MedEdits | Medical School Admissions Consulting

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Medical School Personal Statement

Believe it or not, the next wave of applicants are starting to write their personal statements for the 2009/2010 application season.

As I was brainstorming with a client yesterday about possible personal statement topics, I was motivated to write a blog entry about a common theme I have observed in applicants written materials. Oftentimes, applicants shy away from writing about the obstacles or hardships in their lives that have motivated their choices and influenced their paths. They fear that the reader will think they are seeking sympathy or that their essay will be interpreted as a "sob story." I encourage applicants to tackle and write about these hurdles because this often provides the reader with valuable insight about the applicants' decision to pursue a career in medicine. As long as this is done in a positive and constructive style, these applicants' essays are often the ones that leap out from the rest in the pile.

It is not too early to start thinking about your application and admission strategy for 2009/2010.


Saturday, February 21, 2009

Medical Education: The Basics

I recently wrote an article about medical education for an international advising organization that consists mostly of law and business consultants about the basics of medical education. While I wrote this article for that specific audience, I thought this would be a good read for those of you (and your parents) who want to know what is ahead:

When I considered what to write about for my contribution to the AIGAC newsletter, I kept in mind my primary audience. Realizing that most of you are law school and MBA types, I tried to put myself in your shoes (as any good doctor would) and consider what you might or might not know, or even be remotely interested in learning about medical admissions. As the daughter and sister of two Harvard Business School graduates, I have a perspective on the business world and some understanding of the differences between medicine and business as to higher education requirements. Long ago, as my brother and I considered our futures, I remember sitting around the dining room table and talking with our parents about our graduate educations and what they would cost. As we did the math, we realized that the cost of my brother’s two years of business school together with the likelihood of a high paying job following graduation seemed like a much better deal than my four years of medical school education followed by 3 to 7 years of low-paying post graduate training. As a physician, I would have skills that would provide me with job security, whatever the state of the economy, however. I also considered that medicine would give me a variety of paths from which to choose, such as research, patient care, education or business.

Ironically, with the turn the economy has now taken, my physician friends who used to resent the big bucks the MBA crowd was making are now gleeful about all the sales and bargains they can enjoy as their incomes remain stable. While others are concerned about decreased bonuses and losing their jobs, physicians retain their positions and career satisfaction.

But the advantages of a career in medicine compared with law or business come with many noneconomic as well as financial costs. Unlike most other professional schools, medical school requires that applicants take many challenging prerequisite courses, including biology, chemistry, organic chemistry and physics. They must also take the medical college admissions test, which tests their mastery of this basic science material. In addition to having outstanding grades, applicants must demonstrate significant experience in research, community service, clinical medicine and teaching. Despite these demands, medical school is fiercely competitive. In 2008, 42,231 applicants filed 558,053 applications, and 18,036 students matriculated at allopathic medical schools in the United States. I will do the math for you: only 42.7% of applicants matriculated at medical schools in the US. While medical schools are increasing enrollments to allow more people to attend (and to alleviate the predicted doctor shortage), many students are now enrolling at medical schools in the Caribbean because they cannot gain admission in the US.

So, you think, “whew!” If you get into medical school, you are golden. Well, not exactly. You still have most of the standardized tests to take along with navigating other important hurdles. While most schools now emphasize early clinical exposure, the first two years of medical school are geared towards learning about the basic medical sciences including anatomy, pharmacology and pathophysiology. At the end of your second year, students take the first of 3 “steps” of the United States Medical Licensing Exam (USMLE), which tests your mastery of this material. Students’ scores on this exam are a vital ingredient in their success in being accepted to residency. The third year of medical school is devoted primarily to “core clerkships” in required specialties, including pediatrics, internal medicine and surgery. And keep in mind that during this time students must not only perform well academically and clinically but also must be deciding what specialty to pursue for residency training.

In the summer between the third and fourth year of medical school, students start a new application process to obtain a residency position. Sometime during the third and fourth year, students also must sit for the second step of the USMLE, which consists of two parts -- a written portion and a practical portion (USMLE Step 2 Clinical Knowledge and USMLE Step 2 Clinical Skills). During the fourth and final year of medical school, students complete their rotations and obtain a postgraduate residency position.

A residency is, essentially, a paid apprenticeship. A resident’s role is twofold; he or she cares for patients but also learns while on the job. So, how competitive is residency? In 2008, there were 35,956 residency applicants for 25,066 first year positions. Also, some specialties are more competitive than others. There are three general types of residency applicants: medical students of US schools, medical students at Caribbean Schools and International Medical Graduates who went to school abroad and hope to train in the US so they can practice here. The residency application process is itself complicated.

During residency, time each week is devoted to teaching. So, while residency is very much a job, it still feels like being in school because so much of residency is about learning and gaining skills in your chosen specialty. During your first or second year of residency, you take the third and final step of the USMLE. Once residency is completed, you can go through yet another application process to obtain fellowship training. And, remember, once you complete your residency training, you must pass your specialty board exam, which tests your mastery of the specialty in which you trained and, if you pass it, qualifies you as being “board certified.”

As I write this summary, I am exhausted. The number of standardized tests is overwhelming and medical training is rigorous. But, let me say that medical education is interesting, inspiring and often fun. A career in medicine is just that – it is a career (and not just a job) that allows you to make valuable contributions to the lives of others on many levels. It also gives you the flexibility and freedom to move in many directions. The path may have been long and the tuition higher than what my comrades in law or business school had to pay, but I still believe that, for me and others who make the commitment, a medical education was, and is, a wise investment.


Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Medical Admissions: The Importance Of Your Email Address

As I was talking to one of my medical school clients today, the issue of professionalism came up. What is often the first impression that admissions officers (and the other committee members) have of you? Your email address. Just as your style of dress on interview day gives others a sense of your professionalism and maturity, your email address says alot about you as well. As an admissions officer, some applicants' email addresses made me pause and question their judgment. Since most communications are done via email these days, it is best to keep your email address simple and professional. I suggest using an email address that has some variation of your first and last name.


Monday, February 16, 2009

Residency Match: Important Dates and The Scramble

As the 2008/2009 residency application season comes to a close, I thought it was a good time to review some important dates. Most programs have finished interviewing applicants, have had their annual "rank meeting" and are in the process of entering their rank order list (ROL). Applicants should also be submitting their ROL now.

Some dates:

February 25th: ROL certification deadline.

March 16th: Applicant matched and unmatched data posted at 12 noon EST.

March 17th (Scramble Day!): Filled and unfilled results for individual programs posted at 11:30 AM EST.

March 17th (Scramble Day!)
: Locations of unfilled positions released at 12 noon EST. Individuals may start contacting programs at this time.

March 19th: MATCH DAY! Match results posted at 1 PM EST.

As announced at the AAMC meeting this fall, the NRMP and the AAMC are jointly establishing a scramble work group to address issues related to the scramble and to propose changes for reform.

In 2008, roughly 13,000 applicants competed for 1,300 unfilled positions during the scramble. More than half of these unfilled positions were filled by 4 PM on scramble day. Many applicants (mostly IMGs) do not submit a ROL and register for the match just to receive the list of unfilled spots. Thus, the chances of obtaining a spot via the scramble is slim. For-profit companies who claim to "fax" materials to programs on behalf of clients also jam fax machines and lines of communication making the process challenging for unfilled programs.

While I will be available for my existing clients during the scramble (although I don't anticipate they will need any help!), I will not be offering any services for new clients during the scramble. We wish all of our residency clients good luck in the match this year and look forward to hearing about your success. If you are interested in hiring us to help you through the application process for the 2009/2010 season, we encourage you to retain our services early.


Saturday, February 14, 2009

Medical Education: A Report By The Macy Foundation

A report issued by the Josiah Macy Jr. Foundation, a philanthropic organization dedicated to improving medical education and enhancing minority representation in the health professions, suggested reforms to improve medical education at time when medical school are increasing enrollments.

This is an interesting report and addresses three main concerns:

1) The growing amount of debt that medical students incur.

2) Medical student bodies do not represent the racial, economic and geographical makeup of society at large. Schools were encouraged to reexamine admissions policies and the reliance placed on MCAT scores.

3) Students are encouraged to maintain professionalism but, often, these standards are not exhibited by respected role models in the health care setting.

This is an important report to read for anyone involved (or soon to be involved!) in medical education. Click Here to read the report. Click Here to read the AAMCs response the report.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Getting Into Residency

Read Dr. Freedman's article on the Student Doctor Network, "Getting Into Residency Part 2."

Should you follow-up with programs after an interview? How do you pick someone to write your letter of recommendation? What is appropriate to discuss at your interview? Should you go on second looks?

Click Here
to read the full article.


Monday, February 9, 2009

Medical School Admissions Consulting: A Message From Dr. Freedman

Many clients and parents ask me why I chose to leave formal academic medicine to become president of MedEdits and advise privately. Some potential clients simply don’t understand why I would leave a thriving career in academic medicine to do what I do.

As the next application season begins and applicants start to think about who will help them succeed, I thought it was a good time to write a little about myself, my motivations, my career choice and why I offer a superior service.

After spending several years at elite medical institutions, I realized that it was not easy for students to find excellent mentors who could guide, motivate and inspire them to train at such institutions themselves. Even though many of my colleagues had outstanding credentials and clinical and teaching skills, few of them had the talent and temperament to do an outstanding job of helping and advising students.

A few years ago, as I was contemplating my next move up the ladder in formal academic medicine, I took a personal inventory of my accomplishments. As part of this process, I reviewed the faculty evaluations my students had written about me over the years. These evaluations consistently placed me as a top faculty member. I realized that my talents were unique and valuable to my students and that I could help more people if I ventured out on my own.

I started advising privately in January 2008. My clients have had tremendous success, and my former students still contact me often for guidance. My goal is to build long term relationships with clients, first helping them gain admission to medical school and then to obtain post graduate training. I currently do pro bono work on a select basis and, as my client base builds, I hope to do more of this in the future.

So what distinguishes me as an advisor and MedEdits as a company from other individuals and organizations that you might hire?

1) I have experience that is unmatched by anyone in the private advising industry. I am a physician and have experience at all levels of medical admissions, as well as an extensive background in medical education.

2) I do all advising and mentoring myself. I do not train or work with anyone else; students work with me directly.

3) I have a small group of talented medical editors who work on all documents with me. Therefore, two kinds of experts and two sets of eyes review all of your admissions documents.

4) Advising is my full time job. I do not do this as a “side line.”

5) I stay up to date with research and trends in medical education.

6) I still practice medicine on a part-time basis – mostly on weekends – so I can provide insight about the practical aspects of a career in medicine.

I am always happy to speak with you about your situation. I will limit the number of clients with whom I work next season so, please retain my services early.