It's All About Fit: A Holistic Approach To CHM Admissions

By Joel Maurer, MD, FACOG
Assistant Dean, Admissions
Michigan State University College of 
Human Medicine

Over the last five years, CHM Admissions has solidified its commitment to an admissions process that uses principles of holistic review (a balanced consideration of academic metrics, activities in preparation for a career in medicine, and personal characteristics consistent with the kind of physician we strive to train and graduate) in selecting each incoming class of medical students.

Historically, our College has long understood that intelligence is a key component in becoming a successful doctor, but it also appreciates that above and beyond a certain level of "smartness" does not necessarily make a better doctor.  While activities listed and discussed on a medical school application and during an interview process also remain a key component in the decision-making process, the evaluation of personal characteristics consistent with becoming a successful doctor has been more challenging.

In order to provide a more structured evaluation of applicant personal characteristics in the admissions process, the admissions committee agreed to transition our interview format three years ago from one that placed heavy emphasis on a semi-structured, one-on-one process to one that uses a series of eight highly-structured, short (eight-minute) "interview" stations that are specifically designed to evaluate personal characteristics, such as compassion, cultural sensitivity, maturity, self-awareness, etc.

This interview instrument is called a multiple mini-interview (or MMI) and not only relies on faculty involvement, but also respects the important evaluative input of or students, staff, alumni, and vested community interviewers.  Topics are discussed using a variety of interview and observational modalities: direct questioning regarding a predetermined topic, project collaboration between two applicants, and role play situations.

Though early in its use among other medical schools, evidence-based research tends to support the validity and reliability of the information gathered by the MMI over other modalities of interview.  Our MMI data supports improved applicant satisfaction using the MMI over traditional interviews that are comparable across multiple demographic factors (race/ethnicity, age, disadvantage status, and gender).

It is our hope that future data will show that the use of this interview format will result in improved academic performance and professional conduct of each applicant who matriculates.

Yet to get to the interview portion of the process, one must first display a strong passion for becoming a physician, supplemented by activities and interests that resonate with our mission. At CHM, there are no specific MCAT or GPA cutoffs as we strongly consider nonacademic variables to be an important aspect in determining one's fit with the College.

Holistic review of medical school applicants is relatively new and beneficial to both the school and student. Innovations in medical education are redefining what it means to be a modern physician. As more and more admissions committees make this philosophical transition (over 1/3 of medical schools in the U.S. now use holistic reviews at each stage of the admissions process), the Association of American Medical Colleges has been proactive in making changes to the American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS) that now allow applicants to submit information about their upbringing and life experiences.

Other factors like letters of evaluation, secondary application essays, and personal statements are also very important among others to our review. From the AMCAS application to the interview, we are looking for specific competencies that align with the College's direction.

We want to ensure that each individual who puts on a white coat from the Michigan State University College of Human Medicine is a great fit.

Indeed, it's all about fit.


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