BA/DO Program Places Undergraduates on Fast Track

The path many students must follow to medical school can be a long and arduous one, but a group of new first-year undergraduates in Rutgers University–Camden’s growing BA/DO program aren’t backing down from the challenge.

“What excites me most about this program is that because it’s accelerated, I have a clear idea of where I’ll be going,” says Erika Kwong, a first-year BA/DO student from Holmdel and a Holmdel High School graduate. “Becoming a doctor isn’t just a dream anymore.”

Matthew Guariglia is in his first year of the BA/DO program at Rutgers-Camden.

Matthew Guariglia is in his first year of the BA/DO program at Rutgers-Camden.

This semester, Rutgers–Camden welcomes four first-year students to its BA/DO program, a joint venture with the Rowan School of Osteopathic Medicine that places students on a fast track to medical school.

Students enrolled in the program complete a three-year curriculum at Rutgers–Camden as biology majors before moving on to study for four years in medical school. They will graduate from Rutgers–Camden with a bachelor’s degree after completing their first year at Rowan.

The four new students — each of them also accepted to Rutgers–Camden’s Honors College — join four other BA/DO undergraduates already studying at Rutgers–Camden. It is the largest cohort of students enrolled in the BA/DO program at Rutgers–Camden at once, a clear sign the program, which began in 2007, is growing.

“We receive applications from a number of highly qualified high school seniors each year and have a high acceptance and matriculation rate for those students who apply,” says Jim Marino, health professions advisor, assistant dean, and director of the Rutgers–Camden Career Center. “Having a program where students have made a successful transition from Rutgers–Camden to the Rowan School of Osteopathic Medicine is the catalyst for recruiting new students into this program.”

Marino says one of the unique advantages of the joint program is that students are able to save one year of undergraduate study while moving ahead with their four-year medical degree.

“Students have the opportunity to be educated at two top universities in the country for undergraduate and medical education,” he says.

During their undergraduate experience, the students not only gain a foundation in the basic sciences, they take time to visit the Rowan School of Osteopathic Medicine, interact with medical students, sit in on labs and lectures, and even use some of the state-of-the-art technology used in medical research.

The program is unique in that students gain some experience in medical research and observe medical professionals in a real-world environment before ever beginning their medical school careers.

Paula Watkins, an assistant dean for admissions at the Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine, says the students’ undergraduate coursework at Rutgers–Camden truly prepares them for medical school curriculum.

“Accelerated medical school programs are quite rigorous and challenging,” Watkins says. “Students must be focused in order to complete their undergraduate coursework at an accelerated rate. The BA/DO program helps us to identify prospective students who are committed to becoming an osteopathic physician. It certainly insures that we are training some of the best and brightest students for the patients that they will serve.”

Since 2007, four BA/DO students have graduated from Rutgers–Camden and moved on to medical school. In May 2013, Meet Parikh became the first student enrolled in the program to graduate from Rutgers–Camden, and he is currently in his third year of medical school.

“Being able to get an education from a great university like Rutgers and to continue on to one of the premier medical school in the nation has helped me build a foundation that has been essential in my success through the program thus far,” Parikh says.

For the new cohort of students, following in the footsteps of students like Parikh — and having the opportunity to learn from them while still pursuing a bachelor’s degree — is invaluable.

“I had the chance to meet some medical school students throughout the process of applying to this program, and I saw an anatomy lab and talked to other BA/DO students who told me to work hard and put in the time and effort to succeed,” says Matthew Guariglia, a first-year Rutgers–Camden student from Wayne, Pa. and a Wayne Hills High School graduate. “It reinforced that interacting with patients and helping to put a smile on a patient’s face is most important.”

The first-year students also say they were attracted to the program because of its focus on osteopathic medicine.

“Osteopathic physicians focus more on the preventative side of medicine, so they take a more holistic approach,” says Anjali Patel, a first-year BA/DO student from South Plainfield and a graduate of the Middlesex County Academy for Allied Health and Biomedical Sciences. “I think this program will help me meet my goals because of all the information I’ll learn and the exposure I’ll get at both Rutgers–Camden and in medical school, which will help me better understand the field of medicine.”

For more information about Rutgers–Camden and the Rowan School of Osteopathic Medicine’s joint BA/DO program — and for admissions requirements — visit

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