NYU School of Medicine has announced that it plans to open a new medical school on Long Island that will train primary care physicians in three years.  This is similar to an initiative at the flagship campus in Manhattan that offers a three-year medical school curriculum for those interested in primary care.  The medical school is set to start enrolling students as early as September 2019 if all required approvals go through.

–Liza Thompson, Expert Medical School Admissions Consulting

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A recent article in the New York Times about the Bard Hall Players, a theater company consisting of medical students at Columbia’s College of Physicians and Surgeons, highlights the importance of engaging in stress-reducing activities during medical school. Many medical students find creative pursuits to be enjoyable while also enhancing their understanding of the human condition.  As a second-year medical student says in the article, “When you have the ability to see other people’s lives and put yourself into them, then it helps you serve them better and understand what they’re going through in a different way.”

Columbia is not the only medical school with opportunities for students to engage in creative outlets. Harvard’s Arts and Humanities Initiative promotes involvement in the arts and states that, “The arts and humanities are powerful tools in medical education that have the potential to improve professionalism, reflection and empathy among physicians and trainees, foster humanism, reduce burnout, enhance perspective, sharpen physicians’ analytic and diagnostic skills, and improve teamwork and communication.” More information about Harvard Medical School’s focus on arts education can be found here.

At Yale, they have incorporated a course in observational skills—at the Yale Art Museum—for its first-year medical students. At Penn State, there is a required humanities elective. The Music and Medicine program at Cornell provides opportunities for musicians to collaborate and create music. More medical schools seem to be adopting creative programs in an effort to incorporate both creativity and reflection into their training programs.

A recent article describes the benefits of acting classes on medical students and medical faculty, especially in regard to developing empathy. Improv classes at Wright State describes how it teaches medical students about “discrimination against minority groups.” At the University of Rochester School of Medicine, theater classes help participants understand oppression and bias.

–Liza Thompson, Expert Medical School Admissions Consulting

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News announcement:

Harvard Medical School has received the largest gift in its history, $200 million, to be used to advance research initiatives.

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News announcement:

The University of Massachusetts Medical School has received a gift of $1.4 million to do a clinical trial on Tay-Sachs disease.

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Johns Hopkins recently issued a statement of support for the LGBTQ community. You can see an article about the message here and the actual statement here, intended for staff, faculty, students, visitors, and patients.

–Liza Thompson, Expert Medical School Admissions Consultant

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For people seeking to enroll in a post baccalaureate premedical program—whether a “career changer” or “record enhancing” program—it can often be confusing to figure out where to apply. The Association of American Medical Colleges maintains a database of postbac programs and it is a good resource for prospective students to use to get basic information about various programs. The database is searchable using different parameters (location, type, etc.) and is useful. However, the database gives no qualitative information which might help applicants sort out their options. How does an applicant figure out which are the best postbac premed programs?  Bear in mind, as well, that what might be “best” for one applicant might not be the same for another; each applicant might have different criteria as to what they seek in a program.

Unfortunately, there are no post bac premedical program rankings which might help prospective students navigate the best postbac premed programs. Instead, applicants have to do the homework on their own to figure out which postbac premed programs—in their eyes, at least—hold the most sway and are most appealing. Here are some elements to consider when weighing programs:

1. What’s the student: advisor ratio?  This helps you figure out how accessible the advisors will be and how much guidance you may get in the medical school application process.

2. What’s the program’s success rate in getting students admitted to medical school? Obviously you want to go to medical school otherwise you wouldn’t be considering a post-bac program. Will enrolling in a particular program increase your chance of being admitted to medical school? Look at the percentage of enrollees who are admitted to medical school and also ask good questions of the program administrators: what does that statistic actually include?   Continue reading

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When medical school applicants start getting decisions from medical schools that put them in a “hold” category or on an alternate or waiting list they often wonder what action they can take to move their candidacy forward. Certainly they will need to communicate with the school in question to indicate that they are interested in remaining under consideration; that’s the first order of business. In addition, they will need to keep the school updated as to new developments (publications, honors/awards, job changes, new activities, new grades, etc.) as the application process unfolds. In addition, they may want to write a letter of interest or intent.

A letter of interest conveys an applicant’s very strong interest in a school. It would stop short of stating that, if accepted, they would enroll. However, the letter should be articulated in terms that show, very specifically, why the school appeals to the applicant. The letter should make references to curricular aspects, research opportunities, and other school-specific programs the applicant would want to participate in. Make the school visualize you as a contributing member of the incoming class; that’s what a letter of interest should do.

A letter of intent, on the other hand, does all of the above but goes a step further. It states that if fortunate enough to be offered admission, you would enroll. Obviously the specific reasons for wanting to enroll must be expressed, as with the letter of interest. The letter of intent is even stronger — in terms of content (i.e. why you want to go to a particular school) and intent — than the letter of interest. Because you are stating that you will enroll, the letter of intent should be written for only one school, for obvious ethical reasons. Most applicants do not write a letter of intent until later in the application process, after they have had the opportunity to interview at multiple schools; the letter of intent has more authenticity/perspective at that stage of the application process. But situations vary from applicant to applicant—sometimes a letter of intent is written earlier.

If you want help with a letter of intent or interest—or if you want to discuss your situation—please contact me via email at liza@thompsonadvising.com.

–Liza Thompson, Expert Medical School Admissions Consultant

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Photo Courtesy of the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine

Photo Courtesy of the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine

Twenty years ago the term “medical student wellness” did not exist. Medical schools at that time weren’t that concerned about medical students living balanced lives. Things have changed dramatically since then. Now almost every medical school is cognizant of students’ wellbeing. Many medical schools encourage their students to incorporate physical activity, relaxation, social activities, mindfulness meditation, and other stress relievers into their lives as med students.  Some medical schools have structured wellness programs, such as those at Vanderbilt, UCSF, Wake Forest, the University of Nevada, the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Wisconsin, and Columbia, for example. In addition, some medical schools have mindfulness meditation programs for medical students. A recent study showed that 80% of US medical schools have incorporated some form of “mindfulness activity” into either research, wellness programs, clinical treatments for patients, or the curriculum.  Brown, the University of Cincinnati, the University of Massachusetts, and Stanford offer such programs. Some schools offer yoga for med students; BU and Brown offer examples of this.

Many schools incorporate such programs to help med students ward off stress and burnout. A new program at the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine incorporates wellness into the curriculum. Continue reading

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The Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME) accredits medical schools in the US and Canada. The accreditation process ensures that medical schools meet certain standards set by the LCME. Medical schools are required to “demonstrate that their graduates exhibit general professional competencies that are appropriate for entry to the next stage of their training and that serve as the foundation for lifelong learning and proficient medical care.”

Accreditation is important since most state medical boards require that U.S. medical schools be accredited by the LCME as a condition for licensure of their graduates and US medical students cannot take United States Medical Licensing Examinations unless they are enrolled at an accredited school. Each medical school goes through a review and re-accreditation process periodically. Occasionally schools are put on probation and required to make changes if they want to maintain their accreditation.

Medical school applicants should be cognizant of the schools which are on probation. If they apply to those schools they should find out what the schools are doing to rectify the situation to be taken off probation. As of this writing there are no schools on probation. St. Louis University was recently on probation but was approved in October 2018.

–Liza Thompson, Expert Medical School Admissions Consulting

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Photo courtesy of the University of Michigan School of Medicine

Photo courtesy of the University of Michigan School of Medicine

Congratulations!  You’ve landed the interview!  What’s the best way to prepare for a medical school interview? You should practice with someone who is very familiar with the medical school interview process, whether your premedical advisor or some other knowledgeable individual, such as an experienced medical school admissions consultant. At the very least, you should review typical questions you might get asked and think about how you would answer them. Then you should PRACTICE answering them. You should be comfortable discussing your experiences and your motivation for a career in medicine.

Medical schools offer a range of interview types:  traditional (one on one), group interviews (panels of either applicants or interviewers, and sometimes both), or multiple-mini interviews in which hypothetical scenarios are posed.

Here are some typical interview questions for the traditional interview. Review these to get a good idea as to the types of questions you might be asked: Continue reading

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