Medical schools are keeping excellent candidates out of the field with unnecessarily competitive application processes, an anonymous physician wrote in an article on MedPage Today’s Kevin MD.
The author, an emergency medicine and internal medicine physician at public and private teaching hospitals, talked about their experience mentoring pre-med students. One, a Black sophomore with a 3.97 GPA, wants to become a cardiologist or an orthopedist, but is also considering becoming a certified registered nurse anesthetist. The medical school application process is to blame.
“He said he’s likely to choose CRNA because applying to medical school is a crapshoot,” the author wrote. The student cited the prolonged, expensive application cycle “where his ‘heart and identity are on the line,'” and the high chance of being rejected or not even interviewed, as part of the reason for choosing a different route.
“His logic is excellent,” the author wrote. “Yet, his predicament is madness. He’s the student medical schools should want and the orthopedic or cardiologist society needs.”
The number of available spots at medical schools have increased in the past decade, but acceptance rates are declining as the number of applicants nearly doubled, according to the article. The physician author points to students having to accumulate science courses and uninteresting activities to stock their resumes as one area of the application process that needs fixing. Some of his students would rather dive deep into a cause they care about, but instead choose to spread themselves thin with a large range of extracurricular activities.
“One student’s university pre-med advising office encouraged him to add more extracurricular activities (up to 15) rather than delve in-depth into fewer. It is now an arms race as to who can do the most activities or have the most unusual experiences and who can create new ones, such as starting a club.”
And the admissions committee seems to value volume of activities rather than depth, the author said. They call on admissions to create their standards to be the floor, not the ceiling.
“Any student with a minimum GPA of 3.5, an MCAT score of 500, one research publication, two campus or community service activities, and one shadowing or medical volunteering activity should be considered a very good applicant for any medical school,” the author wrote. “Each school claims to be looking for individuals, but with similar standards, those individuals turn out to be much alike. … This is not what we want in the next generation of physicians. The next generation of physicians needs to be physically and psychologically healthy, enthusiastic about medicine, and not cynical about the institutions that lead them there or that run it.”
Some top-tier schools removed themselves from the U.S. News & World Report rankings, which the author cited as a “heartening” advance.
“These are good starts in making the rat race less ratty. Other schools should follow suit and include even-more creative ways to continue to lessen the stress while recruiting more excellent, diverse students,” they concluded.