The Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME) accredits medical schools in the US and Canada. The accreditation process ensures that medical schools meet certain standards set by the LCME. Medical schools are required to “demonstrate that their graduates exhibit general professional competencies that are appropriate for entry to the next stage of their training and that serve as the foundation for lifelong learning and proficient medical care.”

Accreditation is important since most state medical boards require that U.S. medical schools be accredited by the LCME as a condition for licensure of their graduates and US medical students cannot take United States Medical Licensing Examinations unless they are enrolled at an accredited school. Each medical school goes through a review and re-accreditation process periodically. Occasionally schools are put on probation and required to make changes if they want to maintain their accreditation.

Medical school applicants should be cognizant of the schools which are on probation. If they apply to those schools they should find out what the schools are doing to rectify the situation to be taken off probation. As of this writing there are two medical schools on probation.

–Liza Thompson, Expert Medical School Admissions Consulting

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There are several written parts to the medical school application but the central component—and the one in which applicants have the most open space to convey their past experiences and future goals—is the personal statement. In the AMCAS application the prompt for the personal statement is:

Use the space provided to explain why you want to go to medical school.” 

Prompts in the other applications (TMDSAS and AACOMAS) are similar. The space allotted in the AMCAS application is 5300 characters, including spaces, which is approximately one single-spaced page. In that short amount of space you must articulate clearly your reasons for wanting a career in medicine. Your medical school personal statement should be a convincing piece of prose: through your writing you need to convey your excitement about your chosen profession, along with evidence that you’ve tested the profession through clinical experiences.

I have read and helped applicants refine their personal statements for almost 25 years. To write the most effective possible statement adhere to these basic principles:

Draw in the reader:  The personal statement should have both immediacy—drawing in the reader instantly—and big-picture goals. It should help the reader understand what you’ve done to learn about the medical profession and convey your broad interests and what you eventually hope to accomplish as a physician.  Continue reading

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What are medical school “letters of intent” and what role do they play in the medical school admission process? A letter of intent is like a love letter that’s sent to a medical school: it expresses an applicant’s fervent wish to enroll at that one particular school, stating why the applicant feels so strongly about the school, its environment, student culture, and curriculum—and articulating in clear terms what he or she might contribute to the school if admitted.

The ultimate purpose of the letter of intent is two-pronged:

1. To let the school know that it is, without question, your top choice.

2. To inform the medical school that you will accept their offer if given the chance.

When weighing one applicant over another—and if they are equal in all other measures—a letter of intent may make a difference. Continue reading

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keep-calm-and-mcat-on

All premed students know that the MCAT is a big component of the medical school admission process. It looms large in the mind of every premedical student.

I have spent almost 25 years advising premed students and coaching them through the MCAT. Helping students refine their test-taking strategies has allowed me to come up with a list of tips to help premed students prepare for and master the MCAT. This list may be especially helpful for those who have taken the MCAT and did not receive the score they hoped for and it’s equally valuable for first-time test takers. Continue reading

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When I first began advising medical school applicants nearly 25 years ago, I hardly ever encountered anyone who was interested in pursuing a joint MD-MBA degree. But things have changed dramatically since then. Over the last several years I have seen an uptick in the number of clients who are interested in pursuing both MD and MBA degrees, a trend which is confirmed by the Association of American Medical Colleges and the New York Times. Between 2003 and 2016 the number of students in MD-MBA programs increased by about 143%. As one might expect, the impetus for earning a business degree alongside a medical degree stems from an interest in having the skills to either lead an academic department or medical center or run another kind of healthcare organization. More medical students have an interest in entrepreneurship, as well, and want the skills to navigate starting a business and keeping it strong.

To meet the increased interest in business amongst premedical students and medical school applicants, more medical schools are including business courses as electives in their curriculum. And the number of joint MD-MBA programs has risen to more than 70.  For a list of such programs, please refer to the Association of MD/MBA Programs’ website.

–Liza Thompson, Expert Medical School Admissions Consulting

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Photo courtesy of New York-Presbyterian Hospital

Photo courtesy of New York-Presbyterian Hospital

As the world gets more globally focused and connected, more medical schools are incorporating courses to help medical students learn about and address global health issues. This trend is also, in part, due to increased interest in global health amongst medical students. Many medical school applicants and eventual medical students are interested in service learning during their medical education; as a result, more opportunities to engage in global health have emerged.

The approach in courses that teach med students about global health issues should be multifold according to experts such as Dr. Joel Shalowitz of the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern, cited in this recent article in US News and World Report about the preponderance of global health courses in medical school.

Duke’s Global Health Institute offers an array of courses to educate students. The University of Colorado offers a Global Health Track.  Tufts also offers programs in global health, as does the famed program in Global Health & Social Medicine at Harvard.  In fact, most medical schools offer some sort of education in global health issues. Some other examples include Columbia and the Perelman School of Medicine at Penn.

–Liza Thompson, Medical School Admissions Consulting

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LGBTQ+ medical school applicants often wonder if they should disclose their sexuality in their application. The American Medical Student Association offered an online forum in 2013 which provided applicants with information and answered their questions about being out in the application process and in medical school. Quoting from the announcement about this event: “Getting into medical school is an intimidating process for nearly all premedical students, but it can be especially daunting for those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT). Should I mention it on my application? During my interview? If so, how should I bring it up? How will I know if a school is LGBT-friendly? Can I be out in med school? What is life like as an LGBT med student? What kind of opportunities might I find for an LGBT med student?”

Stanford conducted a study which showed that of the LGBTQ+ students surveyed, about two thirds opted to disclose their sexuality in the medical school application process but almost half feared discrimination.

A recent article published in AAMC News describes how various schools attempt to create a welcoming environment for LGBTQ+ students. Some medical schools make an effort to actively recruit and/or welcome LGBTQ+ students. Yale, Penn, Northwestern, the University of Illinois, and NYU are just a few among many which offer specific programs and interest groups. And the American Medical Student Association has a Gender and Sexuality Group focused on advocacy efforts. Stanford created LGBT-Meds, an organization which hosts events and lectures on LGBTQ+ topics. Some medical schools are also providing training for faculty and students to foster inclusion, such as the SafeSpace Program at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.  The AAMC article referenced above says that while progress has been made more needs to be done to create a welcoming atmosphere for LGBTQ+ students.

–Liza Thompson, Expert Medical School Admissions Consulting

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Photo courtesy of the New York Times

Photo courtesy of the New York Times

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Does studying art enhance your observation skills as a physician, thereby allowing you to pick up subtle signs of illness? In recent years, there has been a general acknowledgment that studying art–and fine-tuning the art of seeing–helps medical students hone their skills. More medical schools are incorporating gallery visits and art classes into their curricula in an effort to sharpen students’ observational acuity. Arts Practica was founded by Alexa Miller to help medical professionals gain more skill in what they see. Arts Practica offers training programs, gallery visits, and classes which encourage med students to “learn to see.”  An article in the New York Times describes a forum that took place at the Museum of Modern Art which convened educators and doctors to discuss teaching strategies in programs melding art with medical education. An additional article in the Times describes “What Doctors Can Learn From Looking at Art.”

More medical schools are adding an arts component to their curriculum, and some examples are below:

Continue reading

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Studying the humanities has been shown to foster medical students who have more compassion and empathy. As such, it’s a positive development that undergraduate programs in “health humanities” have increased exponentially in the last 20 years. Majors which combine science with the humanities are increasingly popular.  For example, at Vanderbilt the major in Medicine, Health, and Society is now the second most popular field of study, with over 500 students. Areas of inquiry in the major include racial and ethnic health disparities, social justice, literature, neuroscience, biology, psychology, sociology, and history, among other fields. Baylor was the first institution to offer an undergraduate medical humanities major and others soon followed. There are currently 17 colleges or universities which offer a major or concentration in medical humanities; many more schools offer a minor. The list of schools offering a major or concentration is as follows:

Baylor

Beloit

Benedictine

Columbia

DePaul

Emory

Florida Atlantic

Harvard

Hiram

Indiana

Johns Hopkins

Misericordia

Northwestern

Southern Methodist

Stanford

University of Alabama

University of Pennsylvania

University of Richmond

University of Texas at San Antonio

Vanderbilt

–Liza Thompson, Expert Medical School Admissions Consulting

 

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A new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that the number of medical students with disabilities is nine times higher than originally estimated. The article points out the difficulty in capturing an accurate view of the number of med students with disabilities. In all, 2.7 percent of medical students were found to have one or more disability. Another study in Academic Medicine found that most medical schools seem unwelcoming to those with disabilities.

The most common disability was ADHD, followed by unspecified learning or psychological disabilities. Those with physical or sensory disabilities were much less common, perhaps because of the technical standards in place at medical schools. Some students also cited chronic health issues as a disability.

Experts believe that further studies need to be conducted to assess how students with disabilities perform in medical school. Of those in the study, 98% received some sort of accommodation. The founders of the Coalition for Disability Access in Health Science and Medical Education comment on the current situation for those with disabilities in an article on Student Doctor Network.

Liza Thompson, Expert Medical School Admissions Consulting

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