For Med Students, A New Test

It used to be that good grades and high scores on the MCAT assured a prospective medical school student entrance into a decent medical school. Now, some medical schools are requiring more. According to a front page article today in the NY Times, some schools such as Stanford and UCLA are requiring future doctors to undergo an MMI or multiple mini interview which is designed to examine how such applicants deal with human interaction as well as basic social skills. Already, there are 8 such medical schools requiring these exams in the US.
For too long, patients as well as co-workers have endured the irascible doctor who doesn’t work well with others or communicate well with patients. That appears to be changing and it has more to do with the quality of patient care than just improving civility in the medical facility. Studies have shown that strong, effective communication and teamwork significantly improve the quality of care.
In their interview with the NY Times, administrators at the new medical school Virginia Tech Carillon noted the importance of such testing. “Virginia Tech Carilion administrators said they created questions that assessed how well candidates think on their feet and how willing they are to work in teams. The most important part of the interviews are often not candidates’ initial responses — there are no right or wrong answers — but how well they respond when someone disagrees with them, something that happens when working in teams.
Candidates who jump to improper conclusions, fail to listen or are overly opinionated fare poorly because such behavior undermines teams. Those who respond appropriately to the emotional tenor of the interviewer or ask for more information do well in the new admissions process because such tendencies are helpful not only with colleagues but also with patients.
“We are trying to weed out the students who look great on paper but haven’t developed the people or communication skills we think are important,” said Dr. Stephen Workman, associate dean for admissions and administration at Virginia Tech Carilion.
This is a positive step in the right direction for improving healthcare in this country.