Prospective medical students no longer have to toil through a 45-minute one-on-one interview, but will instead be guided through a series of 10 short interviews that will assess their medical knowledge and interpersonal skills.
Pioneered by McMaster University in Canada, the UC Davis medical school will use the interview process for the first time this year to select the roughly 100 students for the school’s incoming class of 2011.
“This interview process assesses communication and teamwork skills and things that are not assessed in the former process. Our hope is that it will give additional information that is not traditionally measured,” said Mark Henderson, associate dean for admissions.
Prospective medical students will still be required to submit the usual Medical College Admission Test scores and other application materials.
The series of brief interviews will measure the student’s ability to respond to a number of real-life scenarios that physicians encounter daily such as ethical dilemmas, following succinct instructions and responding to fortuitous tasks.
The new process could benefit both prospective medical students and the professors in the medical school, Henderson said.
“The advantage for students is that this way you have 10 different opportunities to shine, rather than one or two,” he said. “Also, if you happen to have a bad interaction in one of 10 interviews, it will be viewed as an anomaly, and it’s not representative.”
Professors will also be at an advantage, Henderson explained, because they will be working with more interactive learners as a result of the selection of students in this process.
Waly Jahangiri, a UC Davis alumnus and prospective medical student, favors the novel development and explained what he sees as a much more reliable and fair process.
“The first interview I did, I was stressed and didn’t know certain conventions,” he said. “If you have three or four interviews, you’ll be more confident; they will get a clear perception of who you are and how you interact with people.”
Jahangiri also asserted that a physician’s career is highly interpersonal and that effective doctor-patient relations are fundamental to a patient’s health.
“Primary care physicians have to communicate prognosis and treatment plans, and that delivery must be done efficiently,” he said. “If they are failing to communicate vital information, that could lead to a decrease in the patients overall health.”
Ursula Barghouth, an alumna of UCLA and prospective medical student, also expressed support for the new process, especially the fact that an interviewee sees more than just a single administrator. However, it could require more work on the part of the medical school to ensure its success, she said.
“I think that’s a really fresh idea,” Barghouth said. “It would definitely give the interviewee the chance to show multiple people different aspects of their personality, but it would take a lot of coordination [on] UC Davis’ part to be effective.”
Interviewers will need to be more innovative with their questions and be careful not to repeat, she said.
Other members of the admissions team agree that it is an ambitious and time-consuming process, which will be more labor-intensive than the former. The medical school will administer anonymous surveys to prospective medical students who have completed the process in order to evaluate it.
NOURA KHOURY can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.