I received 8-interview invitations, but after consulting with my wallet, I only went onto 5-interviews. Anyways, about $7K and 5 dry-cleanings of ubiquitous charcoal suit later, I was accepted into all 5-programs. Some people have asked me recently what the interviews were like, so this post is dedicated to that.
The interviews will be told in no particular order, as to not identify the school and reveal their interview process. It was a gentlemen (gentlewomen) agreement we all made during our interview. I won’t cite specifics, but I’ll include what I can tell give you an idea of what interviews can be like. In general, each school does a pretty impressive job at “aligning” you with an interviewer, or at least that’s what other’s around me on interview day also felt — sometimes it’s less intense, and feels a little more general.
This was a panel interview: one PhD, one MD, and one medical student. We sat around a board table, all of us sticking to one corner. I could see but not read some of the pages of notes about me, and the signs they’d preemptively annotated on my AMCAS and secondary printouts, I instantly appreciated how well my interviewers new my application. I was comforted by the fact that no one knew my application better then me: I wrote it, proofed it innumerable times, and even had a print out in my luggage just in case. And surely enough, point by point they had me verify my commitment, my ideals, and beliefs. They asked me to to explain my research, and it’s importance in medicine, so I did — we even started talking about what was the latest geopolitical news. I naively tried to answer the question given to me by the MD, “How would you fix health care”, I gave them my best shot, while remembering that this wasn’t really a question I was expected to find an answer to. As non traditional, I had a little more life experience than coursework, so we just had a lot more things to talk about — in fact, one interview did voice their disdain for younger traditional applicants by saying, “If the biggest problem you faced in college, we’re not sure if they’re ready for life never mind medschool”. Towards the closing of the interview, one interviewer asked me how I felt about the ethics of my grandmothers treatment, this was the only time during my interview trail where I was emotionally weaker than normal (she was my second mother). However, as an adult I knew I had to tackle this question prior to applying to medical school, so I had already mulled over the issue for some time. So, overall it was a rather friendly interview — we actually laughed a lot during the process. After the interview, I was pretty hungry, so I asked about what to eat locally, we spent another 10 minutes after the interview talking about food. The interview itself lasted for about an hour, but it felt like 20 minutes.
I should note that the dean did come, but for a few minutes, gave a hello and left. No interaction.
This interview day was pretty interesting. Apparently, part of the test of getting into the program was finding your interview, because you were given a map and told to scuttle across the medical campus to find your interview. I sort of enjoyed this independence, not everyone did that day. I found my interview room, I had to take two elevators and a bridge and then use a phone with a password to finally find my interview room. When I arrived, we walked to my interviewer’s office. There was a beautiful view out the window, I actually asked to have a moment to take it all in (You see, in California we don’t have this thing you other people in the world call “weather”, we have “nice”, “hot”, “really hot”, “too damned hot”, and randomly “kinda cold” — though my coldest winters are summers in San Francisco). So, during my interview trail across the east and mid west it was my first time seeing what autumn should look like, it was really my first time seeing the rest of the country past Colorado. But, I do digress. My interviewer saw had a thick packet, no doubt my application, in her lap.
– She said, “You have an *insert compliment* application, so we don’t even need to discuss it really, instead I want to learn about you — your life story”, to which I responded, “Sure, from when?”, her “birth”. And so, I told her my story for 45 minutes. I didn’t really pay attention much really, I had told this story many times each time holding details back. This time, emblazoned by my night out drinking with my hosts I decided to just tell her everything. My interviewer then got a little teary eyed, this was sort of surprising, and I asked her if she needed a tissue. Not that a had one, it’s just a polite thing people tend to say to each other, after all it was her office. Apparently, a lot of things I said was reminiscent to her own experiences with life she later revealed. I actually did the most prep for this interview, I had already performed all of my homework on the plane, but in the end I was just happy I knew myself. Though, there’s a reasonable likelihood that I was accepted merely because I was capable of finding my room, I’d like to think it’s because my interviewer and I clicked in a short period of time.
One of the deans actually hosted the entire interview day, from morning till afternoon. I was rather impressed, and I really appreciated the time spent with us. Some extra perks of this interview was being able to meet multiple doctors (trauma surgeon for example), and ask them about the program.
Typically, a medical school will wine and dine you with a breakfast, a tour and a spiel on why you should go to that program if given the option to choose. This program just flung me into an interview upon arrival. Unknowingly, I met my interviewer in the lobby, she seemed like a nice person, she even paid me a morning greeting. Though, during the interview, the tables turned. She picked apart my application, criticized my view points and answers on things for about 20 minutes and we argued about something for another 25, and about 10 minutes talking about the program. In the last 5 minutes she told me, I was just being ‘tested”, and she thought I was a strong applicant and was just playing devil’s advocate.
After that interview I had a lunch, and had to prepare for another interview with a medical student or another 45 minutes to a hour. This interview was fourth year, on the verge of graduating. She was extremely friendly. She asked me a few off the wall what if questions, those were actually rather fun. We then talked more about why I chose that school, what was good about the program, what problems did I recognize over the weekend that I stayed in the city. A lot of my interview, I was also asking her things, because I didn’t get that expected generic tour.
After the interview was done, we then sat down with people who didn’t tell us they were the deans of admissions. This was also done to “test us”, we were told directly. Apparently, this program believed in some type of “ninja endurance training”.
The interview day started off with me chatting with the dean of admissions in the lobby or 20 minutes. Then, during my actual interview it was a MD and one MD/PhD. This was an interesting format. One interviewer knew everything about my AMCAS application, while the other one didn’t. The fun part is that I didn’t know who knew. So the trick here was to, again, know my application well and be able to quickly convey what’s important and why. There was some discussion about why I choose that specific program, and because I had done a lot of homework on the school I knew exactly why I wanted to go there, so I just told them why. We spoke of social programs needed to help people, my experience with the indigent and under-served, and they shared their experiences. This was a friendly interview, they weren’t there to hurt me, they were there to see why I wanted to entire their program.
There was also a MMI (medical) interview. This is where they pay actors to pretend to be patients, and you pretend to be a doctor. II had 2-3 minutes to read a prompt case history, then I’d go in and get a history from the patient in 5 minutes. Sounds pretty straight forward, except there’s bound to be something. I think my first mock patient was a “yes” or “no” person, and really all she was there for was to get an unethical prescription — I rejected her gently, while offering her alternatives. The other mock patient came in with a bum joint, from an injury so they wanted a handicap placard. Though, when I asked how long ago was the injury, they told me about 4-5 years ago. So, my “ethical sense” went off, I tried to talk them into rehab while they’re young and fit as opposed to depending on a placard. She seemed disappointed, but rather accepting of my answer, she even agreed to try the rehab. At another interview I saw MMI actors get rather argumentative, so I’m happy I appeased my mock patients.
I met the dean a few more times throughout the day, very nice guy. We spent a lot of time talking about music, jazz, and going out to drink (without letting it get unprofessional of course ^_-).
This interview day had two interviews, both MD both interviews took place at a hospital. The first interview was with an overworked physician who was also in charge of the implementation of the hospitals electronic medical records (EMR). I could understand how frazzled he was, at the time my job had also volunteered to ensure the successful release of an electronic system for research protocols at my workplace. We laughed about our experiences in “troubleshooting”, and being yelled at for a system we didn’t create but must implement. I’d like to think that this interview gave him a period to relax, because afterwards he was a lot more loose. I actually wish I had a chance to speak with him a little more, it was only about half an hour.
The second interview was also friendly. He didn’t say much about my application, other than paying a compliment. We spoke about the economic down turn that was causing a lot of problems in the US, and we also speculated on the effects on patients and healthcare overall. A significant portion of this conversation was actually centered on naming reasons why I wanted to go to that school and serve that particular community. Luckily for me, I had edited a premed’s personal statement in that state, and they let me stay at their parents house — this saved me a lot of money in boarding. At their parents house, I got the whole run down on the local politics and their opinions. Since I heard my “ears to the ground” so to say, I felt comfortable speaking from experience of what I’ve heard recently. This was another good interview, where I wanted to definitely have a drink with my interviewer, the interview actually went over 15 minutes because we wouldn’t stop talking (even when they were knocking for me to come along).
At this interview, the dean also did a quick stop by, and nothing more.