Thursday, October 16, 2014

All About The MMI: Tips on What To Expect and How To Prepare

Applicant interviews are underway across the country and medical schools are finally coming face-to-face with candidates for their incoming classes next fall. Each institution has their own characteristics to look for as well as their own strategies for evaluating applicants.

Here at MSU, we've utilized the Multiple Mini-Interview (MMI) format in our Interview Day since 2011. In fact, the MSU College of Human Medicine (CHM) was the first medical school in the state of Michigan to implement the method.

While this is a relatively new interview format in the United States, it has been used successfully for years throughout Canada and Australia.

Developed at McMaster University (Canada), more and more stateside schools are adopting the MMI each year, which has become increasingly popular beyond just medical schools. To understand why, it's important to know what the MMI is.

What is the MMI?
 The MMI is a series of short (timed), highly structured "interviews" through which applicants rotate. Normally, there are 6 to 10 interview stations that can differ in type. Schools will have their own set of stations and scenarios of course, but some typical examples include question-and-answer, collaboration, and even role-play.

At MSU, our questions and scenarios provide each interviewer the means to evaluate specific personal characteristics the College of Human Medicine believes are vital to becoming a successful physician.

There are no right or wrong answers. Instead, the MMI's purpose is to give insight on the applicant's thought process and interpersonal skills as well as individual values and ideals—qualities beyond grades and scores. Schools want to know if the applicant is a good "fit" for their student body.

Using a scale to rate the candidates, the task of rating at CHM Interview Days is shared between a team of administrators, faculty, staff, and students who have been trained specifically for the MMI process at the College of Human Medicine.

This provides a more reliable assessment because the admissions committee can use input from numerous interviewers rather than be entirely dependent on one person or small panel. When applicants are rated by numerous interviewers instead, it minimizes the potential effects from compatibility issues or unconscious bias that may be present in a traditional interview scoring system.

A Visual Mock-Up of a MMI Circuit

Tips & Words of Advice
Before the Interview Day
Again, there are no right or wrong answers so unless you are provided sample questions directly from the school in advance, preparing yourself means taking a general approach towards the goals of an MMI.

Applicants should expect to talk about themselves of course, but not in the same manner one would for a traditional interview. Schools are already aware of your scientific knowledge and accomplishments. In fact, that's what got you the interview. Instead, familiarize yourself with current events, medical issues and social policies.

Better yet, consider a variety of perspectives and develop some thoughts, some opinions of your own. Practice how you form and verbalize your conclusions. Having the ability to provide thorough, logical answers is important.

Having the ability to provide thorough, logical answers in a short period of time is even better. MMI circuits are heavily dependent on time. Once a buzzer or bell signifies the end of a station, the interview must end even if the applicant is not finished giving an answer. Good time management is crucial to MMI success.

During The MMI
Additionally, there are also a few more tips to be aware of once you are actually participating in the MMI.

The way that the MMI is structured forces students to think on their feet—analyzing the scenarios posed, synthesizing problems, and discussing positions. So the first thing you should do is really pay attention to what the scenario prompt is and thus, what is being required of you. Schools want to know how you think and communicate, not a re-hashing of your credentials.

Applicants are given time to read through a prompt before beginning the "interview." Schools may or may not allow notes.
Also understand that there won't be enough time to reflect, which can be a good thing. Keep moving forward and don't dwell on those stations you didn't feel too great about. Many schools, including our own, will not offer feedback or direct input as to how you are performing, so there's no sense in stressing.

Essentially, there's only enough time to think how one would ordinarily think or behave how one would ordinarily behave. So, the last key to the MMI is simply being yourself. Do not overthink the scenarios. How you present yourself plays a big role in deciding if you're a good fit.

All in all, the MMI can seem overwhelming but most leave the MMI circuit feeling it was a fun, refreshing experience. While it is a challenge, MMIs are also advantageous for applicants in that they have more opportunities to showcase a variety of personal characteristics and skills. The applicant feels more at ease knowing they have several different "interviews" to make an impression.

Good luck!

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Wednesday, October 1, 2014

College of Human Medicine Assistant Dean for Admissions To Host Workshop at Nation's Largest Pre-Health Conference

The largest pre-health conference in the country is just around the corner, with CHM's head of admissions scheduled to lead a workshop. The 12th Annual UC-Davis Pre-Medical and Pre-Health Professions National Conference will be held just 15 minutes outside of Sacramento on October 11-12.

The two-day event will cover health professional topics just as varied as the selection of keynote speakers, panels, and workshops. Our very own Joel Maurer, MD, FACOG, Assistant Dean for Admissions at the MSU College of Human Medicine, will be speaking at the conference for the fourth consecutive year.

"I always look forward to describing the mission of our college, as I believe there are certain components of it that should truly resonate with most people who attend. Since we typically matriculate 15-20% out-of-state applicants (much higher than most state-supported medical schools), I like to encourage them to at least look at us," says Maurer.

The AMCAS Personal Statement, What's Up with Obstetrics and Gynecology, and Preparing Gay Students for Medical School are some of the topics Dr. Maurer has spoken on in past UCDPHSA conferences.

This year, he'll be giving a workshop on preparing the written AMCAS application. Dr. Maurer enjoys the workshops in particular because presenters, as experts on the topics, can usually address any question fielded, which is of clear benefit to the attendees.

"I really enjoy getting the opportunity to help counsel premedical students who need some friendly advice about the medical school admissions process," Maurer states.

Beyond its reputation for being the largest pre-medical and pre-health professions gathering at an undergraduate institution, the conference also emphasizes its support for URM students (underrepresented in medicine, as defined by the AAMC) interested in a career in medicine.

"For this conference, the vast majority who attend come from disadvantaged socioeconomic backgrounds and under-represented backgrounds in medicine. So to be able to reach out to this demographic with some tangible advice and encouragement is really satisfying," affirms Maurer.

Just over 200 students attended the first conference in 2003. Over the last 11 years, the UCD Pre-Medical and Pre-Health Conference has steadily grown, hosting over 7,400 attendees last year at the University of California, Davis.

One of the premier elements of the conference for those thousands of attendees will be the Dean's Panels, lining up administrators—including Dr. Maurer—representing schools across the country.

Elaborating on his experiences, "Most students at this conference are really positive and enthusiastic. For others, it can be overwhelming. I’ve been the recipient of hugs and tears, of joy and heartbreak."  

Whether it's supporting that joy or relieving that heartbreak, Dr. Maurer is eager to help spread the proper messages, which include some insight into our great institution at CHM.

"There’s a lot of representation of medical schools that attend and promote themselves:  allopathic, osteopathic, off-shore; so we’re part of the diversity that attends," he declares.

"There are a lot of west-coast schools there, so geographically we offer something a bit different.  Our community-based model of education is also very different from most other schools in attendance, so I can really play-up the wonderful things about this model to conference attendees."

Something else that makes the conference unique is the fact that it is "entirely planned, staffed, coordinated, and funded by pre-medical and pre-health professions students keenly aware of the challenges facing their peers, who aspire to become health professionals."

The UC Davis Pre-Health Student Alliance is a partnership between the pre-medical and pre-health student organizations, fraternities, and sororities at UC-Davis and other local colleges in Sacramento.

See Dr. Maurer's presentation from last year's conference.

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