Discover the unique Temple Katz SOM program [Show Summary]
The Temple Katz School of Medicine distinguishes itself with two campuses, a Narrative Medicine Program, and deep ties to the local community. In this interview, Jacob Ufberg, Associate Dean of Admissions, shares everything applicants need to know to get accepted to Temple Katz.
Interview with Temple Katz School of Medicine Admissions Dean, Dr. Jacob W. Ufberg [Show Notes]
Welcome to the 476th episode of Admissions Straight Talk. Thanks for tuning in.
The medical school application process is complex. Think of it like a structure that you’re building with many elements and floors. Like any building, it requires a strong foundation. Accepted’s free four-part video course, which takes less than half an hour to complete, lays out the foundation of an outstanding medical school application. Watch it today at medschoolessentials.com.
Our special guest today is Dr. Jacob Ufberg, Associate Dean for Admissions at Temple University’s Lewis Katz School of Medicine and Director of the Emergency Medicine Residency Program. He completed his bachelor’s degree at the University of Pennsylvania, then he earned his MD at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine and did his residency in Emergency Medicine at The Medical College of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. He returned to Temple University’s Katz School of Medicine after completing his residency and has since become Associate Dean of Admissions, Interim Assistant Dean of Career Advising, a Professor of Emergency Medicine, and an Emergency Medicine Residency Program Director. I’d say he’s a little bit busy.
Can you give us an overview of Temple Katz’s approach to medical education, focusing on its more distinctive aspects? [1:58]
At Temple, we teach our clinical medicine and basic science interwoven together with our clinical faculty and basic science faculty integrated together into our pre-clerkship curriculum over the first year and three quarters. That can provide some clinical perspective for the basic science that the students are learning. We do a good deal of small group and case-based learning, and we have a strong focus on integrating the learning of safety, quality, social and structural determinants of health, disparities in health, and medical ethics. We have a wonderful simulation center here. We use simulation and standardized patients quite a bit in the pre-clerkship years for clinical correlation. We have a curriculum that allows for a lot of early and frequent clinical experience. We have two campuses, one here in North Philadelphia and one in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania at the St. Luke’s University Health System. They both provide really wonderful clinical learning opportunities for the students. One of the great things is that the students have an opportunity to cross over from one campus to the other for some of their clinical learning opportunities over the years.
Is there a different focus between the two different campuses? [3:37]
I wouldn’t say that there’s a different focus. We are very well-aligned in how we teach, what we teach, and the experiences that the students have. There is a size difference. The campus here in North Philadelphia has 180 students per year and there are 40 students per year at the St. Luke’s campus. Each offers unique benefits. The students up here love the urban setting. The students down on the St. Luke’s campus love living at a slightly more relaxed space. They have a smaller learning group that provides the opportunity to really mesh together, grow together over the years.
Can you describe the Narrative Medicine Program? Is that for all students or is it an elective? [5:36]
Any student has an opportunity to participate in the Narrative Medicine Program. Narrative medicine is kind of a newer thing, and it really lives at the intersection of science and medicine and the humanities. It’s about storytelling. It’s listening to patients and their families, observing in the medical space, and then telling those stories of patients and healthcare providers to change the lens that people use to look at healthcare. It provides a different outlook, a more empathetic view of the patient experience. It’s a really neat program.
It was started here a number of years ago when the dean at that time brought a gentleman named Mike Vitez, who was a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, up here to Temple to start the program. Over the years, it’s been really popular and successful. There are opportunities and workshops. We also have story slams where people can get together and tell stories. It’s really amazing. Over the years it has grown to now where we have a certificate program. It’s a 12-credit program, in narrative medicine, and there’s even talk of growing that into a master’s program eventually.
What would you like listeners to know about Temple Katz that many applicants just don’t realize? Are there any myths that you would like to dispel about the program? [8:29]
One of the things that I think is worth noting is that Temple really prides itself on a culture of service. We place a lot of emphasis on attracting applicants, future physicians, who are interested in caring for underserved communities. We’re especially committed to our local communities around our healthcare systems, and we feel really privileged to be a part of that community and a part of everyday life.
One neat thing worth mentioning is this past application cycle, we extended that relationship to involve our community in our med school admissions process. The thought process is that our students are providing care to our local community and so, like choosing a doctor, those patients should have a say in who is taking care of them. This was really pushed by a group of students here in our Student Diversity Committee. It was operationalized by a collaboration between that committee and a particular student named Randy Lyde, who just graduated a week or two ago. He was the president of the Student Diversity Council. We all worked together with our Center for Urban Bioethics to identify a number of people who live and work in the community that could be a part of our interview day. We have interviews with community members here at the medical school, and the community members fill out evaluations. There’s a community member that’s a voting member of our admissions committee.
Just over the one year we’ve been doing this, they’ve become an amazing part of our admissions process. In surveying applicants over the year, we found that applicants really appreciate that we involve the community in the process. I think it really allows them to see the connection that we feel to our community and where our values are as a medical school. It’s been a great year. We’re definitely going to continue it.
The last fun fact, since we talked about the Narrative Medicine Program is that we have a number of dual degree programs here. One that’s unique is the Master’s in Urban Bioethics. It is, to my knowledge, the only bioethics master’s program out there that’s focused specifically on health equity. They really focus on understanding and analyzing ethics, values, and value conflicts in areas of density, diversity, and disparity, which certainly our North Philadelphia campus is a part of. Students can do that within the four years of medical school, and it’s been very popular. A large number of students in each class are co-gaining their Master’s in Urban Bioethics alongside their medical degree.
Are the community members trained to evaluate students? [12:30]
Absolutely. Dr. Kathy Reeves, who runs our Center for Urban Bioethics, identified some people who live and work in the community who she thought would be great additions to our crew of interviewers. They came in and we, the admissions office and the Student Diversity Committee, worked together to build a framework around it and help to train them. The Student Diversity Committee students acted as students, and we did practice interviews and training. It’s certainly something that we’ll keep refining. We just had our end-of-year debrief with our community interviewers and talked about ways to enhance what we’re doing for the coming year, so it’s something that I think worked out fabulously.
Katz School of Medicine secondary has five questions. Do you have any plans to change those questions during the upcoming cycle? Is the secondary automatic? [14:04]
No, and yes.
No, we don’t plan to change the secondary for the upcoming year. There are tons of questions that we would love to ask, but obviously, we feel the burden on the students applying. We know we’re not the only school they’re applying to and we know that they’re writing lots of essays so we decided to not change for this year.
And yes to the automatic question. When an application becomes complete, we send out a secondary application.
What do you hope to learn from the secondary that you don’t glean from the primary? [14:48]
We really are looking for fit and mission fit. Why is someone specifically interested in Temple? How do their life experiences and attributes and accomplishments and perspective make this the right school for them? Why should we want them in our medical school? That is a huge piece of it. Obviously, there are informational things. We want to have some perspective on what they’re going to be doing for the coming year so there are questions that are informational like that. I think the largest portion of it is trying to find fit.
What are some of the common mistakes that you see applicants make, both in the AMCAS and in the secondary application to Temple? [15:44]
You’ve probably heard this one before, but typos, typos, typos. Certainly, anyone can have a mistake, but an application littered with typos kind of speaks to either a lack of interest in what they’re doing or a lack of interest in becoming a physician or a lack of interest in Temple, specifically. That’s certainly one mistake that we see people make.
Another is, especially in that secondary application, not really framing their interest in our school, in particular. We get that they’re writing a lot of essays. I have two kids who just went through the college application process, and they’re like, “How do I repurpose this essay to be able to use for this school?” Try to avoid the copy-paste so we don’t feel like you haven’t done your homework on our school and haven’t taken the time to speak to your fit for us.
Another issue is in personal statements and essays, people tend to talk about experiences that they have had in the healthcare arena. I think applicants have to be careful about how they frame those experiences because they can be framed, sometimes, in a way that seems to lack perspective-taking on the patient’s experience or their story or seem to be too wanting to be a doctor because of all the terrible things that they saw while shadowing.
The last thing is attention to detail. I know for our application and probably for many others, it’s kind of a self-driven process – here are the documents, here’s a checklist, and make sure that these documents come in. Some students just don’t check back to make sure that that document got submitted. Seeing those emails five or six months into the interview season saying, “Hey, I never heard from you” and then you see that the application is just not complete because they haven’t provided some of the things that have been asked for. That’s the other mistake that I do see although it’s not frequent.
What are the roles of the Casper and the Duet assessments and why do you require both? [19:52]
This past year, we did require both Duet and Casper, but I will say, this was our first year with Duet. I mentioned fit earlier, and it’s something that we’re very attached to. For a student to be their best self, they need to be at the right school for them, and we need to be the right school for them. That idea of fit is important to us. Duet was designed around the idea of trying to find fit in various areas so we required it, but I will kind of let the secret out that we required it with the intention of not using it in our admissions process for the first year. We tend to be pretty deliberate about what we do and how we do it, and so the idea was to get the Duet scores, get to the end of the cycle, and then sit down and do our research on whether we thought it was additive. This is the same thing we did when we started using Casper.
We have decided that we will not be requiring Duet again in the next cycle, not because I think that there’s anything wrong with it. I think the people at Altus that built Duet and Casper are incredibly bright, thoughtful people, but we found that it was kind of duplicative with other information that we, particularly at Temple, were getting. In asking students to give up their time for tests, we wanted to be sure that it makes sense. Right now, we’ve made the decision that it doesn’t make sense for us to go forward with Duet into next year.
Now, Casper, we’ve used for years and have found it very helpful. We’ve found that it correlates with what our interviewers are thinking of an applicant as they fill out their evaluation. It makes sense for us to use Casper as a screening tool upfront. We do use it a little bit otherwise. But we have found it to be useful so that’s why we will continue to require Casper at this time.
Is the role of the Casper more significant in determining who receives an interview invitation or is it more significant in the final acceptance decision, or both? [22:39]
A little bit both, but certainly, we use it more on the front-end as part of our holistic screening process. There are a million things, as you know, that go into the holistic review of an application. Casper has been a valuable piece of that on the screening front-end. On the backend, once an applicant has come to have an interview with us, we don’t tend to use it as much. I do find that our committee tends to ask about it at times when there is a discrepancy between the interviewers. Sometimes, it’s easy and smooth and everybody thinks the same thing. Sometimes there’s more discussion. When there are some of those discrepancies, we’ll peek back at the Casper and use that as part of the big picture of holistic review.
What process does an application go through at Katz once it’s complete, in terms of determining who gets the interview and then after the interview? [24:07]
As we said, an application becomes complete once the secondary comes in. Then it goes into a screening portal in our admissions software platform. We have a team of screeners which is a number of our admissions committee members who have been on the committee for quite a long time and have a good perspective on what we are looking for and what our committee wants. They get screened by those admissions screeners. The screeners make a recommendation as to whether we should invite that person for an interview. If the recommendation is made for interview, then the person will get an interview invitation and schedule an interview day with us.
When they come for the interview day, the day starts with an informational session where they learn a little bit more about the school, the curriculum, financial aid, those types of things. They have a tour, which has more recently been a virtual tour followed by a meet and greet with the students, which traditionally was over lunch, but now it’s BYO. Then they have their three interviews.
We have three different kinds of interviews. The first one is the primary interview, and that’s always done by an actual sitting member of the admissions committee who has the full applicant file. They see the letters of recommendation, the AMCAS application, the secondary, and all those other things. The second interview is what we call the blind interview, which won’t surprise you now when I describe it, but that is a faculty member, and we have a small group of blinded interviewers, as well, that have been interviewing for us for a long time among the faculty. The person just has the applicant’s name. And then the third interview is the community member interview, and those are panel interviews. There are three applicants with one community member, and it’s a group interview.
At the end of the interview day, each of the interviewers fills out a templated evaluation form and gives their comments and their recommendations. As soon as all three of those are complete and submitted into the system, they appear on our admissions committee report and we meet together as a committee once a week to adjudicate all the applicants who have interviewed up until that time.
That can be lively. Sometimes it’s easy, sometimes it’s hard. But we have a really just tremendous group on our admissions committee. They’re really quite wonderful. Even though we don’t always agree, we’re always kind and collaborative with each other. The committee then makes a recommendation as far as whether they believe that the candidate is acceptable, whether they should be placed on what we call the continuing candidates list, or be declined acceptance.
There is a smaller subcommittee of the admissions committee that then does the enrollment management. Do we have enough? Do we have too many? How do we work the continuing candidates list? To make our enrollment management work, we only offer out acceptances at a couple of discrete time points throughout the year to avoid, for instance, our admissions committee accepting the first 400 students that we interview, because obviously, most people we interview are really lovely and wonderful, and then ending up with not only an overfilled class but no space to even have room to consider the applicants that come throughout the year. So we pause and do that at discrete intervals throughout the year to make sure that everyone who interviews with us, whether it’s in September or in March, has a reasonable chance to be accepted into the school.
In the group interview, do the evaluators rank the participants? Or are they individually assessed? [29:06]
They’re individually assessed. I think that to rank the people would create an issue because you could have three fabulous people or you could have three people and they don’t like any of them. Certainly, I think, having three applicants in there together with the community interviewer offers an interesting look at interpersonal and communication skills and how people share the stage with each other. It does offer a unique piece of that admissions profile.
Do you do MMIs? [29:58]
No. We do not do MMIs.
Are you planning for in-person or remote interviews for this upcoming cycle? [30:03]
I don’t know if I’m alone, but it’s the question that I can’t answer.
We very much do feel that in-person really gives the best information to us and to the applicants as far as choosing a school. However, we obviously see the benefits in time, cost, and trouble that virtual interviews offer. If I had my choice, I think I would like to go back to in-person interviews, but we have not come to a decision. I think COVID may kind of help make that decision for us, so we’ll see how things go.
Do you have any preference for how and when you receive updates? [30:57]
No. We welcome all information at all time points throughout the process. For students who are placed on the continuing candidates list, I think that updates can be very helpful for them. I’m going to give unsolicited advice to the students out there and say treat these like your essays for medical school. Poorly constructed, poorly capitalized, punctuation-less, text-like email is not nearly as well-received as a clear, concise update email.
We welcome that information at any time point along the way. I will say that sometimes, if there are multiple things happening like a student has a paper published and they have another one that they think is going to hit the press in another week, one well-crafted update may be better than eight little updates over the course of two weeks.
What was Katz’s application volume this year compared to the 2020-2021 cycle and the 2019-2020 cycle? [33:30]
In general, over the years, we’ve really tracked with national trends in all ways. We grew steadily over the years and then had a big spike for that 2021 entering class, like all medical schools did. I can’t remember the exact numbers, but I think the national number was a 15-20% spike. We were approximately the same. And then the national trends for this entering 2022 class went down closer to historical averages. Maybe just a small bit above that 2019-2020 year, and again, we tracked with that national number.
What suggestions do you have for reapplicants to Katz? [34:52]
There are a couple of important things. Don’t just reflexively fire back the same application again. As an applicant, if you’re thinking about reapplying, you really need to step back and talk to whoever it is that’s your trusted advisor and say, “What were the gaps? Where were the holes? Am I really just a victim of the huge number of applicants and I’m ready to go back at this, or is there something that I can shore up and present myself with a different and enhanced profile in the next cycle? Do I need more time to fill those gaps? Should I think about taking a year?” Sometimes taking a year and filling those holes makes more sense toward overall success than just jumping back into the game. I think that that’s probably a big part of it.
Another big part is the self-awareness and introspection piece. A lot of people get good advice, but not everyone hears that good advice and really internalizes it. The advisor says, “Hey, I recommend you do this.” And then they talk to their friend who’s in medical school or their relative who’s a doctor and they say, “Oh, no, you should be good” and they don’t take the good advice. You need to step back and be introspective enough to look at your own application honestly and see if there are holes and also to take that advice.
The last piece is really tailoring those secondaries. Could it have been the secondaries? Did you take the time to really make your secondaries right for the schools that you’re applying to? Did you apply broadly enough? Did you apply to schools whose profile meets the profile of what you look like you’re about in your application?
If a student retakes their MCAT and then reapplies, should they submit the same essays? [37:43]
That’s a tough one. I think the answer to that is probably no, but they could be very similar essays. I think they can convey the same point and meaning but I think that an applicant may run the risk of looking like they were being lazy by not at least thinking it through and rewording some things. It’s not necessarily going back to the drawing board and scrapping the outline and the point and the thought, but I think it is worth probably rewriting those essays.
This question is from a podcast listener: “If you were a premed student today [obviously, you once were,] what is one thing you would be doing to prepare yourself for medical school? [38:55]
Really, really explore the field. Explore medicine. Don’t pigeonhole yourself in one experience or specialty, no matter how great that is. I think that you really need to take the time to talk to everyone. Talk to anybody who is willing to give you their time. Understand everything you can about what you’re getting into. I think having those conversations leads to opportunities. You talk to people and there’s a connection there and all of a sudden, there’s a chance to spend some time in someone’s office, or maybe there’s a summer job or a research opportunity or something that really can let you know more what you’re getting into.
A frequent comment that I will see from interviewers is, “I’m not sure that this person really knows what they’re getting into.” Knowing what you’re getting into is big. Medical school is a huge commitment. I would tell people to really know what they’re getting into. Don’t be afraid to take some time. If you’re done with college and you’re not sure, take some time. Do something for a year that lets you really know what you’re getting into. You don’t want to be the person that’s already taken out nearly a quarter-million dollars in debt wondering if you should be a doctor. Unfortunately, that does happen. Just do everything you can to know what you’re getting into.
How should writing a personal statement for residency differ from writing one for a medical school? [41:16]
The most important thing, I would say, is not to try to repurpose your medical school personal statement. It can’t be a rehash of why you became a doctor or a list of activities and achievements. It really needs to be more refined by the time that you’re applying for residency. What you really want to do is tell the story of your journey, understanding, and commitment to a specialty and how your experiences and attributes make you ready to succeed. While some people may apply to med school thinking they know what they want to do and they may have some experiences that are driving them in that direction, that personal statement for residency is going to be about those formative years since you’ve arrived at medical school and how that has led you down the path to this specialty. Again, we’re back to fit. Tell them why you’re a fit for that program, in particular.
What are the critical characteristics that doctors applying to emergency medicine residency programs should have? [43:13]
There are a lot of things that we’re looking for. Obviously many of them are the same that we’re looking for when we look for a medical student. Some of the specifics for emergency medicine are composure and your ability to keep your head. A big part of emergency medicine is being comfortable in uncomfortable spaces and situations. That happens every day, often multiple times a day. You really need to be somebody who can keep yourself together through that. Certainly resilience. I think that’s so important in all of medicine, but a big deal in emergency medicine. You need to be able to handle a tough situation in Room Five and be able to say, “All right, fresh start in Room Six.” Even though you’ve just had something that’s really difficult for you right there. You can’t take that into the next room. You can’t bring your baggage to your next patient encounter. Humility is a big part of emergency medicine. Emergency physicians work in a space where you rarely, if ever, have all the information that you would like to have to make the decisions that you are going to make. As a result, you’re not always going to be right and you have to understand that. You have to be willing to put your pride aside and say, “I don’t know.” You have to be willing to ask for help from specialists or colleagues when you need it. If you have too much pride to do those things, I think it’s bad for the patients. Lastly, I’ll use the term growth mindset but a big piece of it is having a personality or a frame of reference that is never judgmental. There’s a litany of barriers to accessing healthcare. There are so many holes in the healthcare system, and the ER is kind of the safety net at the bottom of the funnel. Patients face those barriers, and it’s really easy to hear people say, “That patient didn’t need to go to the emergency room.” Or, “This isn’t an emergency.” And for them, it is an emergency, and the emergency room is the place where they were able to access the healthcare system. People really need to understand some of the barriers to care and some of the issues in the healthcare system. Meet people where they are is a common term that we use to do the right thing for our patients and just help them get what they need.
What would you have liked me to ask you? [46:24]
I don’t have anything in particular that I wanted to get out there that you didn’t ask me about. For the students listening out there, we’re excited to meet you. We hope you’ll consider the Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple. We have an amazing training program and we have two really great and different settings where you can come to school with us here at Temple.
Where can listeners learn more about Temple Katz School of Medicine? [47:21]
- Temple University – Lewis Katz School of Medicine
- Med School Essentials Video Course
- Temple Katz Secondary Essay Tips
- Accepted’s Medical School Admissions Consulting
- NYMC: How to Get In
- Deep Dive into Penn Perelman School of Medicine: An Interview with Dr. Neha Vapiwala, Dean for Admissions
- Tulane School of Medicine: How to Get In
- All You Want to Know About Georgetown Medical School’s Admissions
- Temple University’s Postbac Programs: A Plethora of Possibilities
- 4 Steps for Showing Fit in Your Application