Admission to med school is changing. The standard grades, letters of recommendation, MCAT scores, one-hour interview, and essays are now being complemented with a people skills test at many schools across the nation. At schools like Stanford University, UCLA, University of Cincinnati, and Virginia Tech Carilion (the newest med school in the United States), students applying for admission to med school must complete a series of short interviews in which they discuss ethical dilemmas with interviewers.
According to a description of the process at Virginia Tech Carilion in a “New York Times” piece by Gardiner Harris, “When a bell sounded, the applicants spun around and read a sheet of paper taped to the door that described an ethical conundrum. Two minutes later, the bell sounded again and the applicants charged into the small rooms and found an interviewer waiting. A chorus of cheerful greetings rang out, and the doors shut. The candidates had eight minutes to discuss that room’s situation. Then they moved to the next room, the next surprise conundrum and the next interviewer, who scored each applicant with a number and sometimes a brief note.” In one room, the issue may be about circumcision. In another, it may be about blood transfusions for a patient who is a Jehovah’s Witness (a practice that would be counter to the patient’s faith).
The goal of these brief speed-dating interviews is to gauge the communication skills of applicants to med school. Bad communication, after all, is the cause for so many medical errors. Working in teams is essential in modern medicine and med schools want students who will listen to other people and demonstrate a willingness to change their opinions rather than only say what they want to say.