Duke University’s Medical School is ranked 6th by U.S. News for research and 78th for primary care, and is known for its focus on interdisciplinary learning. It aims to use medical research to solve global problems. Duke emphasizes diversity, inclusion, and attention to community health problems. Consequently it comes as no surprise that Duke’s secondary application questions ask you to consider your role as a physician in global and local communities.
For more information about the program, check out our podcast episode: Deep Dive Into Duke Medical: An Interview With Dr. Linton Yee, Associate Dean of Admissions >>
Duke secondary application tips 2022-2023
Duke secondary application essay #1: Advocacy
Describe a situation in which you chose to advocate for someone who was different from you or for a cause or idea that was different from yours. Define your view of advocacy. What risks, if any, might be associated with your choice to be an advocate? (400 words)
Advocacy is fighting for, recommending, or supporting – a person, cause, system or ideal. What is your style of advocacy? When have you helped someone after they experienced discrimination, hardship, or bias? When did you recommend someone often overlooked due to bias to receive recognition, opportunity or reward? Have you ever amplified a marginalized person’s viewpoint, supported services to improve the life of someone with a disability? What happened? What did you do? What was the outcome of your actions? Looking back, what was the risk of advocating in light of the situation?
The prompt asks for an individual example, but you can also think about an individual you have worked with who represents a broader group of people. This question is asking you to think about your role as a physician-advocate, someone who will represent their patient in the quest to obtain fair and adequate healthcare. The question also addresses Duke’s emphasis on the physician as a member of the community with a duty to improve care for all.
Duke secondary application essay #2: Coping with Disappointment
Not achieving a goal or one’s desire can sometimes be disheartening. What have you learned/gained from your setbacks and disappointments and how does this translate to your current way of thinking? (400 words)
This prompt challenges applicants to be truthful about a disappointing moment, an initiative or effort that didn’t have the desired results. If looking at oneself as “having failed” sounds too self-deprecating, then turn the table here. Tell the story of a setback as a growth moment. Keep in mind, hitting road bumps on the way to achieving life goals is inevitable. Being able to adapt and learn, perhaps, is the moral of this story because physicians adapt to circumstances and compensate for gaps in patient care often.
Duke secondary application essay #3: Value Systems
Describe a situation in which you had to utilize your values to interact with people from different backgrounds. How did those values impact the relationship? (400 words)
We are all shaped by our cultures, experiences and values. People respond to challenges often in keeping with ingrained cultural habits. For instance, was it common to have friends join your family at the dinner table? What value is associated with always having room to feed another person at the table? Have you invited international friends or friends whose families live far away to join you and yours when they had nowhere to go to celebrate Thanksgiving? Why did you do this? What belief led you to extend such an invitation?
Were you ever asked to assist with a ceremony that was not part of your own spiritual practice? Was this challenging? How did this request feel like an honor?
Did this experience change or build relationships?
One could take this prompt in another direction too, to engage with people of a different background whom you do not know. If you are white, did you ever attend a Black Lives Matters march because it was unequivocally the right thing to do? If you are straight, did you help others achieve LGBTQIA+ inclusivity, hang a “safe zone” sticker on your door and someone seeking a safe place came knocking? If you are a woman, did you ever endorse a white man for a leadership position even though leadership positions are saturated with white men?
What relationship, if any, came from a “doing the right thing” experience? What did you learn about how to build multicultural, diverse friendships or relationships?
Duke secondary application essay #4: Leadership
Leadership, teamwork, and communication flow synergistically. What do you value most as a leader and as a contributor? What attributes do you possess as a leader and as a team member and how do you apply them on a daily basis? (400 words)
This is a very broad question about critical skills in medicine. Doctors are leaders, but they are also part of a medical team. Communication with patients, peers, and other members of the healthcare professions is mandatory.
When did you take on a leadership role? How did that go? What guiding principles helped you lead effectively, or what guiding principles came to light while adapting to a leadership role? Discuss which skills and attributes contributed to your effectiveness as a leader and/or a team member. What worked for you when you were in a leadership role? How did this experience change how you “walk the walk” of a leader?
Duke secondary application essay #5: Critical Thinking
Critical thinking involves a number of characteristics. Research experience enhances critical analysis skills. Describe any research experience or another situation in which you utilized critical thinking. How will critical thinking be important in your future career? (400 words)
In your research, how do you analyze and evaluate the progress of your work to stay in line with the research goal? How do you provide context for a research outcome so others understand its value or potential impact in medicine? Effective critical thinking demonstrates cognitive ability to assess complexity. Your answer, therefore, should demonstrate how you think through an essential issue inherent in the research project. How does this research progress or propel medicine into the 21st century?
Duke secondary application essay #6: Understanding the Need for Health Care Changes
Potential sources of health inequities exist. Duke’s Moments to Movement (M2M) is a collective stand to address these issues. Describe your experience and reflection with race and its relationship to disparities in health, health care and society. Consider the values of justice, diversity, inclusion and equity (400 words)
Minority populations are often at risk for poor health and have limited or complicated access to care. Why is this so? Tell a story about race, your own or someone else’s experience, as it was affected by health care disparities. How was race a critical factor to a poor outcome? Be sure to briefly explain the reality of this truth. From here, what does this disparity mean regarding a doctor’s approach to patient care? How should physicians respond to this situation?
Duke secondary application essay #7: COVID-19 Implications
How has the COVID-19 pandemic influenced your journey to medical school? Have these events changed your outlook on medicine’s role in society? (400 words)
Almost all medical schools require a response from applicants to the current COVID-19 pandemic. This prompt, like others, asks how you were affected. If possible, you should also answer with how you responded — did you start or participate in an initiative to help shut-ins obtain food, for example? However, the emphasis in this prompt, and the majority of one’s thought in addressing it, should be spent on the answer to the second question. Duke University SOM is asking you what this unexpected shift in preparing to be a doctor has done to you. Moreso, it is asking how this unexpected shift in preparing to be a doctor has revised your vision of “doctoring” in the future. This surely engages some insight and perspective about public health, the common good, the disparity of risk among less advantaged populations, cultures and demographics. It may also be an opportunity for you to reveal adaptability, initiative, grit, and/or resilience.
Duke secondary application essay #8: Tell Us Who You Are
Tell us more about who you are. This is your opportunity to tell us how you wish to be addressed, recognized and treated. (500 words)
As schools are taking more factors into consideration when it comes to diversity, they are also asking applicants to put more thought into the relationship between diversity (of patients and colleagues) and their own identity. This is one such question. You should feel free to talk about aspects of your identity that might not be obvious from your application. I suggest doing so through the use of examples in order to illustrate how those parts of your personality inform your behavior towards others. You should also explain how these qualities or experiences will impact how you treat and interact with others. What story can you tell about yourself that defines you?
Duke secondary application essay #9 [Optional]: Race/Ethnicity/Geographic Origin/Socioeconomic Status/ Advantage/Disadvantage/ Religious Affiliation
Use the text box below to provide additional information on how these parameters have/will influence you.(Optional, 200 words)
Clearly, any aspect of yourself that identifies and is defined by Race, Ethnicity, Region/Country, SES, Advantage, Disadvantage or Religious affiliation suggests that this aspect of you will continue into the future, and perhaps influence how you regard others, practice inclusivity, and take action to help others. Avoid telling a story that makes one parameter an identity marker that limits your ability. For instance, don’t write about your family’s economic struggle when you were young as a reason you could not participate in exclusive academic programs, even though that may have been true, but rather tell the story in such a way that how you had to claim an education worthy of a noble career like being a physician was only possible by having ingrained resilience at a young age due to an economic struggle or disadvantage. How does this truth influence what you do for others – this should be a “never forget” story or “forever formed by” story that compels you to lift up others.
Applying to Duke? Here are some stats:
Duke average MCAT score: 518
Duke Medical School average GPA: 3.86
Duke Medical School acceptance rate: 2.9%
U.S. News ranks Duke #6 for research and #78 for primary care.
Has this blog post helped you feel more confident about approaching your Duke secondary application? We hope so. It’s our mission to help smart, talented applicants like you gain acceptance to your top choice medical school. With so much at stake, why not hire a consultant whose expertise and personalized guidance can help you make your dream come true? We have several flexible consulting options—click here to get started today!
Duke University Med School application timeline 2022 – 2023
|AMCAS deadline||October 15|
|Secondary application deadline||November 15, 11:59 PM EST|
|Interview invitations are sent out||Late August until early January|
|Duke makes final acceptance decisions||Mid-Late February|
***Disclaimer: Information is subject to change. Please check with individual programs to verify the essay questions, instructions and deadlines.***
Dr. Mary Mahoney, Ph.D. is the Medical Humanities Director at Elmira College and has over 20 years of experience as an advisor and essay reviewer for med school applicants. She is a tenured English Professor with an MFA in Creative Writing from Sarah Lawrence College and a PhD in Literature and Writing from the University of Houston. For the last twenty years, Mary has served as a grad school advisor and essay reviewer for med school applicants. Want Mary to help you get Accepted? Click here to get in touch!