The sociology knowledge you need to take the MCAT

I noted last year that the MCAT, the exam for applicants to medical school, was changing to include knowledge about sociology. Since then, I have been curious about what exact sociological knowledge is required for the exam and a report from the American Association of Medical Colleges provides some insights. Here is “Behavioral and Social Science
Learning Outcomes at Graduation” that sociology (and psychology) can fulfill (p.24 of the document):

Accurately describe how social determinants of health influence health outcomes and how physicians can incorporate this knowledge in the care of patients.

Here is how a sociological vantage point can help deal with a particular scenario (p.16):

A woman newly diagnosed with breast cancer is searching for a physician to help her think through her situation, set goals, and develop a “health strategy.” While waiting to meet with a new physician for consultation, she tells a medical student that she has been mostly receiving “treatment options,” instead of health strategies…

Sociology
• How do we conceptualize the difference between a “health strategy” and “treatment options”?
• How is the care of a cancer patient embedded in a network of friends, family, and health care providers?

And here is a more broad statement about what the social sciences can bring to medicine (p.10):

Given the daunting breadth of behavioral and social science, the contributions from this family of sciences can best be understood by attending to three core areas: 1) the use of behavioral and social sciences theory, 2) behavioral and social science research methods, and 3) core behavioral and social science concepts and contributions to the fund of medical knowledge.

On the whole, it seems like sociology is meant to help doctors and health care providers understand the social and cultural context of the patient. Added to an expanded matrix of care, sociology helps provide a more holistic approach to medical care.

It seems like these requirements could be fulfilled by an Introduction to Sociology course though without seeing the particular questions on the MCAT, it is hard to know.

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