Fast track to success
School of Medicine and Honors College partner to offer joint seven-year degree program
By Alyssa Yancey, firstname.lastname@example.org, 803-216-3302
As one of the first five students accepted into the BARSC-MD program, first-year medical student Aalia Soherwardy is on track to earn her undergraduate degree and medical degree in just seven years.
The joint initiative between the University of South Carolina Honors College and the USC School of Medicine allows a select group of students to receive conditional acceptance to medical school as freshmen, and then enter medical school after their third year of undergraduate coursework.
“Honors freshmen who are invited to apply to the program have engaged in many health and science activities during high school, and are already committed to a career in medicine,” says Anita Hood, M.D., director of pre-med programs and the BARSC-MD program at the South Carolina Honors College.
Soherwardy, the daughter of a family medicine physician, began exploring medical careers when she was still in middle school. By high school, she was shadowing physicians at a local hospital and her dream to become a physician was solidified.
“When I found out about the BARSC-MD program I thought it was amazing because I knew that if I did the seven-year program, then I wouldn’t have to take the MCAT and I would save a year in the path to becoming a physician,” says Soherwardy.
The first cohort of BARSC-MD students was accepted into the program in the fall of
2015, and they began medical school in the fall of 2018. Throughout their undergraduate
career, the students received individualized advising and mentoring, special programming
and even a yearly dinner with the dean of the School of Medicine.
We are very intentional in providing opportunities for BARSC-MD students to interact with School of Medicine faculty and current medical students. The goal is to introduce the students to topics and resources that will help them become successful medical students in the future.
Robert Rhinehart, School of Medicine director of enrollment services and assistant dean for diversity and inclusion
BARSC-MD students complete the Baccalaureus Artium et Scientiae degree, a unique and highly selective degree offered only by the South Carolina Honors College, in just three years. They also are required to take more honors and science courses than other Honors College students to help prepare them for the rigors of medical school a year early. Additionally, they conduct research, become proficient in a foreign language, participate in community service and complete a nine-hour senior thesis.
“These students know what they want, excel academically and demonstrate the maturity and focus required for an accelerated path of study. I enjoy working with them, and we’re excited to provide this program to encourage them to stay in the USC system and in South Carolina,” says Hood, who is also an alumna of both the Honors College (’83) and the School of Medicine (’87).
Despite the program’s arduous requirements, Soherwardy says she was pleasantly surprised by its flexibility. Students are able to customize their curriculum by choosing from a large number of health-related electives and are encouraged to pursue a variety of undergraduate experiences.
“One of the things that I always wanted to do was study abroad and I was able to study abroad for a month in France,” says Soherwardy. “I was really happy that with all the other perks, I was still able to do those types of things that I enjoyed.”
Students also benefit from being able to apply their last year of undergraduate scholarship funds to their first year of medical school.
“That was definitely a nice perk that I was very grateful for because we’re all going to take on so many loans and such eventually. It was nice to know that we had a little bit of a financial benefit because of the program,” says Soherwardy.
The School of Medicine works closely with the Honors College to ensure BARSC-MD students are as prepared as possible to enter medical school.
“We are very intentional in providing opportunities for BARSC-MD students to interact with School of Medicine faculty and current medical students. The goal is to introduce the students to topics and resources that will help them become successful medical students in the future,” says Robert Rhinehart, School of Medicine director of enrollment services and assistant dean for diversity and inclusion.
Soherwardy says conversations with her friends who have gone on to other medical schools has affirmed that the BARSC-MD program and the USC School of Medicine were the right choice for her.
“One of the things that I was really happy about with this school was the family feel,” says Soherwardy. “I’ve had friends who’ve gone to other institutions who’ve said their schools are so competitive. Here, everyone is very supportive of each other and always goes out of their way to help one another.”
Soherwardy adds that her friends also are surprised she and her peers are already getting clinical experience through UofSC’s renowned integrated ultrasound curriculum. Although the transition into medical school can be overwhelming at times, Soherwardy says she has felt well supported and welcomed at the School of Medicine.
“The faculty has made a difference, everyone cares so much about our well-being,” says Soherwardy. “Even when I get intimidated, it’s so rewarding to think about the future and how I’ll be changing people’s lives.”
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