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What College Courses Are Needed to Become a Neonatal Doctor?

by Gale Thompson

Neonatal doctors specialize in newborn and infant care. Neonatology is a subspecialty of pediatrics, and neonatal doctors commonly act as consultants for obstetricians during high-risk pregnancies. Becoming a neonatal doctor requires the completion of medical school and residency work, in addition to a yearslong neonatal fellowship, to become fully certified. Students planning on becoming neonatal doctors must begin by completing the requirements for the Medical College Admission Test and medical school. Premedical students may choose to major in any discipline, although a certain number of prerequisite courses must be completed.

Biology

Premedical students begin by taking two semesters of general biology with related lab work. These courses are prerequisites for both medical school and the MCAT, and should cover both cellular and molecular biology and the anatomy and physiology of living organisms. The biology department at Harvard University offers introductions to both molecular and cellular biology, in addition to organismic and evolutionary biology. More advanced biology coursework such as anatomy and physiology, cellular and molecular biology and genetics are also highly recommended for medical school admission.

Chemistry

Future neonatal doctors should also take two semesters of general chemistry with lab work, in addition to one semester of organic chemistry with lab work. Knowledge of the principles of chemistry, such as the periodic table and acids and bases, will be required for both the MCAT and the medical school curriculum. Organic chemistry is essential for medical study, as it deals with carbon-based compounds, which make up living things. Lab work will teach students how to conduct basic chemical experiments, test hypotheses and analyze research. Medical schools also recommend courses in biochemistry as well.

Physics

The MCAT contains a physical sciences section, which tests knowledge of both general chemistry as well as physics. Students should take two semesters of general physics, in addition to the related lab work. Concepts such as electromagnetism, equilibrium, momentum, light, energy and atomic structure are crucial for the MCAT and for more advanced medical study.

Mathematics

Calculus and statistics are common prerequisites for medical schools. According to the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine website, students may take either statistics or calculus, although it recommends a course in statistics or epidemiology regardless of requirements. According to the Dartmouth Faculty Advising Handbook, because the 2015 MCAT will include statistical questions, more schools are requiring statistics for admission. However, most introductory physics courses are calculus-based, so calculus is also a common prerequisite.

Humanities

Courses in the humanities, such as English composition and literature, philosophy, history and communications, will help students develop verbal reasoning skills which will be tested on the MCAT. Social and behavioral science courses, such as introductory sociology, psychology, anthropology or abnormal psychology, are usually required to further broaden an understanding of culture and behavior. According to the Johns Hopkins Medical School website, these courses "foster broad understanding of humankind and the increasingly diverse cultural and social environment of our world."

Electives

Because neonatology is a specialty beyond medical school, students may wish to take related electives in college. Courses such as embryology, developmental biology, developmental psychology or life span development will foster a student's interest in infant and developmental care.

About the Author

Gale Marie Thompson's work has been published in "Denver Quarterly," "Los Angeles Review" and "Best New Poets 2012." Thompson holds a BA in English and creative writing from the College of Charleston, a MFA from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and is working on a PhD at the University of Georgia.

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