Eventually along the way you’ll find a secondary question asking you about how you deal with criticism. It’s an important question for innumerable reasons. The question for this essay is pretty much asking you, “Have you learned how to accept criticism and then do something constructive without having tantrum?” Medical students receive critiques to hone their skills prior to being flung into residency. Once there in their internship, they’ll be a lot more of it, most will be legit some unwarranted. Other physicians may criticize new interns, these new doctors find themselves bombarded by critiques that are no longer didactic exercises, but are now instead life and death lessons. Patients will berate you for being late, how could they know you were doing chest compression upstairs in room 215 for 20-minutes? But, without getting too far ahead of ourselves, let’s just remember that the medical school wants to see how you will handle criticism when they dish it out to you — there is also an undertone of show your maturity here please.
If you’re not used to handling criticism, you should get used to it. I finally learned what criticism meant when I was just accepted as the co-principal investigator for a project. I turned in my research thesis for my senior project to my principal investigator. He gave it back a few weeks later, but for some reason he had changed all of the font to red. I was wrong, he meant the whole thing had to be scrapped. I faced more criticism during lab meetings where we had to present new or class electrophysiology research articles and our interpretation. After some time, you just learn how to take criticism and become better from it. If there’s room to criticize then there’s room for improvement.
During this essay you’ll try to do several things:
1. Show that you know how to take criticism, i.e. you don’t bite off people’s jugulars when they give you an honest critique.
2. Show that you understand that accepting criticism can be a learning experience — this can be true regardless of who’s “right or wrong”.
3. You can show that you have some real world experience, i.e. will the school also need to teach you “life skills” or do you already have some.
Tell us about a time where you’ve received unexpected feedback or critique. And, how did you react to the situation?
As an Institutional Review Board (IRB) [title redacted] my first and foremost goal is to ensure that research projects meet ethical and regulatory standards. However, principal investigators (PI) often have disparate concerns, namely the timely completion of their investigative study. In one particular protocol conducted by a well-established (PI) I found the protocol didn’t meet my interpretation of ethical compliance. In response, I received a deluge of emails noting my incompetence; it became apparent to me that my review didn’t sit well with my (PI) colleague. I’m not infallible, and there’s a lot of “grey areas” in law interpretations, so I launched an investigation into my own decision. I poured through ethical reference texts and case studies to establish an ethical precedent for my decision, after I proved my case I reported my findings to the IRB and PI. After the protocol was modified, the study was approved and I have a good working relationship with that same PI.
The hardest part of this entry was actually writing it in such a way that I could still be professional, and be certain to represent both sides of the argument. Also note that I decided to not defend some of the criticisms against me, and instead accept it and show how I grew from it.