During a recent review of the MCAT exam, the American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC) surveyed medical school faculty to determine the relative importance of basic science and statistics topics for medical school preparation and success. Based on the results of this survey, the AAMC identified statistical reasoning as one of the major competencies expected of incoming medical students. The purpose of this project was to ascertain how students who self-identify as pre-med/pre-health: 1) perceive the importance of statistics to their academic preparation for professional school and 2) how this relates to their attitudes towards the incorporation of basic statistical reasoning in their undergraduate biology classes. We administered a survey similar to that of the AAMC to pre-health students at the University of Pittsburgh. Students were asked to rate the importance of 10 biology and 10 statistics topics from the original AAMC survey. Topics were selected based on their medical relevance and relative importance ranking in the AAMC survey. Students were also asked if they had ever encountered the statistics topics within the context of a biology course and if they believed that working with each statistical concept in a biology course would be beneficial to their preparation for medical school. The results of our survey indicate that, compared to the AAMC, students overestimated the relative importance of comparative anatomy and topics related to body systems. In contrast, students underestimated the relative importance of measures of central tendency to their preparation for medical school. Students felt that additional exposure to all of the statistics topics in biology courses would be helpful to their preparation for medical school. Not surprisingly, students’ ranking of the relative importance of a statistics topic correlated with their interest in studying it in a biology course. Our research was conducted in the context of an initiative to promote math in undergraduate biology courses and is exploratory in nature. Our results will be used to inform faculty about the attitudes of pre-health students and to inform students of the expectations of the AAMC in preparation for medical school.
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