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Paving the path from Dartmouth College to Geisel

By Susan Green

Three first-year medical students—Sunil Bhatt (left), Nayrana Carneiro, and Matthew Sattler—are the first Dartmouth College graduates to matriculate at Geisel as part of an early assurance admissions program.

Geisel's early assurance admissions program is smoothing the way to medical school for a few fortunate—and talented—Dartmouth College undergraduates. The program allows Dartmouth students to apply to Geisel at the end of their sophomore year and waives the requirement of taking the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT), and it also offers students the chance to defer admission for one year after completing their undergraduate work.

"The idea behind the program is to offer undergraduates an inducement to stay with us," says Joseph Schwartzman, a professor of pathology and past chair of the admissions committee. "Recommendations and grades from Dartmouth professors allow us to forgo the MCATs."

But the program is by no means an easy pass into medical school. Early assurance applicants are part of a highly competitive pool of candidates who are considered alongside all medical school applicants throughout the interview process—with only five undergraduates accepted for admission to Geisel.

"All of the early assurance applicants are very accomplished, and they've all done something that is unusual at their level of study," Schwartzman says. "We want people who have enough experience to know that they really want to be doctors."

Julia Berkowitz, Sunil Bhatt, Nayrana Carneiro, Emily Dollar, and Matthew Sattler are the first five Dartmouth undergraduates admitted to Geisel through the program, and while Dollar and Berkowitz have deferred for one year, Bhatt, Carneiro, and Sattler are now first-year Geisel students.

"I am very passionate about science and about helping people, which I think is common among all medical students," Carneiro says. "But I do believe that if you want to be a doctor, you have to have it in your heart that you really want to help others."

As an undergraduate, Carneiro worked at a clinic in a tough Philadelphia neighborhood with limited access to health care. A significant number of the population struggles with diabetes, HIV, and other serious health issues. Scared and vulnerable, many of the clinic's patients were unpleasant and resistant to help.

Carneiro was unfazed. "That internship was life-changing," she says. "It was there that I learned the importance of showing patients love, compassion, and understanding. It confirmed my desire to become a physician."

Long interested in health care, Sattler, a licensed emergency medical technician (EMT), began volunteering with Dartmouth Emergency Medical Services, the college's student-run basic life support squad, during his freshman year.

"While working as an EMT it became clear to me that I wanted to continue working in that environment but to provide consistency of care beyond on-call emergencies," he says.

"I came to Dartmouth because of its rural environment and I'm staying for medical school because I really like what I've found here—a school that's focused on patient care," Sattler adds.

In high school, Bhatt traveled to India with his father, a physician, who established an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) service at a charity hospital there. "I was able to help set up a simple telemedicine system that allowed my father, and another ENT doctor in the U.S., to evaluate transmitted images of patient exams and provide feedback on the diagnoses," Bhatt recalls. "I had the capacity to make a difference and to see a patient through the course of their treatment no matter where they were from. It's what led me down the path to Dartmouth and to global health."

Schwartzman says he's confident that all of the students will do well at Geisel. "Dartmouth College students who are admitted through the regular process are very strong and I expect these students will be great medical students as well."

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Geisel School of Medicine at DartmouthDartmouth-Hitchcock Medical CenterWhite River Junction VAMCNorris Cotton Cancer CenterDartmouth College