While every U.S. medical school offers you an education that will prepare you for a career as a successful physician, the social mission of each school can defer greatly and you should be aware of these nuances as you apply. The successful applicant will have the basic qualifications a particular school wants, but will also be someone who has proven that their interests and values align closely with the chosen school. Reading these medical school mission statements carefully will give you information that can help you align your secondary applications and interviews appropriately.
Medical School Mission Statement Variation A
Medical School A is a top-tier school whose mission is to:
- “Produce leaders in medicine…”
Translation: We are not just looking for good clinicians; we want people who aspire to being leaders in the field of medicine. Highlighting your leadership activities would be crucial for a look-see by this institution.
- “Understand health and disease through biomedical research.”
Translation: Research experience is important to us. A summer of research may not be sufficient here. Thesis-based research, done over a year or more, is most likely going to get this school’s attention.
- “Effectiveness in assembling. organizing, and interpreting data for use in clinical decision making for the prevention, diagnosis, and management of disease.”
Translation: Research again – did you have an independent project that allowed you to collect data and organize and interpret that data to reach a conclusion? Those skillsets are important to this institution.
- “Understand the limits of personal knowledge and experience, able to demonstrate intellectual curiosity, and seek to actively pursue the acquisition of new knowledge and skills.”
Translation: Do you like to learn new things and are you someone who is always looking for answers. An independent studies project, study abroad, learning a new language; these are some of the activities this school will find attractive in a candidate.
Medical School Missions Statement Variation B
Medical School B is also a top-tier school and its mission statement includes:
- “Committed to creativity and innovation in medicine.”
Translation: We want people who can think outside the box. If you can show how you’ve resolved a problem that no one else could do, or created an innovative way to manage your RA duties in the dorm, or developed an app to help other students organize their time better, this school will find your application compelling.
- “Foster intellectual, racial, social and cultural diversity.”
Translation: We want people who have significant exposure to and experience with diversity. Does your basketball team look like a poster for the UN and you’ve been captain for several seasons? Do you speak multiple languages and have lived or worked in areas requiring an acute knowledge of the social and cultural norms of another country? Has your volunteer work been in communities vastly different from your own? Such experiences will almost be a requirement for this school.
- “Foster empathy, justice, collaboration, self-education and respect for others.”
Translation: We want students who have the ability to be good colleagues, take a humanistic approach to health care, and are passionate about life-long learning. Collaborations, either in clubs, research, or even sports and entertainment will be important to highlight. Activities that show you are on the ethics committee at your school, that you have taught yourself the guitar, or that you’ve started a humanism in medicine student group at your campus. Your coursework is important too – courses in medicine and law, in courses intersecting science and art, can showcase your interest in this area. Humanism in medicine is a big deal so look at this school’s website for classes/seminars/podcasts they offer in this area.
Reading between the lines of med school missions statements
Now, these schools’ values are very similar in nature – both want to train compassionate, competent clinicians. However, Medical School A clearly shows a desire for significant research and leadership while Medical School B seems most interested in creativity and collaboration. Your experiences may be exactly the same for both but “presenting yourself” may look significantly different as you highlight these experiences differently.
The subtle nuances between schools can either strengthen or weaken your position as a candidate. Do your homework; take the time to assess your own core values and develop your activities in leadership, scholarship, and empathy. Simple exposure is not enough! You want to show continual interest in and development of all the skill sets you will use as a successful physician.
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