doc w/ Pen

journalist + medical student + artist

Tag: UIC

Interview #3: University of Illinois – Chicago (MSTP – MD/PhD)

Since early October of 2013, I have had six medical school interviews. I will write a post about each one. Note: a version of this content was originally posted on OldPreMeds.org.

Interview #3: University of Illinois – Chicago, MSTP (11/4/2013)
Status: Rejected

In November, I had my first MD/PhD interview, also at UIC. (UIC’s program is more specifically an MSTP – Medical Scientist Training Program – which is funded by the NIH.) I have had quite a bit of exposure to this program already, having attended its research seminars, met some of the students, etc. I think I have gotten a good sense of the program. I can see myself fitting in there.

I experienced a great deal of uncertainty, though, leading up to the interview. There were 12 interviewees; we received information about each other prior to interview day. When I saw people’s accomplishments – mainly, research experience – I felt out of place. (Not to mention that half of the applicants were biochem majors, one quarter engineering, one quarter biology … and then … me … journalism.) I realized that no matter how much preparation I did, I couldn’t compete with these other students in terms of scientific exposure or knowledge. That was impossible. What I could do, though, was talk about what other types of experience/skills I would bring to the program, and hope that resonated.

Unfortunately, I don’t feel like I had much of an opportunity to do that (or I didn’t seize it) during some of the interview sessions. And there were eight, yes, EIGHT, interview sessions total: three two-on-one sessions with adcoms, four sessions with faculty members of my choosing, and a session with the director of the program. I did talk about it with the program director, and he seemed very receptive to my being a non-trad, and told me that my enthusiasm shone through. I hope that counts for something.

Honestly, I don’t know how the interview went, overall. Some of the adcoms really seemed to appreciate and understand my story and path. Others were impossible to read. They interview people through February, so I may not hear until then, or even later. So I wait.

As of March 10, 2014: I still have yet to hear from the UIC MSTP, although I was told they wouldn’t even start extending offers until after the last interview date (in February). So I’m still hopeful.

Interview #2: University of Illinois – Chicago (MD)

Since early October of 2013, I have had six medical school interviews. I will write a post about each one. Note: a version of this content was originally posted on OldPreMeds.org.

Interview #2: University of Illinois – Chicago (10/16/2013)
Status: Accepted

Having worked at University of Illinois – Chicago (UIC) off and on for three years as a research assistant, I’m quite familiar with the campus, the medical school admission offices, where to park, etc. So that definitely took a lot of the uncertainty out of the day.

Another funny experience – I ran into an applicant who was at my IUSM interview. Which might have not been so strange except that he is not from the Midwest – he’s from Connecticut. Strange coincidence. It was nice, though, to see a familiar face.

The UIC interview day lasted from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., and included three, half-hour, one-on-one interview sessions (with an MD, a PhD, and an MS4). There was also a tour, an admissions office presentation, and lunch (Chicago-style deep dish pizza, of course). This was a (mostly) “blind” interview, meaning that the interviewers had read only our personal statements, but had not seen grades, extracurricular activities, and so on. I asked the rationale for this, and was told that the idea is to give them the opportunity to make their decision solely based on your interview, rather than have a pre-determined idea about what kind of candidate you are prior to the interview. I can see pros and cons for both types of interviews, and now have had both. At UIC, I was a practically blank slate to these people. That made for some interesting conversations, but also put pressure on me to make sure I brought up some of the highlights of what I have done.

The interviewers’ styles were extremely different. The first (with the MD) was both off the cuff and spontaneous, while at the same time extremely professional. The MS4 created a more relaxed and casual atmosphere. While we talked about serious medicine/medical school topics, he also wanted to know my hobbies, music tastes, etc. The PhD asked more traditional questions, which was fine and I was (mostly) prepared for.

The campus tour was mostly old hat to me, although we got to see the cadaver lab, which was new to me – very cool. I had never seen a cadaver before, and wasn’t sure what to expect. It was fascinating, and got me excited to dig into Gross Anatomy this coming fall.

After the interview was over, I felt that it had gone well. And about two weeks later, I had proof of that in my hands – in the form of a letter stating that I had been accepted to the UIC class of 2018! No matter what happens the rest of the application season, I’m going to be a doctor. Holy shit.