The Pre-Health Track as a DNS undergraduate

Students considering medicine, physical therapy, dentistry, physical assistantship, nursing, or other advanced medical training need have similar undergraduate course requirements. This page provides information for DNS students in or considering a pre-health track, including Required, Recommended, or Valuable Courses, how to Register as a Pre-Health Student, considerations for Transfer Students, and Getting Pre-Health Experience, as well as information about other opportunities for getting pre-health experience. This information is not a substitute for meeting with a pre-health advisor as soon as possible.

More information about pre-health paths can be found in annual guides from Cornell Career Services (103 Barnes Hall): the Guide for First- and Second-Year Pre-Med Students and the Guide for Advanced Pre-Medical Students (available from the Career Services website) as well as via pre-health advisors in each College

Cornell Career Services lists all required and recommended pre-health coursework, which includes a strong foundation in the natural sciences as well as coursework in social sciences and quantitative reasoning. These requirements align well with requirements for Nutritional Sciences (NS), Human Biology, Health, and Society (HBHS), and Global and Public Health Sciences (GPHS) majors.

Pre-health students should:

  1. Pay close attention to pre-health advising notes within their major requirements, which highlight important modifications
  2. Compare and contrast their major requirements with pre-health requirements to include any other important modifications and additions
  3. Work with a pre-health advisor to develop a draft 4-year plan that includes all requirements and appropriate sequencing

In addition to required and recommended pre-health coursework, a number of other Cornell courses may be valuable to pre-health students in DNS, depending on personal interests. Some of these classes are listed below in alphabetical order, not in order of potential value.

  • ANTHR 2468 Medicine, Culture, and Society
  • BIOMG 2800 Lectures in Genetics and Genomics
  • BIOMI 2500 Public Health Microbiology
  • BIOMI 2600 Microbiology of Human Contagious Diseases
  • BIOMI 2900 General Microbiology
  • BIOMI 3210 Human Microbes and Health
  • BIOMI / BIOMS 4310 Medical Parasitology
  • BIONB 4270 Darwinian Medicine
  • BSOC 4411 Philosophy of Medicine
  • COMM 2850 / STS 2851 Communication, Environment, Science, and Health
  • DSOC / LSP 2200 Sociology of Health and Ethnic Minorities
  • DSOC 3111 / BSOC 3111 / SOC 3130 / STS 3111 Sociology of Medicine
  • ENTOM 2100 Plagues and People
  • ENTOM / TOX 3070 Pesticides, the Environment, and Human Health
  • HD 2180 Human Development: Adulthood and Aging
  • FDSC 4220 Fundamental Foods and Dietary Supplements for Health
  • HD 1150 Human Development: Infancy and Childhood
  • FSAD 4390 Biomedical Materials and Devices for Human Body Repair
  • HD 1170 Human Development: Adolescence and Emerging Adulthood
  • HD 2180 Human Development: Adulthood and Aging
  • HD 2200 The Human Brain and Mind: Biological Issues in Human Development
  • HD / SOC 2510 Social Gerontology: Aging and the Life Course
  • HD 3300 Developmental Psychology
  • HD 3250 Neurochemistry of Human Behavior
  • HD 3570 / SOC 3670 Social Inequalities in Physical and Mental Health
  • HD 3660 Affective and Social Neuroscience
  • HD 3700 / PSYCH 32510 Adult Psychopathology
  • HD 3250 Neurochemistry of Human Behavior
  • HD / SOC 4570 Health and Social Behavior
  • HD 4590 Life Transitions Across the Life Span
  • NS 3150 Obesity and the Regulation of Body Weight
  • NS 3600 Epidemiology
  • NS 3310 Human Nutrition and Nutrient Metabolism (helpful for the MCAT, fundamental nutrition knowledge useful to non-nutrition majors)
  • NS 4250 Nutrition Communications & Counseling
  • NS 4500 Public Health Nutrition
  • PAM / DSOC 3280 Fundamentals of Population Health
  • PAM 2350 The U.S. Healthcare System
  • PAM 3110 Pharmaceutical Management and Policy
  • PAM 3780 Sick Around the World? Comparing Health Care Systems Around the World
  • PAM 4050 Reproductive Health Policy
  • PAM 4280 / ECON 3710 The Economics of Risky Health Behaviors
  • PAM 4370 / ECON 3720 The Economics of Health Care Markets
  • SOC 3130 / BSOC 3111 / DSOC 3111 / STS 3111 Sociology of Medicine
  • PLPPM 2950 Biology of Infectious Disease: From Molecules to Ecosystems

AND courses in languages, oral communications, and culture and religion.

Pre-health students register with the Health Career Evaluation Committee (HCEC) at Cornell, which provides a letter of evaluation (not a letter of recommendation) that is part of most pre-health students’ applications to health professional schools (i.e., schools of allopathic and osteopathic medicine, dentistry, optometry, and podiatry). HCEC prepares the letter of evaluation and appends the student’s letters of recommendation to it. More information about the HCEC, its processes, and its timeline can be found on the Cornell Career Services' HCEC page.

According to the Health Career Evaluation Committee (HCEC) at Cornell:

“Transfer students with less than 30 letter-graded credit hours in Cornell courses should register at the usual time and submit transcript(s) from other institution(s) to the HCEC. [The HCEC will obtain a copy of your Cornell transcript.] However, an interviewer will be assigned only after thirty credit hours at Cornell have been completed and all non-Cornell transcripts have been received.  For juniors who have completed two semesters with less than 30 credits, the options include:

  1. taking a Cornell course during the 3-week summer session in late May – June
  2. getting a letter from your previous institution, or
  3. waiting until your senior year to register with the HCEC and apply to medical school. 

Interviews for transfer students are typically conducted during the late spring, in Ithaca, at the convenience of the interviewer. Transfer students may contact the HCEC via email to determine eligibility and deadlines.”

Transfer students considering the pre-health track at Cornell should see a pre-health advisor to discuss:

  • the pros and cons of using Cornell's HCEC or of using the committee at your previous institution
  • suitable sources of letters of recommendation and supplementary letters
  • issues to consider in deciding the optimum time to apply
  • procedures for postponing your interview when you have completed your semester credit hours
  • proceeding with an HCEC Letter without an HCEC interview

Coursework is only one important part of preparing for a career in medicine and health. Many other activities and resources can help you to decide whether a career in medicine is right for you, assess what type of career in medicine interests you, and gain early insight into the skills and thought processes involved in a career in medicine and health. Some of these are described briefly below.

Students should also review the many resources described on Cornell Career Services’ Preparing for Health Careers page, explore a wide range of opportunities on the Experience Cornell website, and sign up for Health Careers notifications through Handshake to learn about opportunities for development and networking.

  • CU Alumni Connections Program: Students can apply to the CU Alumni Connections Program to shadow a Cornell alum in one of the health professions.
  • Field Experience in Your Major: Field experience can provide unique opportunities for education and personal professional growth. Some students get credit for field experience; e.g. NS 4020 with a DNS faculty member.
  • Research: Undergraduates can participate in research for credit, as a volunteer, through a position outside Cornell, and/or through the DNS Honors Program. Participating in research and working closely with a faculty member can help you decide how interested you are in the research aspects of nutrition and medicine.
  • Practicing Medicine: Health Care Culture and Careers: Students may apply for the eight-week summer Practicing Medicine: Health Care Culture and Careers program (usually after sophomore or junior year) in New York City gaining experience in health care fields.
  • Volunteer Opportunities: Many students engage in public health-related volunteer opportunities on- or off-campus, in Ithaca or Tompkins County, or in their hometowns. Some volunteer to help health care providers or community support programs over the summer. Students can discuss interests and ideas with a pre-health advisor.