Einstein Admissions Co-Chair Reveals a Shift in Priorities

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PMY 559: Einstein Admissions Co-Chair Reveals a Shift in Priorities

Session 559

In this episode, we talk about the medical school admissions process with Dr. Bob Marion, who is on the admissions committee at Einstein Medical School. Take heed as Bob offers valuable insights and advice based on his extensive experience reviewing applications and interviewing candidates.

For more podcast resources to help you with your medical school journey and beyond, check out Meded Media.

Listen to this podcast episode with the player above, or keep reading for the highlights and takeaway points.

Interest in Becoming a Physician

Bob first became interested in becoming a physician when he was in high school. He looked up to his older brother, who was five years older and went to medical school in 1968. Dr. Marion wanted to follow in his brother’s footsteps, so he decided to pursue the same path and go to medical school as well.

Evolution of Medical School Admissions

According to Bob, there have been significant changes in the medical school admissions process over the years. In the past, the focus was primarily on selecting students who were strong academically and likely to succeed in the curriculum.

However, nowadays, admissions committees are taking a more holistic approach. They are looking for individuals who are not only good students but also possess a well-rounded set of skills and experiences. The emphasis has shifted towards finding candidates who would make excellent physicians.

“Admissions committees pretty much around the country are doing a more holistic review of people’s applications.”

While academic performance and board exam success are still important, they are no longer the sole criteria for acceptance. This change has occurred over the past four decades, reflecting a shift towards a more comprehensive evaluation of applicants.

The Consequences of Accepting Students Who May Not Succeed

Bob shares a poignant example that highlights the potential harm in accepting students who may struggle to complete their curriculum. He recounts the story of a remarkable applicant who faced insurmountable odds but ultimately found herself unable to graduate from medical school.

“It’s a disservice to accept a student who we feel is not going to be able to get through the curriculum – we’ve done this and ruined people’s lives.” 

At Einstein Medical School, there exists a policy that restricts graduation for students who fail a certain number of courses or exams. Despite this policy, Bob championed a student with an inspiring backstory, sensing her determination and resilience. Unfortunately, even after seven years of medical school, repeated courses, and her unwavering dedication, she failed crucial exams and was unable to graduate.

The consequences of this student’s inability to graduate were devastating. She left medical school burdened with an overwhelming debt of $250,000 and found herself without a job or prospects. Forced to reassess her options, she ventured into offshore medical schools in search of another chance.

Bob’s experience with this student has left a lasting impact on him. He argues that once an applicant has endured such hardships, it becomes difficult to ignore their potential for success. It is a disservice to accept students who may not be able to navigate the curriculum, as it can lead to shattered dreams, financial ruin, and limited opportunities.

Enhanced Educational Resources and Support for Medical Students to Ensure Success

Bob acknowledges the limited availability of educational resources for struggling medical students a few decades ago. However, he highlights the significant progress made in recent years, emphasizing the commitment of the school to support its students.

Accepting someone into medical school is a substantial commitment, both for the student and the institution. Bob stresses the importance of preventing students from facing insurmountable difficulties. That’s why the school now offers a range of educational resources specifically designed to address challenges in test-taking and reading comprehension.

In addition to these resources, the school has dedicated educational psychologists who work closely with students during challenging periods, providing valuable guidance and support. Their presence aims to prevent discouragement and ensure that no student feels the need to abandon their dreams.

Assessing the Right Fit for Medical School

When evaluating if someone is the right fit for medical school, it is essential to consider factors such as their coursework and performance in postgraduate work. While individuals who have shown improvement after struggling as an undergraduate may demonstrate potential, there are still limitations.

Bob’s insights highlight that students with extremely low MCAT scores, such as 480 or 485, may not have the necessary skills to succeed. It is important to make these assessments to avoid putting students in a position where their dreams are shattered. However, Bob also acknowledges that there are alternative paths in life and encourages individuals to explore other possibilities if medical school may not be the best fit.

The Crucial Role of Premed Advisors in the Medical School Application Process

In navigating the process of selecting prospective medical students, Bob highlights the growing reliance on premed advisors. He emphasizes that once students have submitted their applications, it becomes challenging for medical schools to intervene effectively. Therefore, the responsibility primarily falls on premed advisors at undergraduate colleges to offer guidance and counsel students against making uninformed decisions. 

However, Bob acknowledges that despite advisory efforts, some students may choose to disregard the advice and proceed with their applications, believing in their own potential. Bob suggests the importance of providing clear information about application requirements and expectations to help students make informed choices before hitting the submit button.

Bob recognizes that every individual is unique, and once applicants meet a certain threshold, such as achieving a minimum MCAT score, they may still warrant consideration. 

For instance, someone with a score of 502 might possess qualities that make giving them a chance worthwhile. On the other hand, individuals with higher scores, like 508 or 510, may face additional challenges that need to be taken into account. This highlights the complexity of assessing applicants based solely on their MCAT performance.

Prioritizing Holistic Evaluation in Medical School Admissions

Bob emphasizes the significance of taking a holistic approach when evaluating medical school applicants. While academic achievements like grades and MCAT scores are important, they alone do not guarantee success as a future doctor. Medical schools seek candidates who demonstrate a genuine commitment to the field of medicine and possess qualities such as empathy and compassion.

“We’re not looking for students who are going to be great students. We’re looking for students who are going to be great doctors.”

Bob highlights the importance of applicants showcasing their dedication to a medical career through their actions. It is not enough to simply talk about their aspirations; they must also demonstrate their commitment through tangible experiences and accomplishments. This approach allows admissions committees to assess an applicant’s potential to provide compassionate care and make a positive impact on patients’ lives.

The Importance of Personal Statements in Medical School Applications

When reviewing medical school applications, Bob brings attention to the significance of personal statements. He highlights a common pitfall where applicants express their love for music and how it deeply resonates with their soul. However, Bob argues that this inclination towards music signifies a desire to pursue a career in music rather than medicine. He cautions against using a backdoor approach to gain entry into the medical profession.

The Power of Personal Statements in Conveying Aspirations

Bob asserts that personal statements should showcase an unwavering commitment to becoming a doctor. Applicants should emphasize their lifelong dedication and the steps they have taken to pursue their dream of practicing medicine. By demonstrating a strong drive and passion, applicants can paint a clear picture of their past achievements and future aspirations.

Reevaluating Selection Criteria Based on Personal Insight

Bob shares an enlightening encounter with an applicant’s personal statement earlier in the day. Despite stellar academic credentials, the applicant revealed that their motivation for pursuing medicine stemmed from a desire to please their father. This lack of personal conviction and authenticity ultimately led Bob to decline an interview offer. He emphasizes that medical schools seek applicants who genuinely desire to make a difference in the field, rather than those motivated solely by external factors.

“The road to medicine is not simple and it’s not straightforward. There are lots of ups and downs, there’s a lot of hard work that’s involved.”

Bob acknowledges that the path to medicine is far from simple and straightforward. It is a journey filled with numerous ups and downs, requiring immense dedication and hard work. He emphasizes that prospective doctors must be aware that they will encounter obstacles and face moments of doubt. Without genuine motivation, it becomes increasingly difficult to persist through these challenges.

Finding Strength in Personal Desire

Bob underscores the significance of intrinsic motivation in pursuing a career in medicine. He explains how having a deep-rooted desire and passion for the field is crucial for resilience during the most challenging times. 

External factors, such as making parents proud, can only serve as transient sources of motivation. Ultimately, it is the genuine inner drive that sustains individuals through the arduous journey of becoming a doctor.

The Impact of Genuine Expression in Written Work

Bob stresses the importance of effectively conveying one’s true motivations in their written work, such as personal statements or essays. It is essential for applicants to demonstrate that their desire to pursue medicine stems from their heart and soul.

“If you tell us that this is what you’ve wanted to do your whole life, that’s better to us than somebody who has those perfect numbers.” 

Admissions committees seek candidates who authentically express their passion for caring and serving others. By genuinely communicating their commitment and personal connection to the medical field, applicants increase their chances of standing out and resonating with decision-makers.

Navigating Academic Obstacles: The Importance of Grades and MCAT Scores

Bob highlights the significance of academic performance in the medical school admissions process. While subpar grades can raise concerns about an applicant’s ability to navigate the rigorous curriculum, he suggests potential remedies such as a postbac or retaking the MCAT to demonstrate improvement.

However, Bob emphasizes that simply retaking the MCAT without significant improvement is insufficient. Applicants may need to adopt new study strategies to enhance their chances of success.

Beyond the Numbers: Showcasing Compassion and Impact in Application Materials

Bob acknowledges that exceptional grades and test scores do not always correlate with qualities like empathy and dedication. He values applicants who have actively made a difference in their communities and shown genuine concern for others.

Whether it’s volunteering, conducting meaningful research, or hands-on medical experience, these experiences reveal an applicant’s true character and commitment to making a positive impact.

Bob emphasizes that conveying these experiences and personal growth in essays is crucial. And that’s because there are limited opportunities to truly understand an applicant’s essence within the application.

Revealing Character through Written Work: The Power of Essays

Bob emphasizes that the true essence of an applicant can be discovered through their written work, specifically the personal statement and supplemental essays. These pieces provide valuable insight into the applicant’s character, allowing admissions committees to form opinions on their suitability for the program.

Bob believes that the quality of writing, including grammar and spelling accuracy, plays a significant role in assessing an applicant’s commitment. A poorly crafted essay with numerous mistakes suggests a lack of care and attention to detail, leaving a negative impression on the reader.

Amplifying the Significance of Essays and Interviews

Bob acknowledges that the written work and interviews are critical components in discerning an applicant’s true intentions and values. With limited avenues to truly understand an applicant’s personality, these aspects become magnified in importance.

While letters of recommendation and grades hold some weight, they do not provide sufficient insight on their own. However, applicants must demonstrate their ability to navigate the curriculum and pass standardized tests. Ultimately, the written materials and the interview serve as crucial touchpoints for admissions committees to evaluate an individual’s aptitude and suitability for medical school.

Identifying Students in Need: The Role of the Admissions Committee and Faculty

Bob highlights that the members of the admissions committee, who also serve as faculty, possess valuable insights into identifying students who may encounter academic difficulties.

While the committee selects individuals believed to have the potential to become exceptional physicians, they acknowledge that not all applicants excel academically. 

However, this does not deter the committee from accepting such individuals, as they recognize their strengths in other areas. This understanding allows them to anticipate potential academic challenges early on.

Providing Support for Students in Need

Bob emphasizes the importance of offering additional help to students facing academic obstacles. He mentions the existence of a summer biochemistry course designed to give students a head start and improve their foundational knowledge before the academic year begins.

“If you’re going to take students who you think you’re looking at holistically… you’re going to have to provide those students who are not so strong academically with some assistance.”

The school has invested in educational resources and established a team of professionals dedicated to supporting students encountering academic difficulties. Importantly, Bob notes that these resources allow the institution to identify struggling students even before they realize they are experiencing challenges.

Holistic Evaluation: Looking Beyond Grades and Test Scores

Proving Commitment and Drive

Bob emphasizes that the admissions committee takes a holistic approach when evaluating applicants. While academic achievement, including a solid grade point average and success in the sciences and MCAT, is important, it is not the sole determining factor.

Applicants need to demonstrate their commitment to overcoming challenges and completing the rigorous curriculum required to become a physician.

Bob acknowledges that exceptional success in these areas is not necessarily expected, but applicants must exhibit the drive and determination to navigate the journey from point A to point B to point C.

The Importance of Intangibles: Attitude and Dedication

Bob believes that the qualities sought in applicants extend beyond specific goals or achievements. It encompasses an entire attitude towards life and a genuine desire to pursue a career in medicine.

While many students seek clear-cut guidelines and objectives, Bob asserts that the evaluation process requires consideration of intangible factors. This includes assessing an applicant’s overall approach to life and their understanding of the sacrifices necessary to achieve their ultimate goal. It’s this combination of tangible achievements and intangible qualities that helps the admissions committee identify individuals who possess the right mindset for a career in medicine.

Recognizing Applicant-School Fit

Acknowledging Different School Environments

Bob emphasizes that each applicant has a unique identity and may not necessarily fit perfectly into one particular school. While their qualities and experiences may align perfectly with one institution, it doesn’t necessarily mean they will fit well in another.

The admissions committee takes this into consideration when evaluating applications and deciding who should receive an interview and potential acceptance. Bob recognizes that students often apply to multiple medical schools, and the goal is to find the right fit for both the student and the institution.

Understanding the Importance of Environment

Bob highlights the significance of considering the environment in which applicants will be working and living. In the case of Bob’s institution in the Bronx, a deep commitment to caring for underserved populations is essential. This environment requires individuals who truly understand and embrace the needs of the community.

“It’s not just the applicant, it’s the environment that the applicant will be working and living in.”

Bob acknowledges that not everyone may thrive or be happy in such an environment, but they may find greater success and fulfillment in a different setting. It is crucial to assess both the applicant’s compatibility with the school’s environment and the potential for their personal growth and success within that context.

Final Words of Wisdom

For students who may be feeling concerned or unsure after listening to the discussion, Bob offers reassuring final words of wisdom. He says that if a student is truly committed to a career in medicine, there are pathways to achieve that goal.

Even if a student doesn’t get accepted the first time they apply to medical schools, they can reapply or consider opportunities outside the US.

Bob acknowledges his own experience of having to go to medical school in Ireland after being rejected from US schools initially. He stresses that with the drive and commitment to become a doctor, students will be able to get to where they want to go, even if it takes an non-traditional route.


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