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Va. Medical School Evaluates Candidates' People Skills

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Socially inept need not apply.

    A prominent academic at the University of California used to tell his students that the more degrees they earn, the less they'll know about the real world.  Or maybe he said that the more degrees they earn, the more they'll know about how little they know -- about the real world. 

    Either way, the UC professor isn't the only one to notice a disconnect between highly specialized academics and "the real world."   At Virginia Tech Carilion, the nation’s newest medical school, administrators are now screening applicants for social skills, according to The New York Times.  
    The screening process --called Multiple Mini interviews, or M.M.I. -- consists of nine brief interviews, during which candidates for admission are asked questions about a hypothetical ethical quandary.
    The most important parts of the interviews are not the candidates’ initial responses, but how well they respond when someone disagrees with them, The New York Times reports
    "Candidates who jump to improper conclusions, fail to listen or are overly opinionated fare poorly because such behavior undermines teams. Those who respond appropriately to the emotional tenor of the interviewer or ask for more information do well in the new admissions process because such tendencies are helpful not only with colleagues but also with patients." 
    At least eight U.S. medical schools -- including those at the University of California, Los Angeles, Stanford and the University of Cincinnati -- and 13 in Canada have endorsed the M.M.I.   
    Advocates say that social skills are especially important at a time when medical staffers increasingly work in teams and communication breakdowns could seriously affect patients. 
    In March, the American Association of Medical Colleges released preliminary recommendations for a new version of the Medical College Admissions Test (the MCAT) that would better measure cultural and social sensitivity.  
    The advisory panel responsible for the report also advised the organization to develop an admissions toolbox that would help medical schools gather data "beyond MCAT scores on integrity, altruism, and other personal characteristics early in their student selection process."