Last February I interviewed at the University of Calgary medical school for the second time. Unlike the year before, the interview went swimmingly, and I was accepted into the program.
The most marked difference from the previous year was the amount I practiced the MMI format. I reached out to other interviewees, friends, and family to help me, and ran through as many scenarios as possible in the weeks leading up to my interview date. When I knocked on the door and stepped into the room of my first MMI station at the interview, I knew that I had gained a level of confidence and comfort that I clearly lacked the previous year.
The second most important component of my preparation was an effective strategy. By working with Robert at Astroff Consultants, I solidified my plan of attack. The strategy he laid out worked with most of the scenarios I encountered and allowed me to organize my thoughts and present a coherent, thoughtful response to each prompt.
Calgary trialed three new types of stations this past interview cycle: one actor station, one puzzle station, and one dynamic station. Specifically preparing for these was a bit harder. As a result, they were the most difficult stations I encountered during my MMI.
I was the most prepared for the actor station, and had ran through it with Robert the week before my MMI. My strategy was to just ask as many open-ended questions and gather as much information as possible. Looking back now, the way I approached the actor station mirrors the way we’ve been taught to take histories. Basically, the process is all about listening and allowing space for the patient (or actor) to tell their story. Then, after you have their story, work with them to find a solution. In my session with Robert I had been so concerned with the solution that I neglected to connect with the patient and acknowledge their concerns. Through the session I learned to not be afraid to be honest and to facilitate a collaborative solution that works for both the actor and me.
The other two new stations were the ones that threw me a bit. I was aware there were going to be trial stations, but I had no idea what to expect. The puzzle station was especially jarring, because there was very little to go on. I ended up fumbling through and tried to relate the task to other obstacles I’d faced in the past.
The dynamic station included a written component and an interview. I honestly still don’t know what specific strategies would have worked well. More than anything, these two stations illuminated the benefit of practicing before the interview. Confidence is key, and I clearly did not have it on the new stations.
Overall the interview process went very well. I left feeling like I had put my best effort forward, and was confident that I’d secured a spot for myself at the Cumming School of Medicine. It was a distinctly different feeling from the previous year. When we received our scores last September my suspicions were confirmed, I had scored in the 95th percentile of those interviewed. I have no doubt that this result was a direct consequence of the preparation I did leading up to the interview.
Now, a year later, I am incredibly happy with my choice to accept my admission to the Cumming School of Medicine. I specifically chose Calgary because of its reputation as a diverse school focused on community medicine. Although there haven’t been quite as many opportunities to engage with underserved populations as I had hoped, there are lots of opportunities for change. Calgary’s greatest advantage is probably the fantastic students they admit. I am surprised everyday by the wealth of diversity, empathy, and accomplishment in my class. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.