Speed Dating in Medical School Interviews?

There was an article published in the NYT about a medical school that essentially uses a speed-dating like framework to interview its students. At Virginia Tech Carilion, a new medical school in the U.S., interviewees have 8 minutes each in 9 brief interview sessions to discuss an ethical conundrum presented to them 2 minutes before. The purpose is to assess how well they communicate, think on their feet, and work in teams.

I think that this new interview method is a step in the right direction and reflects a shift in the medical world towards a need for team-based care and more socially competent doctors. But I also want to present 3 reasons why I’m a bit hesitant and why more needs to be done:

1. There’s value in the traditional way of interviewing. You get to feel, through listening and watching their body language, how genuine people are when they’re talking about their extracurriculars or their interest in medicine. You can get a good sense of their level of passion and also interest in the school. Alternatively when I was interviewing, I found the interviews helpful not just as an opportunity explain more about myself that was not necessarily covered in my application, but also a way for me to get to know the school better. A speed dating interview would hardly give you the time to provide more information, ask questions, and learn more about the school.

2. It’s a bit uneven to change the interview structure but not the other structures in medical and premedical education that may be conducive towards “flawed doctors.” In fact, I actually think the interview model is probably less important out of everything that needs to be fixed. It doesn’t matter if we have a superb interview model but a crappy premed requirement that weeds out the more socially competent people in the first place because they prefer interacting with people rather than studying all the time. Or the fact that the traditional path to thriving in medical school doesn’t call for the development of teamwork or social skills but rather how well you can memorize things, take tests, and spew facts. Or a health care system that may be causing and incentivizing these flawed behaviors we want to fix. A revamped interview structure would be great but not enough to produce the kind of doctors it’s trying to seek.

3. I think a better and more radical interview model that could help schools assess whether potential med students can work well with patients is to have the applicants talk with patients. Instead of having administrators or professors interview applicants, schools can have applicants do a mock interview with patients to learn more about the them and their situation. You don’t need to know any medicine to know how to talk with patients and understand what they’re going through. It doesn’t even have to be real patients; it can be standardized patients. This way, schools can see how well applicants can communicate, empathize, and develop rapport and trust with people who are sick and going through a difficult time. In our Patient-Doctor 1 course this past year, we had the opportunity to interview patients, but why wait until medical school to see if someone can work well with patients?

In the end, I look around and see among just my med school classmates a well-intentioned and passionate bunch who want to help people and make a difference in the world. I see that at a lot of different places as well. That gives me hope and encouragement that we do have the right people in place who can help improve our health care and medical education systems.


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