The Multiple Mini-Interview (MMI): Interviewing the Speed-Dating Way

by Mia Carpiniello, Associate Director

If you’re considering applying to medical or dental schools, you’ve probably heard of the Multiple Mini-Interview (MMI). As an increasing number of schools adopt the MMI format this year, it’s important to understand the new format and be prepared if you are invited to an MMI interview.

What is the MMI?

The MMI is a health professions school interview format that originated at McMaster University’s medical school in Canada over ten years ago, and aims to more accurately predict an applicant’s future clinical performance as a physician (as compared to a traditional interview format). In the MMI format applicants respond to a series of scripted questions at timed interview stations. If you have an MMI interview, expect to rotate between 8 to 10 stations. At each station you will be given a set amount of time – usually 2 minutes – to read a passage and formulate a response. Then, you’ll be given an additional amount of time – usually 8 to 10 minutes – to respond before moving on to the next station. At each station you will encounter a different interviewer who will score you based on your response at that station.

Interviewers may be physicians, medical residents, lawyers, nurses, hospital administrators, or even patients – reflecting the interdisciplinary nature of health care teams in today’s world. The questions are designed to address specific skills, such as problem-solving, cultural competency, teamwork, empathy, professionalism, interpersonal skills, ethics, and stress management – not necessarily scientific and/or medical knowledge. Because most of the questions ask you to respond to a situation or an issue, the MMI format provides fewer opportunities for you to talk about your own application and experiences. Although, one station may be devoted to a traditional interview question, such as “why do you want to be a physician?”

For more descriptions of the MMI format and why medical schools are adopting it, take a look at this New York Times article and this article from Stanford School of Medicine.

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Clinical Volunteering with Older Patients

Amy Weiss headshotby Amy Weiss, COL ’13

Friends told me that volunteering in a long-term care facility would be sad and depressing.  “Why don’t you volunteer at a children’s hospital,” they said, “…where you can play games with sick kids who want to have a good time? After all,” they said, “nursing homes are just full of lifeless, hopeless people waiting to die.”

It turned out that this was not the case, as I discovered shortly after beginning my weekly visits to the Penn Center for Rehabilitation and Care, a nursing and rehabilitation center where patients suffer from a variety of debilitating diseases, including stroke, Parkinson’s Disease, and Alzheimer’s Disease.  Instead of leaving my three hours of volunteering each week with a feeling of sullenness, I leave with a sense of satisfaction.  I also leave with a much-needed boost in motivation to keep working through my pre-med course requirements because I am reminded of how much I want to be a doctor.

The patients at Penn Center have become familiar people to me, each with a unique personality and story to share.  Melinda, a 73-year-old resident, who owned and managed a restaurant in south Philly for her entire adult life, waits for me outside her room every Friday at2 pm, the time each week when I arrive at the center and head towards the recreation room where I play the piano to entertain the residents and help run art class.  “You remind me so much of my daughter,” she told me at least five times the first day I met her.  I look forward to seeing her every week as well; as a student at a big anonymous place like Penn, it is a wonderful feeling to have someone eagerly and warmly awaiting my arrival.

My experiences at Penn Center illustrated for me the basic difference between caring for young children and caring for the elderly.  Yes, the tangible tasks involved are often the same: they both need help eating, speaking, and going to the bathroom.  However, helping an adult with such needs requires an important additional component: you  must help them while also taking care to allow them to feel respected and dignified as adults.  Volunteering at Penn Center also gave me the opportunity to hear really cool life stories from the residents, many of whom are eager to share them because they are happy to see a young and vibrant  person who can  take the time to listen.  Ultimately, I have learned a great deal from volunteering at Penn Center about how to interact with sick people, but also from the wisdom of older patients who know a great deal about life in general.

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Beware the Hippo: Choosing Where to Apply to Medical School

If you are applying to medical school this year, it soon will be time to compile your list of schools to which you will apply.  ”Ms. Pre-health Advisor,” you ask, “How do I come up with a list of schools?  Where should I apply?  How many schools should I choose?”  Assuming my most Yoda-like posture and voice, I say, “You choose the schools.  You choose the path.  But help you I can, yes.”

First, you might enjoy listening to two podcasts produced by the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine in which two medical students discuss how they chose schools and former Director of Admissions & Outreach Joni Krapec gives her perspective on the process.  The podcasts highlight some of the factors applicants consider when selecting schools including curriculum, location, and size.

Now, here are two less effective, but fairly common, ways of selecting schools followed by some thoughts to keep in mind:

Hippopotamus. Digital ID: 436886. New York Public Library

Beware of Hippo Mind.  You know the toy with the four hippos, advertised as a “frantic marble munching game,” where you pound the lever frantically to help your hippo eat, eat, eat!  And the marbles get stuck in the middle, and jammed under your hippo’s jaw, but it really feels good to make the hippos go crazy.  There is an element of good fortune involved in medical school admissions; however, if you are compiling a very long list of schools thinking, “I just want to get in somewhere,” then you are using Hippo Mind to grab your marble.  Pre-health advisors are good at talking people through Hippo Mind.

Beware of Dreamer’s Mind.  It’s a beautiful day today and I’m working at home next to the open window and I can see cherry blossoms.  I would love to live in California — I’ve lived in Pennsylvania my whole life!  I’m going to apply to all the medical schools in California.  Seattle is cool, too.  Pre-health advisors are good at dream interpretation.

Dreamer’s Mind is important and valuable, and Hippo Mind, too, lends energy to the enterprise, but they alone may not help you reach your destination.

Consider these points:

Applying to medical school is an investment of time and money.  What is your budget on both counts?  Applying to, say, more than twenty schools might not increase your “chances” of admission, but it may result in debt or “passive withdrawal” from schools when you find there isn’t time to complete all the secondary applications.

Gather information about schools.  Use the MSAR and other statistical information we have in our office.  Find out how many out-of-state or international applicants are interviewed and eventually matriculate to the school. Look at the size of the incoming class compared to the number of applications received.  Check not only the mean GPA/MCAT, but also the range for accepted students.

Have an open mind and reflect upon your career goals.  You will receive a great education in medical school and take the first steps toward becoming a doctor. There are about 170 accredited allopathic and osteopathic medical schools in the U.S.  Interestingly, we have a book in the Career Services library called The Best 162 Medical Schools. Familiarize yourself with many schools and consider which are “the best” for you and your application.

Lastly, remember that you need not rely on The Force (or The Blog) alone, but are always welcome to make an appointment at Career Services to discuss your application plans!

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Exploring Outside the Pre-Health “Bubble” — Philadelphia’s College of Physicians

The Mütter Museum's "Soap Lady"

The Mütter Museum’s “Soap Lady”

We know how much time pre-health students spend on the beaten path between libraries, labs and lectures, which is why we’re calling your attention to The College of Physicians of Philadelphia located at 19 South 22nd Street in Center City.  Not only is it the home of the Mütter Museum where you can learn about medical history while gawking at the giant colon (look up: Hirschprung’s disease), one of MANY truly impressive specimens in the collection that will challenge your mind and stomach, but the College is also home to four lively special interest “sections” devoted to Medical History, Medicine & the Arts, Public Health & Preventative Medicine, and Medicine, Ethics & the Law.  Recently, Philadelphia Health Commissioner Donald F. Schwarz MD/MPH spoke on the status of public health in Philadelphia and Todd Park, Chief Technology Officer at the US Department of Health & Human Services, shared his insights on “Using Open Data to Improve Health.”  Most of the lectures are free, open to the public, and listed on the website’s calendar of events.

If attending a lecture is the last way you want to spend your free time, you might enjoy visiting an art exhibit, hearing a reading of play addressing medical ethics, or attending a film screening like the upcoming showing of the Steven Soderbergh’s Contagion (2011) on February 25.  You can also volunteer at The College of Physicians, which co-sponsors several public health initiatives in Philadelphia such as Hip2Know tackling STD’s and the Memories project addressing gun violence.  If you are interested in public health and/or the arts you may be able to give your time in a way that is intellectually engaging and creative.  Or, you may be able to use the College’s resources for another project.

Taking a little time away from campus, exploring how your interests connect with the city and history, or mingling with professionals outside of the classroom, keeps you fresh and motivated.  The College of Physicians is an excellent stop “outside the bubble” when you need to come up for air.

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Facing Winter Break without a Medical School Interview

Is that a snow-Ben?

It’s not a very festive title for a blog post, to be sure — in fact, it almost sounds like a William Carlos Williams poem…if you spaced the words out a bit (actually, the doctor-poet went to Penn Med, and who knows when he interviewed).  All the same, if you haven’t had an interview as we move into mid-December, you may be feeling less than optimistic about your application to medical school.  And that can be hard on your spirits at a time when it can seem everyone is expecting you to be celebratory and sharing good news.  You’re telling people you haven’t heard or are “on hold” without even knowing what that means.  So, if this sounds like you, here are a few pointers to help you enjoy your break:

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