A fashion faux pas almost prevented me from getting into my dream medical school. Midway through the interview there, the interviewer pointed to my left earlobe and said, “Do you really think we accept men who wear … those things?”
I had no idea what he was talking about at first, but then remembered the gold post I’d forgotten to remove. In a disdainful southern drawl the interviewer let me know how dark a shadow this stylistic error cast on my otherwise favorable application.
I left his office fairly sure I would not be admitted. I also doubted whether I wanted to be admitted to a school that selected physicians on the basis of their jewelry. Really?
Twenty years later, medical schools around the country still struggle to find the right way to decide who should be the physicians of the future, and who should not. Most have evolved past caring about male earrings, but what are the right criteria for admission – what makes a good proto-doctor?
Over forty thousand students apply to medical school each year. Each applicant spends thousand of dollars in fees and plane tickets, and institutions spend still more to screen, host, interview and pick among the hordes of black-suited applicants. Increasingly, medical schools are considering innovative and creative ways to distinguish the most promising applicants from the rest.
New approaches include:
1. Using a more holistic review rubric that de-emphasizes grades and MCAT scores, such as at Boston University;
2. Suspending traditional pre-med requirements for humanities students, such as at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mt Sinai; and,
3. Creative admissions interviews that include problem solving, multiple mini-interviews and even observed standardized patient interactions.
Each of these innovative methods sounds great. Used in combination I suspect they will identify applicants with the necessary academic chops plus a great bedside manner.