CINCINNATI—While Washington focuses on restructuring our health care system, the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine is focusing on a new way to select the doctors it will send out into a possibly re-engineered field.
Beginning with the 2009 incoming class—who received their symbolic white lab coats on Friday, Aug. 14—UC took a new approach to its admissions process with hopes of fostering and producing not only the best medical minds but the most compassionate health care providers who are able to communicate as well.
This year, for the first time in UC's history (also becoming the first medical school in the country to do so), the college decided to forgo the standard one-on-one interview with a single admissions committee member (usually a senior faculty member) and go with a process that is common practice in Canada called the Multiple Mini Interview (MMI). For the MMI, candidates are asked to participate in a series of eight-minute conversations with up to nine people from different walks of life: faculty, retired physicians, current medical school students, business leaders and lay people.
"We felt that we got better and more accurate insights into the applicants as ‘people’ in addition to their intellect," says Laura Wexler, MD, senior associate dean, student affairs and admissions, and professor of medicine/cardiology. (Wexler says she wasn't a big fan of the process initially but was won over by a pilot program in 2008 that compared both methods).
For example, instead a of a senior faculty member asking standard interview questions about a student’s background and grades (which many applicants prepare for ahead of time), applicants were asked to review and then discuss several very brief, real-life scenarios—interpersonal situations students could find themselves in such as: "Upon examining a small child in the ER you see multiple bruising and scars and suspect child abuse. Demonstrate how you would discuss this with the parents.”
In some cases, students also role play and work on solving a problem in a team environment to assess teamwork and communication skills.
The goal is for UC to become better able to select medical students who not only look outstanding on their undergrad transcripts but also would be caring doctors, better communicators and better, more open-minded decision-makers, says Wexler.
"Since each student is interviewing with eight or nine different people it is tougher to coordinate, but the information that we get is so much more valuable than the standard interview and that makes the effort worthwhile,” says Stephen Manuel, PhD, assistant dean of admissions.
Out of almost 3,000 applicants, 642 were invited to go through the MMI process at UC for entry into a first-year class of 175.