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Ten years ago, the AAMC looked with alarm at the increasing and aging U.S. population and the aging physician workforce, and called for an increase in medical school enrollment of 30% by 2015.
At least partially in response to that call to action, approximately seven years ago Hofstra University and North Shore-LIJ Health System established the first ever allopathic medical school in Nassau County and the first new medical school in the NYC metro area in more than 35 years.
Since then Hofstra Northwell Medical has graduated two classes and received full accreditation. To tell us more about this young, innovative medical school, our guest today is Dr. Rona Woldenberg, Associate Dean for Admissions at Hofstra Medical. Dr. Woldenberg earned her MD at the University of Pennsylvania. She is board certified in diagnostic radiology and neuroradiology. In addition to her duties as Associate Dean for Admissions, she is also an Associate Professor at Hofstra Northwell School of Medicine. Welcome!
What is the first thing to know about Hofstra Northwell Medical? [1:55]
We’re one of the newer medical schools; we’re recruiting our seventh class, and just graduated our second class. We were one of the schools created to address a projected physician shortage. But through our health system, we had been educating medical students in their third and fourth year of clinical studies since the 70s.
We’re educating physicians for 2020 and beyond.
What does “educating physicians for 2020“ mean in terms of your approach to physician training? [4:05]
First of all, medicine is really a team game now. When I went to med school, it was really doctor, nurse, and a few ancillary staff. Now medicine is all about a team approach to patient care, and is very patient-centered.
We’ve taken on that team approach right from the start: the first 9 weeks of med school is EMT training. Students learn to function in a team – it gives them a concept of teamwork and puts the focus on the patient right away, since they encounter patients in their homes, in the street, etc.
The curriculum is all case-based learning, so all systems-based knowledge is patient based. So for example the Krebs cycle is learned about in the patient who has diabetes – we bring the science into the patient.
To summarize: team approach; group learning; introducing that concept early on in the first 9 weeks; case-based learning focused on patients.
What does the case method mean in the med school context? [6:20]
Students get two cases each Monday. They learn the facts at home, and come together to work through and solve the cases as the week progresses (with a facilitator to guide the small group discussions). There are framing sessions as the week progresses, as well.
When you call Hofstra a “millennial medical school,” is this what you mean? [7:50]
This is exactly what we’re talking about: patient centered, working with team members to achieve best patient outcomes.
Can you describe the clinical exposure students receive in their first 100 weeks (i.e the first two years)? [8:45]
The student encounters five preceptors (family practitioner or internist; pediatrician; psychiatrist; ob-gyn; surgeon). The students work one-on-one with each of those preceptors. We have 21 (soon to be 22) hospitals in our health system, and we pull preceptors from our system.
Students get direct clinical experience at least four hours every week. (Not shadowing!!) They work hands-on, directly with physicians.
And what is the advanced clinical experience also known as the second 100 weeks – how is it different from how other med schools handle clinical rotations? [11:35]
A couple aspects make it a little different. Within the 6 core rotations (neurology, psychiatry, peds, ob-gyn, medicine, and surgery), we’re aiming for a more 360-degree approach. When I went to medical school, my neurology rotation was in the neurology department. At Hofstra, our neurology rotation also encompasses neurosurgery and rehab medicine – and each rotation has that approach, giving students exposure to specializations that cross over and through the core rotations.
The second aspect is that we offer the opportunity for three “selectives” in 3rd year. Because students have had so much clinical exposure, they’re starting to differentiate, so this is a chance to pursue additional specialties (emergency medicine, radiology, ENT surgery, etc) that they may want to pursue as a career.
The new MCAT is a little over a year old. Are you getting comfortable with it? [14:14]
We’re getting used to it, like everyone else.
It does test applied knowledge – in terms of our education model, it’s very good. We’re getting an understanding of it and how students perform. We do use it and think it works and helps us evaluate what we’re after.
Should applicants have both clinical and research experience? [15:50]
I don’t believe in checking boxes. It’s more about following a passion. We’re not looking for applicants who have all the elements – but for people who have different elements (community service, research, etc) and are passionate about them.
OK, but isn’t clinical exposure important to show readiness for med school? [17:30]
We want them to know what they’re getting into. But they can learn that in different ways. For example, an applicant who spent a lot of time in hospitals because their family member was ill might have a richer understanding of the medical system than someone who shadowed for a few hours. That’s why we want a cogent essay on why you want to go into medicine.
You get 6,200 applications for 99 spots. How do you winnow them down? [21:00]
We provide a baseline metric to generate a supplement. We accept applications from everyone – so if you don’t meet the guideline, you can request a supplement, but the guidelines are there to help you see if you might be a competitive applicant. (The guideline is 50th percentile on the MCAT and a 3.0 GPA.)
All metrics are important. We also consider leadership, volunteerism, any extraordinary circumstances or accomplishments (working while in school; participation in an initiative like Teach for America; etc). We interview around 700 applicants for an eventual matriculation of 99.
Any advice for Hofstra’s secondary application? [23:45]
We ask for a 1500-character essay highlighting an experience that shows resiliency. As a physician, you have to continue in your career despite background noise in your life, and despite challenges and losses in your career. So we ask applicants how you’ve bounced through a difficult obstacle. Don’t repeat something from elsewhere in your application – take the opportunity to tell us something new about yourself.
What is interview day like? [25:30]
We use a behavioral interview. It involves getting at certain attributes that we feel are important in a med student and physician. We’ve isolated 5 attributes we want to look for.
One of the two interviewers does not see the applicant’s GPA or MCAT (both see the essays, LORs, etc). We want the second interviewer to see the applicant without numbers. The interviewers’ ratings of the applicants agree about half the time, and the other half the time, they’re only about one ranking apart. If they disagree, we ask them to meet and discuss it.
Is the interview decisive, or is it part of the application review? [28:30]
It gets averaged with the rest of the file.
When should applicants who are waiting for an interview invitation get worried? [30:00]
The application supplement is accepted until December 1. Depending on when you submit it can affect the timing of your interview invite. But if you don’t hear by December, you can be concerned that you didn’t get an interview.
Any advice for reapplicants? [31:00]
I don’t see reapplying as a negative. As long as you’ve bolstered your application and addressed your weaknesses (such as retaking the MCAT, enrolling in a medical masters, etc), it can be a positive. If the reapplicant clearly addresses the problem, reapplication shows tenacity and desire – it shows you really want to do it, which is a plus. Medicine is not an easy profession.
I would not turn in the same application (admissions committees have access to your earlier files). Change the essay. Get new letters. Show you’ve become a better applicant.
Any advice for applicants planning ahead to next year’s application cycle? [35:15]
Play offense. Don’t highlight deficiencies – highlight strengths. Not “I got a C because I was ill” – but “Despite my illness, I was able to complete the class.” Don’t give excuses or highlight bad performance.
Give yourself room to take the MCAT twice. Have one exam under your belt before AMCAS opens, and leave room to retake it if necessary.
Understand you’re in a highly competitive process. Make sure you apply to a broad range of schools, no matter your GPA and MCAT.
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