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Admission Application Suggestions (Part XVI)

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Besides having good grades, good character, and maturity, admission committees are looking for students with lofty or noble thoughts and similar intangibles.

Intangible is an ancient word dealing with the sublime part of the earth world -- that part just under “the heavens” which represents the transition between the immaterial spiritual and the earthly material worlds. Lacking physical characteristics (e.g. mass and rigidity), the intangible cannot be physically possessed. For example, if you have chosen medicine (or any other life’s work) from a sublime perspective, this means that medicine is a Calling (the acknowledgement that you are part of a larger and purpose-filled grand design). Interviewers who see medicine from a spiritual perspective can readily pick up from how you think and what you think about if medicine is a vocation (work given to you that originates from a higher authority) or a chosen career (the best of your options) for you.
Far more passion is associated with a “calling” or a vocation compared to a career choice. It is the passion that interviewers are looking for. Passion is defined by how much you have given up to become a good doctor. For example, will you give up watching television and “hanging out” in order to learn a tidbit of medicine? However, interviewers look for clues indicating your intent. A problematic intent is wanting to go into medicine “to save the world for Jesus” (or Buddha or Mohammed). And another is the chance of you imposing your moral standards and religion on others. Your job in medicine is to diagnose and treat -- not to pass judgement or preach or put your values on patients. Passion is also determined by your purpose. Do you want to be a physician to satisfy your parents or for humanitarian reasons? A circulating joke at the time I applied to medical school was: “I love people and hate money.” Although you need money and deserve to have it, a desire to get rich should never be the reason for going into medicine -- but rather to simply help people. To this end, interviewers look to see how excited and animated you get in describing your purpose. They also want to know if you have a good sense of what it takes to be a physician -- the good and the bad, the continual study, the long hours, the running of a business, the handling of family and employee problems, knowing how to get paid, staying out of legal and ethical problems, and how to keep from “going crazy.”
Much attention is paid to your humanitarian activities -- things you voluntarily do to promote social, civic, and environmental betterment. Examples include working with the homeless; being a mentor, tutor, group organizer and supervisor to the underserved; doing nice things for the elderly, and otherwise discovering what people need and helping to supply that need (e.g. food, clothing, shelter). It helps to be involved in varied activities with people on all rungs of the social ladder. Point out things indicating your leadership abilities. The things you do for yourself (e.g. hobbies) give a clue to your outlook towards life. All of these outside activities will help you in the Art of Medicine -- the application of skills that give you the ability to win friends and influence people as a result of understanding and relating to their value system and their ways of receiving information. Show your Humanistic Qualities. These include respect, empathy, compassion, altruism, availability, the expression of sincere concern and other traits of good character. Interviewers are generally agreeable to the fact that you may be so busy with study and work that you have little time for humanitarian activities. But explain that point in detail.

Joseph A. Bailey, II, M.D

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