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New approach to screening prospective medical students

This year, the School of Medicine has dramatically altered its medical student interview process: Instead of an interview with a faculty member, the school has instituted a new process called the "Multi-Mini Interview." The MMI is a timed series of short interviews with scripted questions, all designed to measure character and critical thinking skills rather than scientific knowledge.

The MMI process, which originated at McMaster University medical school in Ontario, was instituted at Stanford in November as part of the rolling admissions process. Gabriel Garcia, MD, associate dean of admissions, explained the reasons for the switch in an article published today in Inside Stanford Medicine: "What we want to measure are the more personal traits that aren't so easy to measure: compassion, ethics, critical thinking, interpersonal skills."

The MMI, which began testing at McMaster in 2002, has been studied extensively - and the studies show it's successful in doing just that. While researching the story, I interviewed Kien Trinh, MD, chair of the MD program admissions at McMaster University. He talked about how the new process has been successful at helping to pick out future doctors who will best serve the community:

A lot of questions have to do with ethics. We're looking at the student's communication skills. We don't expect them to be psychologists, but we look at how they would break bad news to a friend or how they would talk to a friend in grief.

Since 2005, the majority of Canada's medical schools and 15 American medical schools have switched to MMI. So far, no one's switched back.

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