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 vary greatly, and you should understand these nuances before you apply.
Successful applicants will not only have the essential qualifications a particular school wants, but will also have proven that their interests and values align closely with the school.
Why are med school mission statements so important?
We cannot stress enough how important it is to understand and think about a medical school’s mission statement. This is a process you start at the beginning of the admissions process and return to later on while writing secondaries and preparing for interviews. Knowing each school’s mission statement will help you narrow down your choices and apply only to the schools where you’d genuinely be happy. Understanding the mission will help you fine-tune your secondary essays and prepare for your interview answers so you can best express your fit with the program.
Let’s unpack some med school mission statements and understand their messages.
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. Some of the activities this school will find attractive in a candidate include an independent studies project, study abroad, and learning a new language.
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 independently and with originality. If you can show how you’ve resolved a problem that no one else could, discovered 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? Have you done volunteer work in communities profoundly 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. For example, perhaps you were on the ethics committee at your school, taught yourself the guitar, or started a humanism in medicine student group at your campus. Your coursework is important too: courses in medicine and law and courses intersecting science and art can demonstrate 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 discipline.
Reading between the lines of med school missions statements
On one hand, 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 will be exactly the same for both, but you can present yourself to the best advantage for each school by highlighting these experiences with different angles.
While reviewing med school mission statements, ask yourself the following two questions:
- Will you fit into the culture of the school?
Adcoms are seeking candidates who will fit into the culture of the school – future students who will feel comfortable being themselves and contributing to the classroom or campus environment.
They are putting together a puzzle: looking for diverse students with shared ideals who will fit together to create a cohesive class. So if the school has a collaborative culture or teaches with a very hands-on style, you’ll want to demonstrate that those values are important to you as well. If you prefer to work alone and this is evident in your experiences, then a culture of teamwork may not be for you. Make sure your essays or interview answers complement the ideals of the school, and that you are the missing piece of your target school’s puzzle.
- Do your goals match up?
You want to apply to programs that will support your goals and aspirations. If their ideals align with yours, you’ll receive greater support during your med school journey and a much better chance to achieve your professional dreams. If research is your passion but your target school’s focus is almost entirely clinical, then…well, this school shouldn’t be your target.
Once you understand a school’s mission statement you can frame your background and past experiences to match the school’s goals. Show how your shared passion for primary care and your extensive experience shadowing a family doctor position you to reach your future goals.
If you have an idea of the type of residency you plan to pursue, check out the stats on residency placement for different schools. Knowing which schools have successfully helped others achieve similar goals will help you choose the right schools, while showing those schools that your goals align with their program.
Paying attention to these subtle nuances between schools can either strengthen or weaken your position as a candidate. Take the time to assess your own core values and to the extent that time allows, boost your participation in leadership and scholarship. Look for opportunities to showcase your empathy. Brief exposure is not enough; you want to show ongoing continual interest in and development of all these skill sets that will help you develop into a successful physician.
Medical school applicants can find the med school mission statements on the AAMC website.
Work one-on-one with a medical school admissions pro who will help you define your goals, choose programs with mission statements that match your goals, and then apply successfully and get accepted! Check out our Med School Catalog of Services.Want an admissions expert help you get accepted? Click here to get in touch!
• Demonstrate Fit in Your Applications, a podcast episode
• Teamwork in Medical School Admissions: How to Show You’ve Got It
• “I’m Smart, Really I Am!” – How to Prove Character Traits in Your Essays