients.

Bachelor’s Degree

Individuals are required to obtain a bachelor’s degree. They must take entry-level science courses needed to apply to medical school. Students often also volunteer at the hospital, work at a research lab, and do other extracurricular activities to aid them in the competitive

process of applying to medical school.

They must also take the Medical College Admissions Test. According to the Princeton Review, the MCAT “tests physical and biological sciences, verbal reasoning, and writing skills.”

Medical School

Similar to undergrad, medical school consists of four years of schooling. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), the first two years are the pre-clinical phase where “you learn about basic medical concepts, the structure and functions of the body, diseases, diagnoses, and treatment concepts. You also learn the basics of doctoring, such as taking medical histories and other essential competencies.” The last two years encompass “clinical rotations, during which time you will receive basic instruction and

hands-on experience with patients in the major medical specialties.”

Students must also pass two standardized tests termed the United States Medical Licensing Examination during medical school. Throughout the four years, medical students are doing rotations in all specialties of medicine to learn about treating every illness and every part of the body. As they go through these rotations, most medical students find their passion and the specialty that fits them the best. And then, in the final year of medical school, students interview with hospitals to secure a residency in their chosen specialty, and around March 20 each year, every graduating medical student experiences Match Day, where each student finds out in the same hour where they will be training for the next two to seven years, based on the specialty.

According to AAMC, “students choose the type of medicine they will practice on the basis of personal interests, clinical experiences, and other factors and apply to residency programs.”


After graduating from their respective medical school, individuals go into medical residency. The American University of the Caribbean School of Medicine explains the residency provides in-depth training within a specific medical specialty.” Residents work long hours and are given a wide scope to experience every treatment and every procedure that is part of the specialty.

Practicing Physician

After completing the residency, individuals can start working as a physician independently. The doctor is now able to join a hospital or a medical office as a fully active physician. However, this does not mean that their education stops. According to the AAMC, “The rapid pace of change in medicine makes continuing medical education programs or continuing professional development essential.”

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Faalik Zahra studies neuroscience and journalism at the University of Cincinnati and plans on becoming a physician. She has always had a strong inclination towards writing and sharing stories which have led her to pursue a journalism degree as well as founding an online media portal, Bearcat Voice. As a Senior Contributor, Faalik combines her passion for writing and her interest in medicine to explain medical issues to patients in a way they can clearly understand.

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What is the Difference Between a Nutritionist and
a Registered Dietitian?

by Julianna Strano


Dietitian or Nutritionist, what's the difference? Many individuals use the terms dietitian and nutritionist interchangeably, however they do not mean the same thing. While it is true that nutritionists and dietitians are similar there are also differences that set them apart from one another and make them unique.


The National Library of Medicine defines the word nutrition as, ”eating a healthy and balanced diet. Food and drink provide the energy and nutrients you need to be healthy. Understanding these nutrition terms may make it easier for you to make better food choices.”


Understanding nutrition can help us make good choices as well as live and feel our best in life. Dietitians and nutritionists are well educated and experts on the topic of nutrition and what nutrition is. Both are able to help their patients reach a healthy lifestyle. Although the two are different, they are both needed and help patients with different concerns.


The Registered Dietitian

When we speak of dietitians, we are most often referring to registered dietitians. Registered dietitians have more training, credentials, and education than nutritionists do. Dietitians typically go to school for five to seven years and the education of a nutritionist takes anywhere from six months to six years depending on certifications. explains that dietitians help their patients with healthy eating habits, and they focus on their medical needs. Their website states, “Dietitians teach people and populations about nutrition, food and health. They work in all the same types of settings as nutritionists, including schools, hospitals, long-term care facilities, government health facilities, research and sports.”


The Nutritionist

Nutritionists focus more on general nutrition, meal planning, and goals related to food and diets. Individuals often visit a nutritionist to help with weight loss or gain, if they are experiencing food allergies, and for general healthy nutrition tips. They typically work in hospitals, nursing homes, schools, private practice and clinics. explains what a nutritionist is and the basics of the job. “Nutritionists may be certified by the Board for Certification of Nutrition Specialists or the Clinical Nutrition Certification Board. Training requirements for nutritionists vary from one state to the next, and most states do not require nutritionists to be licensed nor certified,” as stated on their website. states, “Nutritionists typically work with individuals or populations to teach them more about general nutrition, food and health. Their focus is on food behavior. This includes working with individuals to devise and implement meal plans that improve the individual’s or family’s nutrition.”

It is common for the title of “nutritionist” to be given to an individual who offers and gives others nutritional advice, but not every nutritionist has certifications.


Neither a registered dietitian nor a nutritionist can diagnose a patient. It is  important to keep in mind that only a doctor can diagnose a patient. After determining that a patient can benefit by meeting with the registered dietitian or the nutritionist, the doctor refers the patient for counseling or support.


While It is true that there are similarities between dietitians and nutritionists and both are beneficial to a patient, understanding how their scope is different can help patients know who to visit when looking for help with their nutrition and/or a medically necessary diet.

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Julianna Strano is a senior at The University of Arizona majoring in journalism and sociology. Julianna is passionate about all topics related to health and wellness and has the goal of educating and informing others through her writing. Julianna joined the editorial staff of Today's Patient to have the opportunity to help educate others on patient rights and discuss topics that she is passionate about.

April 2022 page 4

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