All about the distinctive program at UWSOM and how to get accepted [Show Summary]
Dr. LeeAnna Muzquiz, Associate Dean for Admissions at UWSOM gives an in-depth look at the top ranking program, highlighting adaptations that have been made as a result of the pandemic and outlining each step of the University of Washington’s admissions process.
Interview with University of Washington School of Medicine’s Dean of Admissions, Dr. LeeAnna Muzquiz [Show Notes]
Welcome to the 451st episode of Admissions Straight Talk. Thanks for tuning in. Are you ready to apply to your dream medical schools? Are you competitive at your target programs? Accepted’s med school admissions calculator can get you a quick reality check, just go to accepted.com/medquiz, complete the quiz, and you’ll not only get an assessment, but tips on how to improve your chances of acceptance, plus it’s all free.
Our guest today is Dr. LeeAnna Muzquiz, UWSOM’s Associate Dean for Admissions. Dr. Muzquiz graduated from UWSOM in 2000 and received a Native American Center of Excellence certificate for successful completion of the Indian Health Pathway at UW. She did her residency at the Seattle Indian Health Board Clinic through the Swedish Family Medicine Residency Program in Seattle and was chief president from 2002 to 2003. She has tribal citizenship with the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, the CSKT, in Montana. She worked as a family physician with a CSKT since 2003, and in 2011 became the medical director for CSKT Tribal Health. She’s also taught medical students and physician assistant students for UWSOM for the past 12 years. She assumed the role of Associate Dean in 2018 after serving as Assistant Dean for approximately one year.
Can you give an overview of UW’s curriculum focusing on the more distinctive elements? [2:32]
It’s a fairly complex starter. We had a curriculum revision in 2015 where we really embraced the idea of clinical experiences early and often, incorporating that into a block style of curriculum taught over three different phases. We have our first phase, which is our foundation phase, which is mostly the basic sciences incorporated into a clinical experience way of presenting material. students get the opportunity to really learn basic science through some traditional lecture format and small group work, but are also assigned to do early clinical experiences with a primary care practicum and link to some mentorship early, as well as learning their clinical skills right at the outset of the start of medical school. Then they’re able to take the basic science knowledge and the pathophysiology and apply that to patient care and see it in action, in real life. It really helps set that foundational knowledge. That lasts for roughly 18 to 24 months, because we’re starting our year earlier actually coming up for the class entering in 2022. That lasts for the first part of medical school, and then the second phase is our clerkship phase, which is where folks do the traditional clerkships required. It’s essentially the third year of clerkships, where it’s the foundational family medicine, OB-GYN, surgery, internal medicine, psychiatry, etc. The final phase is the explore and focus phase. That’s where we do our elective rotations. So there’s a little bit more flexibility. Folks are really exploring their career choices, doing some internships, trying to get that experience in the fields that they’re interested in. And then they’re applying for residency throughout that time as well and getting ready for that experience. Interestingly, we also have a more longitudinal curriculum that’s taught throughout for example the social determinants of health and how those weave throughout.
There are different weeks that are paused in between basic sciences or in between the time for clerkships where there’s a focus more on how health and healthcare impact populations and specific populations. Why that exists and strategies to address it. Those themes happen throughout the curriculum as well. It’s blocked, there’s a vertical thought to the curriculum, but there’s also this horizontal flow through as you’re trying to integrate all of the pieces of medicine into your knowledge as you take that into your eventual specialty and career.
Other highlights I will add – we’re a five-state regional medical school. I think we talked about that last time. We serve five different states, we have six foundation site campuses. And during the time of clerkships, during that second phase of medical school, students have opportunity to rotate, not just in Seattle where University of Washington is located, where tertiary care centers are level one trauma centers. Those sorts of things are located also throughout the region throughout the five states and students really have the opportunity to see medicine practice in a variety of different settings: in community-based settings, in rural settings, in tribal settings, like where I actually practice. A wide range of experiences are available and that can be done in a variety of different ways. There are tracks and there are specialty programs for rural health. There are specialty programs for folks who maybe want to stay more in one location and learn in a longitudinal integrated clerkship type fashion as opposed to the traditional block clerkship. There’s some variety in terms of how our students learn and it’s tailored to the needs of each student.
Additionally, one other thing, there are also pathways. You had mentioned that I participated and obtained a certificate in the Indian Health Pathway. We also have pathways for students to train if they’re interested in some more specific population. For me, I knew I wanted to serve a Native American community eventually, which is my home community that I grew up in. What was afforded to me then was to do the Indian Health Pathway, which really focused on issues within Indian Heath, gave me the opportunity to take a little bit of a deeper dive into the issues around that particular population, as well as some clerkship opportunities in the explore and focus phase, where there’s some elective clerkships within tribal communities, particularly with traditional Indian healers, etc.
We have several pathways that are similarly structured for other populations as well. So there’s the Indian Health Pathway, the Hispanic Health Pathway, there’s a Black Health Justice Pathway, there is a LGBTQ Pathway, a Leadership Pathway, a Humanities Pathway and a Global Health Pathway. They’re all in an underserved pathway, just more generally. There are all sorts of different ways for a student to really hone in their own interests and tailor their curriculum to their own needs. I like to say that no two students who graduate from the University of Washington have the same experience. Everybody leads with a similar training, a high level of excellent training in medicine, but with an individualized flavor to it.
When you talk about longitudinal experience, does that mean you follow a patient for four years or does it mean that you focus on Indian Native American Health for four years or Hispanic Health. Can you go into a little bit more detail on that concept? [8:56]
Sure. We have a couple of different options that are more longitudinal experiences. They both happen within the clerkship phase, that second phase of training. One is a very specific site location in the state of Washington. It’s primarily for Washington residents, but not specifically. There is a site in a city called Olympia, and students who are assigned to that site, do a longitudinal integrated curriculum clerkship. They’re there for almost the entirety of their clerkship experience and they do all of the core clerkships there. They’ll do their surgery, their internal medicine, their OB-GYN, their family medicine in that specific site, within a group.
One day they may be in the family medicine clinic and then the next day they may be working with the OB and then be on call to catch a baby, that sort of thing to see medicine. They’re getting all of the experience. It’s really how medicine is practiced, so it doesn’t just happen with surgery condensed to this amount of time, etc. So that’s one option.
The other one is called our RITE program, which is a WWAMI rural integrated training experience. We have RITE sites throughout the five states. For instance, I was a Montana WWAMI and I would’ve had the opportunity to come to Montana to a site and live in a small town and do the same longitudinal experience where I’m stationed there for six months or eight months of my training. I get all of the exposure to all the different core curriculum experiences, but they may not be in a block fashion. Just a little bit more longitudinally.
I’m going to guess that experience is probably much more what practicing rural medicine is like? [11:11]
Yeah, for sure. It’s great because those students really get to be part of the community. Like you were saying, they often are able to take care of patients over that long term while they’re there. We also have something called the TRUST program. At UW we’re full of alphabet soup, we have lots of acronyms for lots of things. Our TRUST program is an admissions program for our TRUST scholars. You apply to that through the admissions process for most sites and that really is a targeted role in an underserved training program or scholars training program. What that does is it introduces a student to a rural community right as they’re admitted to medical school. They are assigned to a rural community and they do some pre matriculation. They spend some pre matriculation time there, get to know some folks, and then periodically they have the opportunity to return to that community. Typically they do a right experience in their TRUST community. And then they’re allowed to also do some of their elective time there if it’s available as well. That really gives them that longitudinal experience. When you asked if somebody could follow a patient for their four years, there are some TRUST scholars who have that opportunity. They may meet them when they first arrive. And then over the course of that four years of training, they get to interact with some of those same patients and that same community.
They also do what’s called a RUOP, another acronym that stands for Rural Underserved Opportunities Program, which is a four-week immersion experience between our first and second years when you’re still in the foundation space, but we have a block of time in the summer and you can go out to your rural community. TRUST scholars go to their TRUST site. Others choose to go to other rural communities, not just TRUST scholars do rural communities. It’s really a chance to get immersed into the community. There’s a requirement to do a community project to really assess the community, see where there might be needs and what might be suggested. Sometimes even the projects are enacted and implemented once the student has been there. So lots of opportunities, different kinds of programmatic and experiential opportunities to enhance that curriculum that’s more basic, but everybody has the opportunity to explore different areas that are of interest to them.
I’m going to guess that medical school at UW was somewhat affected by the COVID pandemic. What do you think is going to stick around from those adaptations, both in terms of the program and the admissions process? [13:44]
Great question. I think that’s something that the faculty continually reassesses. As we entered, of course, as with all schools, we had to halt in person classes and clerkships. There was a time when our students weren’t even allowed to be in the hospitals and do what they had to do. Things had to change quickly so we adapted, we provided some bridge training opportunities that were more virtual, of course, keeping the health and safety of everybody involved at the forefront. And then over time as the world continues to shift and change, we also continue to shift and change.
The interesting thing about UW and WWAMI, as I said before, is we’re five states, six different institutional campuses. So we’re affiliated with six different universities. You can imagine with that, every university and every state has a very different approach to reacting and responding to the pandemic. We had to be fairly flexible in terms of how our students were being taught and what strategies were employed, whether we’re in person or virtual or some hybrid model. We have a variety of things going on even today across our campuses, but for the most part we’ve returned. So much of our content was transitioned to virtual for last year’s spring, summer, and fall. I think where we’re headed is that we’re going to try to keep the parts that worked really well in terms of there is some value to delivering some content virtually and to affording students who are medical students, but they’re also participants in their own lives. So they have other responsibilities and other priorities and things that they need to do. Being able to honor that and limit time commuting and exposure to people and public transportation and those sorts of things. We’re keeping some of the hybrid/virtual teaching, especially some that we found that it actually works better to do it that way. We’re preserving in-person time, because we know that that’s important too. There is nothing that replaces the personal connections that we make and actually seeing patients. That’s why we’re preserving that time for those moments that really can’t be replaced by virtual learning.
I think as we move ahead, we were just talking about this in some faculty discussions yesterday about what it looks like for the future. For the folks in the Seattle campus, they’re still doing a hybrid model. They’re not doing a lot of things in person. In the spring, we finally feel like it’s comfortable and there’s enough infrastructure in place to keep folks safe that will come back probably in person in the spring and likely throughout the academic year coming up. So we’re transitioning but also trying to be mindful. Also, the curriculum piece has to catch up. We have to shift back to delivering the content back in person in a way that makes sense. Like I said, we’re taking what we feel worked really well and keeping some that to allow for better interaction when we are in person.
In terms of the admissions process, of course, everyone went to a virtual interview last year. We continued it this year, just with the uncertainty. We had to make that decision all the way back early last spring and there was still a lot of uncertainty then. As we look forward, what we have come to value around virtual interviews is just some of the barriers that it’s decreased for applicants in terms of access and the ability to explore as a possibility of an institution. We heard so much angst and anxiety from our admissions committee when we entered into virtual interviews last season, that they just couldn’t imagine how we were ever going to get to know people in a virtual space, how this was going to work. At the end of the year, I think people really came to appreciate that there is the ability to connect with people via Zoom and that you really can get to know folks. They appreciated not having to commute to campus and finding parking and disrupting their day. Our committee is all volunteers. Many of them are practicing clinicians or faculty members. Some of them are retired, and we have students. We were able to have many more students help us because of the virtual nature of our interviews. It just really enhanced the access for people both from the applicant inside and from our committee. I think we were enhanced by that.
There are definitely challenges of technology, and there are challenges of having students get to really feel our community and our campus. We’re trying to be creative and looking forward to the spring hoping that things will provide us the opportunity to bring folks to campus in a meaningful way so that they do have the opportunity to interact in real person, in real time with our community. So will we continue to do virtual interviews in the future? It’s unclear. Perhaps some, again of this hybrid technology. I just think that the pandemic, if it hasn’t taught us anything else, has forced us to really adapt to technology and integrate it into our day to be able to function. I don’t see us returning back to 100%, not virtual.
We just have learned so much about how to deliver content and reach so many more people and be able to be more accessible. I think that a really important part of our work is to be accessible and available to more people. So I see that continuing, just not sure what it exactly looks like yet.
UW is one of the few medical schools that actually posts secondary essays. What do you glean from the secondary that you don’t from the primary? [20:56]
That’s a good question. I think, for us, we really try to make our process transparent and that’s why we post the questions. What we’re looking for is to really get to know the person beyond the basics of their demographics and their experiences and their metrics, because what comes in the primary application is just some basic information. We always encourage people to reflect and wherever they can to tell us the thought process because that’s what we’re trying to get at. Who are you at the core? What is your story? And then what we do is we try to take what you tell us from your answers to secondary questions and try to overlay that on what is our mission, who are we looking for, who are the people who are going to best serve the mission of our institution in a meaningful way and perhaps in a unique way that hasn’t been represented before or that we may find value in for a different reason?
Our encouragement is always to be as reflective as possible. Tell us the meaning behind anything that you put into your application, because we’re really trying to get to know you as a person. For the most part, if you’ve made it to getting the secondary application, we stop really looking with big scrutiny at your academics or those things. We really do want to know who you are and how you will contribute, what will you bring to the table, what that means for our institution and for communities and for our region, because that’s what we’re here for. We’re here to meet the workforce needs of the region. So that’s who we’re looking for. And that’s why we post them, so that folks really have the opportunity to think through that. You don’t have to cram your answer in right before the deadline. It’s been posted.
We were running a little behind this year. It just was recovering from all of the things that happened last year and last season, and then just through the summer. We, like everybody, suffer from some staffing issues and there was some stuff that went on with the application process itself. We just found ourselves running behind and we’re trying to alleviate that anxiety for applicants and let them know. We try to post that on our social media and let folks know that it’s us not you. Don’t get too worried or upset if you’re not here. We try to communicate frequently in that respect. But sometimes it just is how it is.
Do you do any screening before sending out secondaries or are they automatic for anybody who clicks the UW box? [24:21]
We do a screening. As you probably are aware, last year we got upwards of 9,000 applications for our 270 seats. The majority of those are dedicated to those sites, those state specific seats. We have to have a way to comb through some of the applications so we do set some criteria in terms of metrics for both our WWAMI applicants as well as our out of region applicants and those fluctuate a little bit based on the applicant data from the previous cycle. We don’t publish what our academic cut off is, because it’s not always the same and we don’t want people trying to strive for something that may change come the next cycle. But there is a basic metric screen, which is not through the roof, most get through.
For our out of region applicants, we actually have a little bit of another screen that includes asking them to complete a statement that tells us how they meet our mission, because we are a state funded institution, we are a state school. Our goal is to educate the residents, but we recognize that there are sometimes applicants outside of our region that can bring some unique characteristic or experience or enhance our class in some way that can be of great value, not just to our institution, but actually to our students and to our faculty. We’re all in the position of learning from each other in a learning community. So we do accept out of region applicants, but the acceptance rate is very low and that’s partly because they go through that additional screening. Some students just choose not to complete the mission statement essay, because it’s another layer of things to do. A human actually reviews those and screens folks for meeting our mission. Then they fall into the regular process of being invited to complete a secondary and interview. So yeah, there is a little bit of a screening process that happens before folks get invited for a secondary.
What is the job of the CASPer in the UW admissions process? [27:24]
Great question. We’ve had CASPer as part of our secondary requirements since I came on board in 2018. We’ve been collecting CASPer data but for the first couple of years, we actually were doing it as a pilot and it had no bearing on admissions at all. Starting last season, we actually made the score available to our executive committee members who do oversee the process once somebody’s invited to interview. They help with our screening and then they also oversee the interview. They’re like the head of the interview committee, we do a three person panel interview and only they have access to anything that’s a metric. So an MCAT, a grade or a GPA and now the Casper. We made that available to them, and we didn’t use it at that stage for any screening or cut off. You didn’t have to have a certain CASPer score if you were within the WWAMI region, but really as another piece of information for our committee members to put into the context of the whole person.
Of course, as most institutions, we use holistic review. Admissions decisions aren’t made based on one piece of your application or one metric or one rubric score, it’s really about the whole package. We use that impressionistic view of CASPer to help our executive committee members think about applicants. So if everything else is the same, but somebody has a very low CASPerscore, for instance, then we want to put that in the context of how did they do on their interview? How are they reflecting? Can you find anything else that would support that, additionally, if they have a very high CASPer score. As you know, it’s a situational judgment test, looking at things that perhaps are harder to sort out in a brief 30 minute interview or a written application such as professionalism, ethics, communication skills, those softer skills. So that’s how we use it in our process.
We did also implement it one other way in this past season because we have such a complicated process. For all of these out of region applicants who apply to us, we did have to have another screening tool. We implement a screening cutoff for out of region applicants with the CASPerscore. So if you didn’t have above a certain CASPerscore, then those applicants were screened out as well.
Other than out-of-state or out-of-WWAMI applicants, the CASPer isn’t really used until the final decision? [30:06]
Can you give an overall view of the process an application goes through from the moment they check that box on AMCAS? So let’s say from when you get the secondary, what happens? [30:19]
As I said, we receive primaries and then those go through the metrics screen and the mission statement and or the mission statement review that I talked about. Once the secondary is sent, then we track that waiting for it to return. In order for your secondary to be completed, we need that application, but we also need folks to have taken the CASPer. Your application doesn’t go anywhere until we have your CASPer score, your MCAT score, your letters of recommendation, and your residency verification, if you’re in any of the WWAMI states.
Once all of those things are met, then those applications go to our screening committee. Our screening committee is made up of our executive committee, as well as some retired executive committee members who are trained to review applications and screen you using a rubric. So every application, I like to say, has eyeballs on it at least twice. In order to be invited for an interview, you need two positive screens. So two people who say yes. If you have a person say yes and a person say no, then it goes to a third screen, and that person can make the determination. If you are from a few of the WWAMI states that aren’t Washington and get screened out, they have an executive committee member that looks just to be sure. If you are also in some of the WWAMI states, if you are rejected before secondary, those actually get reviewed by the executive committee member too, just to be sure that we’re not missing something, because automatic screens can miss things, screeners can miss things if they’re not in the mindset of our regional sites who have specific needs.
We’re trying to meet the needs of various regional sites. And sometimes our executive committee member might see something in an application that says, “This is worth learning more about this person because they may fit this particular need, despite what other people think.” So some applications get looked at by up to four people before a decision is actually made.
We try to be sure that it’s looked at and looked at with a variety of different perspectives in ensuring that we make the proper decision. If you’re screened in, then you are invited to interview. We hold interviews starting in October and they go all the way through the end of February. The Seattle site does interviews approximately four to six weeks total. We do them in week-long blocks starting in October, November, December and January. Starting in November, we start with our regional interviews with Spokane. And then in January and February, we do all of the other sites in week long blocks also. We’re just interviewing constantly throughout the winter months. Each WWAMI site does a round of interviews and then they make their decisions for their cohorts. So we accept folks in their cohort, essentially.
For the Seattle site, it’s a rolling admissions process. Spokane’s a little bit larger, they have 60 seats. So we end up doing multiple weeks of interviews for them in multiple meetings. It’s rolling in some regards and very cohort specific in more of our regional sites.
But it doesn’t seem like those not invited to interview before Thanksgiving should worry? [34:03]
Yeah, that is not true for us. It never really has been, partly because our process is fairly labor intensive on our committee’s part. It takes them some time. Like I said, we got started a little bit late this year, so our screening is a little bit late. No news isn’t necessarily bad news at this point. Our secondary application deadline is actually December 1. So it just passed yesterday. We’re still getting secondary applications. We didn’t make it through our pre-screening, let’s just call that mission statement review of all of our out of regions so we’re extending some deadlines for some folks who are out of region, and that’s on us again, we’re just a little bit behind.
We try to tell people that even if you turned in your application all the way back in September and you still haven’t heard, it doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t be invited. We will definitely notify every single applicant the status of their application. We don’t just say, “Oh, it’s after this date, we’re done with you, if you didn’t hear from us too bad.” We try to be sure that we’re communicating frequently. Even if you’re still under consideration, give us a minute. We’ll get there. We still have interview spots available going forward, obviously for the region, which we purposely schedule in January and February, but also for our Seattle and Spokane sites. So all sites are still under consideration.
When will the last interview invitations be sent out? [35:45]
Probably mid January. You should probably contact us if you haven’t heard something by January 15.
Is the interview make or break? Is it just another piece of information? What happens then? [36:40]
We strive to interview about three people per seat, but last year we had an unprecedented number of applicants and we did a record number of interviews. We interviewed way more people last year. We interviewed over 800 and some just for the Seattle site, and then similarly increased numbers for each of our regional sites. This year we anticipate we won’t interview quite that many. I think we’ll be back down to our usual, somewhere between three and four per seat. If you’re invited for the interview, it’s a 30 minute, three-person panel interview, now done via Zoom. You get all set up from our side, and it’s pretty simple. You log into our portal that we have, and your interview just happens in the same application portal that you use throughout the whole time.
From that interview, we use a scoring rubric based on the interview. Each of the three people score you independently and then they come together to have a discussion and make some decision. That information is taken back to the larger what’s called executive committee, which is our committee that makes the actual decision on every single application. And that information is presented. Then the larger group makes the decision to accept or reject or to put on the alternate list for each cohort. We do that same process for each of them. It’s done the same way for all of the different cohorts.
Again, we use a holistic review process. So one thing does not determine your entire acceptance or rejection from medical school. That’s why it’s brought to the larger committee. There’s a numeric value that goes to your interview, but your executive committee member who interviews you actually presents that and is able to give the context and more of the detail around that in order to help the committee learn that story. Again, we try to train our committee to see the candidate’s story. Who are they? How will they contribute? What is the value that they bring and how can we assist them in attaining the goals that they state that they’re setting for themselves? It needs to fit for everybody. It needs to fit institutionally, but also we need to be able to meet the needs of the student. That’s presented and then decisions are made in terms of who’s coming and who’s not coming.
Is UW open to updates from applicants? [39:32]
We do not accept updates. That’s because our process is so complicated and so many people touch the application throughout, we just are not able to accept any updates. Everything needs to be in by the deadlines. If it’s part of your primary, it needs to have come in by October 15th, if it’s part of your secondary, by December 1st, and then that’s it. We also don’t accept thank you notes, which I think is helpful for people to know, only because it just becomes a little bit of a logistical issue of getting them to the right people and in a timely fashion. It also is one more stressor on the applicants. We recognize that there’s appreciation of our committee. So save your postage and your pen and ink, and also your email, because we try to discourage that as well. Say your words of gratitude at the end of your interview and that will suffice.
Would you like to receive updates from waitlisted applicants? [40:45]
We don’t because no other decision will happen. We have a ranked alternate list of our site. We accept people in the order that they were ranked so it doesn’t help to learn anything additionally.
What are some of the more common mistakes that you see applicants making in approaching UW secondary in particular? [41:04]
We’ve looked at this and I think there are some common themes. There are a couple of points where rejection happens. So for folks who are screened out after somebody has looked at their application and determined not to be invited for an interview, a lot of times what we’re seeing is that the story that folks are telling does not convince the reader that they’re aware or prepared enough to understand what they’re getting into. It’s that preparation piece around understanding medicine. It can also be just in terms of where they are in their exploration of what it means to be in medical school and become a physician. Are they still in that exploration phase? That’s how they’re relating the information. It’s really about the reflection. We emphasize this all the time when we’re talking to prospective applicants. Don’t just tell us what you did, but tell us what you learned, how you felt, what the meaning behind the experience was.
We try to help our committee understand the difference between quantitative and qualitative experiences. Even if somebody had the opportunity to shadow somebody for 400 hours, if they haven’t reflected on what that means and they just tell you all the cool things they got to see but they don’t have any reflection on what that means to them, to the physician, to the patient, what the patient physician relationship look like, how they see themselves in that setting, what attributes they have that they feel like will make them successful – if they’re not talking about that stuff in the application, they’re pretty much likely to get screened out in our process, because we’re really looking for people who are coming knowing what they’re getting into. Obviously not the details, we don’t expect them to know the medicine side of it, but really what is it going to be like for them? Do they recognize the challenges? Do they recognize the rewards? Have they asked doctors or people in healthcare about this or have they observed it at least? That’s probably the biggest reason people get screened out and not get invited for an interview.
Also, we are looking for service minded individuals. If you haven’t spent a lot of time being of service to others in some capacity, we worry that when you get into the position of being a medical student and/or a physician and recognize how much of yourself you have to give, that will be a hard transition. We want you to have demonstrated that. It can be anything. We don’t think that this is the recipe for a successful medical student, like do X, Y, Z, and you’re in. It really is what is meaningful to you. Be intentional about your experiences in terms of what your passion is. What gets you up in the morning? What are you excited or interested in? What devastates you? What makes you angry? And what do you want to see changed? And how have you approached that?
Approach that somehow in your life, and then tell us about it, describe it to us, tell us what that means. So all of those things, those are the things we’re looking for in terms of preparation. And then if you’re invited to interview and then you still aren’t selected, the variety of things, often some of it is again, in your responses around how you think about things or how you maybe haven’t thought about things yet. We’re looking for a level of maturity and understanding who you are as a person. What is your story? How can you help us see how that fits into our institution and for you going forward? I think a lot of times that’s what happens to folks. And it’s hard. Interviews are high stakes, they’re super anxiety provoking. We recognize that. Our committee is trained to try to see past the nervousness. It really then is more the content of your answers and the security with which you deliver those because I think that’s the other piece that I’ve heard back from some committee members and I’ve seen myself, folks trying to give us the answer they think we want to hear as opposed to having a genuine response.
So again, being intentional and speaking your truth around whatever the question might be. Even if it’s a question you don’t know, we would rather hear you say, “Well, gosh, I don’t know that or I haven’t experienced that, but here’s what I might think about in terms of wanting to get to know more about that.” Something like that. Our committee’s pretty good about sniffing out the baloney, the stuff that just doesn’t really quite add up all the way. We’re looking for that level of being your genuine self and bringing that up to the table.
As we read applications, you just start to see this level of understanding of self that people can articulate. Once you’ve reached that maturity level or that experiential level, it just comes and our committee is trained and we’re good about being able to read through those. That’s one of the things that makes or breaks both an application and an interview is self awareness and being able to articulate your genuine self.
For those in the WWAMI states wanting to apply to UW, what advice would you have for them? [48:18]
Read our website. We try to be very transparent. We try to keep it up to date. Everything that we want you to know and do and think about is there. It’s dense. Sometimes, you go down rabbit holes, but that’s where I would start. I go back to being intentional about why you want to go to medical school. What is it that’s driving you? Start there with your own core values and beliefs and how you see yourself being a contributor to medicine in some capacity. What is that? Identify that, know it, own it, be able to tell it to whomever asks you, not just in the interview situation, but really your friends should know who you’re about and what you’re about, your family should know that.
You really just need to have that baked into your fabric in terms of why this makes sense to you, because once you own that, you’re going to be more likely to be intentional about experiences that you’re seeking about ways that you’re of service, about studying and learning, because that’s an ongoing, never ending component of medicine. Always be learning. The things that you study, don’t take an organic chemistry class just to get into medical school. Try to really understand the content, because as doctors and physicians, we’re expected to know humans, not only on the psychosocial aspects of being human, but also on the physiologic and cellular level. That’s the expectation of being a doctor. And if that is not something that sounds very fun or interesting to you, then maybe it’s not the right thing.
Being intentional, understanding your motivation and then intentionally seeking opportunities and experiences, not because you’re checking a box or want to have something to put on your CV or your med school application, but really, because it makes sense. When that approach happens and we meet those applicants, it’s so fun because they light up and they can tell you their story and their passion. They make you excited about the prospect of being a physician and contributing to medicine. And we see that.
If you’re in the early phases or you’re reevaluating, because you were unsuccessful in a past application cycle, think about those things, where’s your passion? What motivates you? And then build upon that. There are some things, and like I said, our website will tell you, you need to do this and this and this and have these prerequisites and so forth and so on, but at the same time do it because it’s something that you’re excited about and that you’re really interested in, not because eventually you want to be a doctor and these are just the hoops you need to jump through to get there. You might want to check that if that’s your approach, because that may make it much harder for you in the long run.
Wonderful advice. Where can listeners learn more about UW School of Medicine? [51:43]
Like I said, we have a website that has a lot of information. You can go to uwmedicine.org and then click on the School of Medicine and there’s an admissions page that will take you all the way through that journey. I would also say you can find us on Instagram and Facebook if you just search for UW School of Medicine Admissions. We try to keep folks updated on those social media sites as well.
- University of Washington School of Medicine’s Website
- Admissions Interview | UW Medicine
- University of Washington School of Medicine Secondary Application Tips and Deadlines [2021 – 2022]
- The Medical School Admissions Calculator
- Accepted’s Medical School Admissions Consulting
- Deep Dive Into Duke Medical: An Interview With Dr. Linton Yee, Associate Dean of Admissions
- Are You Rushing to Attend Rush Medical College?
- How to Get Accepted to Chicago Medical School at Rosalind Franklin
- How to Get into Kaiser Permanente Medical School – Warning It’s Tough!
- How To Get Accepted to University of Illinois College of Medicine
- Get into University of Washington Medical School [a previous interview with Dr. Muzquiz]