Interview with Dr. Lindia Willies-Jacobo, Associate Dean for Admissions at Kaiser Permanente School of Medicine [Show Summary]
Our guest today is the Associate Dean for Admissions at Kaiser Permanente School of Medicine, which is recruiting its first class. In the process its re-creating medical education from the ground up – intertwining clinical and didactic experiences throughout the four years of its program, making minimal use of lectures, and developing a case-based curriculum. Did I mention that it’s tuition-free for the first 5 classes?
Kaiser Medical School: State-of-the-Art, Patient-Focused, and Free [Show Notes]
Our guest today is Dr. Lindia Willies-Jacobo, Associate Dean for Admissions at the Kaiser Permanente School of Medicine. While the KP School of Medicine may be new, Dr. Willies-Jacobo is not at all new to the field of med school admissions. She earned her MD at UCSD and served there as a professor of pediatrics from 1992 to 2019. For 22 of those years she was also the Assistant Dean for Diversity and Community Partnerships and Director of the Program in Medical Education-Health Equity.
Dr. Willies-Jacobo, Kaiser-Permanente is one of the country’s largest NFP health plans with over 12 million members and almost 23,000 member doctors. Why is it going into the medical education business? [2:38]
Having led the field in terms of health care delivery, Kaiser-Permanente (KP) has been in the business of training doctors for quite some time, often after they finish medical school. This seems like the natural next step for us. The concept of being able to introduce KP models earlier are essential for an integrated healthcare system.
What do you feel is missing in the field? How is KP filling it? [3:45]
The way healthcare delivery is structured is not accessible to every patient that comes in the door. The current model we practice is, a patient arrives in clinic and a doctor tries to assess the immediate needs of a patient rather than thinking more broadly about the environment the patient lives in and better integrating population health, the patient, and family. In other words, we are trying to think beyond the therapeutic and reimagine medicine so that we better integrate how a patient engages in our environment with our medical diagnosis.
You and your team have the opportunity to develop a curriculum that reflects KP’s priorities and frustrations with current medical education. Can you give us an overview of the Kaiser Medical School Curriculum? [7:10]
We are going to be a case-based curriculum, and are not going to be teaching utilizing a lecture format. All learning will happen in small teams. We are matriculating 48 students in 2020 who will be divided into cohorts of eight. All teaching will be taking place with two faculty preceptors. We will be operating a flipped classroom model with team-based learning, and engaging with a PCP from year one, and essentially putting into practice what they are learning every single day. Other unique features are that we will not be teaching anatomy using cadavers, instead availing ourselves of technology. We will be using virtual and augmented reality with organ systems and the entire body.
Our wellness curriculum is really important to counter burnout. The majority of wellness programs at medical schools are extracurricular, and we felt it was important to incorporate into the curriculum for all four years. There are wellness coaches teamed with students. We are excited to provide the time and make it an institutional priority.
We have three pillars of learning – biomedical science, clinical science, and health system science, and we incorporate the three into all four years of learning, so there is a combination of clinical and non-clinical work.
What is a spiral, case-based curriculum? [16:34]
The idea is that it starts very basic, and the same topics are reintroduced in a spiral developmental manner so that by the time the student is a graduating medical student and moving to residency they have achieved a certain level of mastery or competence in different areas that will be carved out. It is built with the adult learning theory in mind, which is that we learn better when engaging in something repeatedly and sharing with each other. We are engaging in material in a much more hands-on, interactive team-based way, and with our three pillars our team is involved at all three levels coming together to develop cases.
KP Medical School requires a scholarly project at some point in the four years. When do you anticipate that will be? [21:08]
It can be any year the way we are looking at it now. Our students can do just about anything, anywhere, at any time. The purpose behind it is to continue to nurture the importance of inquiry. As doctors we need to continue being inquisitive and curious about any number of issues, so it is about getting the students engaged in the importance of inquiry early.
What is distinctive about the KP approach to medical school admissions? [23:10]
We will be utilizing a holistic review approach which will allow us to look at every applicant as an individual, essentially broadening the lens. Every medical school applicant has to provide transcripts and MCAT scores, and while that is part of the story, helping us determine a little bit who has the likelihood to succeed, it doesn’t tell the whole story. We need to think from an equitable perspective, being cognizant that every person’s social capital is a little bit different. We want to make sure we are capturing people who are a good fit for the mission of the school.
When we talk about a good fit for KP we are looking for students who are first and foremost critical thinkers, which will require students to think more broadly than if one is sitting passively being lectured to. The application process ensures that students have critical thinking skills and are deeply passionate and compassionate in terms of delivery and health and reaching all communities and patients. Having that level of passion and compassion is important, and also we are looking for students who have demonstrated humility, and the readiness to be leaders and advocates. We are looking for change agents, not to just identify the many issues that exist in the healthcare system but to think about how to solve them. For students who are ready to train and make changes, it’s about leveraging and being able to take that model anywhere.
What class size to you ultimately hope to reach? Or do you have any ideas on that yet? [31:07]
I don’t know yet what our final number will be – whether we will double or anything like that. What I can tell you is that for now we can only accept US residents until we receive our official accreditation.
What is your secondary application going to be like? [32:02]
We are developing that, too – the nice thing is that secondaries are really designed to speak to the personality of the school, and we will be asking questions that will inquire about meeting the mission/vision values. That will be a rich way for us to tease out who has an understanding of our school and who we think would really thrive here. We have a responsibility to our students to ensure that we can provide an environment they will thrive in, and the secondary is one area to do that.
What can applicants invited to interview expect? [35:09]
We are utilizing the hybrid model which will be multiple mini interviews (MMIs), with six stations where students have eight minutes to do a vignette. We often talk about it as speed dating, but also we will be utilizing a traditional interview, so that is what should be expected.
What are some common mistakes in the MMI in your past employment? [37:10]
Students who were coached to perform and are not quite their authentic selves is the most common one. Pre-med students often ask, “How do I prep for the MMI?” It is really hard to do that – you can read up on certain issues, but in general bringing your authentic self is the most important – not saying something you think the interviewer expects or trying to figure out what the interviewer is thinking. A couple other ones are walking into the space without knocking, or forgetting to tell the interviewer who they are.
What if an applicant is interested in a dual degree program, either combining an MD with an MPH or other masters, or pursuing an MD/PhD. Is it possible at KP Medical School? [39:12]
Yes, and we have a few, actually. We have the MD/PhD program, which is a partnership with CalTech. We are lucky to be in Pasadena since we don’t have our own home university but are able to develop great partnerships with other universities in the area. Students can get a Masters in Health Systems Engineering Sciences at Loyola Marymount, an MPH at UCLA, or a Masters in Leadership at USC. So for anyone interested in taking their training beyond the MD degree, there will be opportunities to do that.
What advice do you have for applicants interested in applying to KP in the upcoming 2019-20 application cycle? [40:33]
Apply early. In the 2018-19 application season there were 53K total applications to med schools across the country, with an acceptance rate overall of about 40%, so not terrible, but even if you are extremely qualified and apply in Sep/Oct, interview slots fill up quickly, so the earlier you are able to apply (assuming readiness to apply) the better. Anywhere you interview you have an opportunity – applying to medical school is a long, rigorous journey, and there is very little you can control, but you can absolutely control when you apply.
Do you have an opinion on taking a gap year? [45:54]
I was a very typical pre-med student, majoring in pre-chem and biology, and I was very linear. I would have benefited tremendously from a gap year, so I strongly encourage it. I started med school really tired, which I wouldn’t have if I had taken a break.
What about those planning to apply in future years? What should they be doing? [48:39]
Contact us and reach out. We are really hoping for people to have a good sense of what our school is like before they apply, so as much as students can make their interest known to us the better.
What would you have liked me to ask you that I haven’t asked? [49:46]
I would encourage premed students and listeners to go to our website and check out the videos put together by our leadership team which nicely describe our program.
• Carle Illinois College of Medicine: Integrating Engineering and Medicine
• Get into University of Washington Medical School
• All About Duke Medical School’s Unique Curriculum and How to Get In
• The Man Behind Active Learning at UVM’s Medical School