Monday, November 7, 2011

My First Med School Interview

My very first medical school interview was at Albany Medical School. The interview date was at a horrible time. It conflicted with a lecture in my Social Psychology class where we were supposed to anonymously write down our intimate fantasies and the professor Dr. Rogers was going to read a selection out loud to the entire lecture hall. I’m not even kidding. (I heard it was awesome, even though like 50% of them were, “I want to make passionate love to Dr. Rogers.”)

Anyway, I made it out to Albany, which was not a short trip. (Question: Is anything close to Albany? Answer: No.) My boyfriend at the time was very into long road trips and not so much into going to class, so he agreed to drive me. But then when we got there, I sort of wanted him to disappear. I mean, how uncool is it to bring your boyfriend to an interview? It’s like a step above bringing your mom to an interview. Or going to prom with your cousin.

During this first interview, I started what became a tradition for me of befriending all the other interviewees. I don’t know why I did this. I felt like I had to. It’s like, if you were all stuck on a crazy bus that had to stay above a certain speed or else it would explode for some reason, you’d befriend the other people on the bus, right? It’s sort of like that.

The interview day started out with a tour of the school, given by this guy named John who was the dumbest kid in the class. I’m not saying that to be mean, but it was basically the only conclusion I could draw after he regaled us with the story of how he took the MCATs ten separate times, and then he proceeded to fail every single class in med school. By the end of the tour, I was sort of thinking I was too good for Albany.

Finally, we got to the interview part. My first interviewer was Dr. Watson and I didn’t like him. I don’t know why I didn’t like him, but it was just one of those bad vibes I got and couldn’t turn off. I did not like this man. He was also responsible for one of the most embarrassing exchanges I ever had during an interview:

Dr. Watson: “If you could have dinner with any person living or dead, who would it be?”

Me: [inner monologue] “I can’t believe this jackass is asking me such a stupid clichéd question, and now I have to try to come up with an answer that would impress him.”

Me: [inner monologue] “I’d really just want to have dinner with some friends from school, not a dead person. Guess I can’t say that though.”

Me: [inner monologue] “A better question would be, ‘Who would I like to fight, living or dead?’ Shit, I’ve been watching Fight Club too many times.”

Me: [inner monologue] “Maybe I should say Elizabeth Blackwell, the first female doctor. But that’s so lame. I’m going to sound like such a kiss up tool if I say Elizabeth Blackwell.”

Me: “Elizabeth Blackwell, the first female doctor.”

Oh well.

He asked me another trick question that I think I fielded very well: “If you go through your first two years and you don’t like medical school, what then?”

Clever me, I figured out that the answer he was looking for was not: “Quit.” I said something about the clinical years being the most important, too soon to decide, yadda yadda yadda.

After the interview, I compared notes with my fellow interviewees, i.e. my new best friends. My interview didn’t sound quite as bad as the one where the 70 year old male attending pretended to be a pregnant 12 year old and made the interviewee counsel him.

My second interview was with an elderly attending named Dr. Flynn. I meshed much better with Dr. Flynn. We seemed to like each other immediately and he told me that with my stats, I would 100% get into Albany. It was a no-brainer, he said. After a pleasant discussion with him, he asked, “Do you have any questions for me?”

Me: “No.”

Dr. Flynn: [gapes at me in astonishment]

See, here’s the problem: I genuinely didn’t have any questions. I spent the whole day learning everything I needed to know about the school, I read the brochure, and I already had one interview. How was I supposed to know that you’re supposed to make up a question even if you don’t have one just so you appear interested? It was my first goddamn interview.

After that I devised a bunch of questions to ask, even though I didn’t care about the answers:

--Do you have a systems-based curriculum?
--What are research opportunities like?
--Does the curriculum have more large lectures or small groups?
--How much early clinical experience do students get?

You get the idea. It didn’t matter that these questions were generally answered like five times before I got to the interview. I asked ‘em again. Also, FYI, asking where the bathroom is doesn’t count as a legitimate question.

Anyway, my boyfriend drove me home after the interview and we got in a HUGE fight over the artistic integrity of Kevin Smith. Basically, I thought Kevin Smith was a hack for making Dogma and he thought that nothing Kevin Smith did could qualify as hacky. Too bad we broke up before Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back came out, and I could say, “I told you so.”

Oh, and in case, you’re wondering, I got waitlisted at Albany. Waitlisted! Not that I wanted to go to that stupid school in stupid freezing upstate New York anyway. Pssh.


  1. This post is hilarious! My fiancé is currently applying to medical schools, and so far he's got applications at 19 schools. We're waiting to hear back for those granted interviews, and it's so nerve-racking! I thoroughly enjoy reading your blog-- it's making the whole application process bearable. Have a great week!

  2. 1) Kevin Smith has had one and a half good movies. You are totally right.

    2) I too have never understood why it's so important I should have questions for the school. I would assume - just like you said - that if you were really a responsible student, you'd get those questions answered before you started the interview. It almost seems to be punishing hardwork and independence.

  3. I had a list of stupid generic questions for vet school interviews as well, even though I already knew the answers to them. Stupid interviews.

    When I interviewed at Iowa, they asked me what the most daring thing I had tried to do in my life was. I answered "contemplating moving to Iowa." For some reason, this did not deter them and I got in there (didn't go, Iowa costs a damn fortune). Go figure.

  4. I always hated having to come up with questions for interviews, so when I was interviewing for residency spots I asked the same two questions at every school - "What changes do you anticipate in your program over the next five years?", and "What areas of resident training do you think are the weakest in your program?". The only variation was when I was at a West Coast school (in an area known for fabulous sushi) and I added in the question of "Where is the best sushi restaurant within walking distance of my hotel?"

    (It was, in fact, very good sushi.)

  5. That Social Psychology lecture sounds awesome.

  6. Please please please tell us about the adventures of your first residency interview.

  7. Funny this is your posting topic as I was called for my first Med-School interview this morning.

  8. You are right about Kevin Smith

    I've told people I don't have any more questions during an interview several times, but I usually preface it with something like, "I've met with 10 people already today, and all of my questions have already been answered." That went fine. Most of the time. SD's suggestions are good if you feel you really MUST ask something.

    Albany probably waitlisted you because your stats were too good.

  9. I've been interviewing for nursing jobs lately and...yeah...the obligatory question sucks. I do my homework before I go. I'm pretty good at inferring answers to my questions. etc. The best option is to ask such an open ended question that the nurse manager will talk for a good twenty minutes. Otherwise, you have to ask three or four questions. So I mostly spend the entire interview thinking up THE perfect question to ask at the end. It's seriously like the most important part of the interview, or something.

  10. For my first med school interview, i didn't realize that you were supposed to wear a suit. I didn't have any friends who were applying to med school or any friends in med school (I was mostly glad about that, because it meant I didn't obsess too much about getting in, but I was really naive about the whole application process). I went office-casual, and was absolutely horrified to find that I was the most under-dressed person there (med student guides included!-- It was a particularly old-school, traditional med school). I got in eventually, but got wait-listed first...

    So... was Dr. Rogers actually attractive, or was 50% of the class just really mean? :)

  11. My interview at Albany was easily the worst interview I ever had. At most schools, it felt as though the interview was just to get to know you. Both of my Albany interviews were cliché, hackneyed stress interviews where they asked me the most inane, trite crap just to see how I'd respond. It was a complete and utter turn-off. They took no interest in getting to know me as an individual, or what my interests and motivations were. One interviewer started off by asking me if I thought healthcare was a basic human right, and then just arguing the opposite of whatever I said for one hour. The other was a nice little old lady who started off nicely, making me think, "oh, the first one was the stress interview, this must be the kindly interview." Then after two or three minutes, she promptly introduced a scenario where I was a practitioner and two parents of a mentally challenged fifteen year old brought her into my office because she'd been raped and they wanted her to have an abortion but she wanted to keep the baby, and what would I do in that situation?

    I had just found out a few days before the interview that I'd already been accepted elsewhere, but I figured I'd go to give it a fair shot and see if something persuaded me.

    I honestly felt disrespected by the school after I left. The woman who worked in the admissions office was great, very thoughtful and kind. But the faculty I met there were just plain jerks. I was initially waitlisted, then ultimately accepted. I was so happy to tell them within five minutes of receiving the e-mail that I had zero interest in attending their school. After I declined the acceptance via e-mail, they asked me to fax in something with my signature. I just laughed.

    I might have thought more of the school had the interviewers not been so condescending through it all.

  12. It's true, nothing is close to Albany, it's just stuck here in its own isolated world. And I say this as someone who is from New York (city). Just trying to finish up these last two years of med school here and head somewhere (anywhere) else for residency. Great blog!

  13. Most likely a dead thread but...

    My first two interviews at Albany were fairly good (at least nothing bad happened) and they lacked for another available person. Unfortunately, at the last moment they produced a third—a FP/researcher. I don’t remember quite how the topic came up but I stupidly commented that there was a small segment of society that consumes a disproportionate amount of medical care and based on the ever increasing growth of consumption this system would not be sustainable (this was back in 1998 when the ‘R’ word was not even thought of). Well, that was the end of that interview and the beginning of twenty minutes of his increasingly harsh accusations of how I was heartless and (without irony) asking how it was fair that a millionaire’s child can receive better medical care than a janitor’s child (he used the example of an experimental drug and/or surgery that would be out-of-pocket and not covered by insurance).

    Unfortunately, I was jaded early by working as an EMT in an ER that had many frequent fliers who would come in q.o.d. with a BAL of at least 500 with some type of head trauma (i.e. got beat up, hit head on sidewalk, fell down stairs). After the ABC’s (airway, breathing, catheter), they would get a banana bag, a CT scan and tie up a bed for the night. Wash/rinse/repeat. Even back then I could tell this was costing a fortune and that eventually the hospital would not be able to continue eating the financial losses.

  14. I spent a lot of time coming up with questions for my residency interviews. I also spent a lot of time figuring out WHY I want to be in my chosen field. But seriously, I spent more time trying to come up with questions that they couldn't possibly answer during the tour / interview with the director / reading their website. It's hard. Luckily I had long plane flights to ponder the issue. It's best to phrase questions like "Your website mentions that research is very important in your specialty. I have done x years of research. I know how important it is to get funding because I've done research. How good is funding at your school? Because I've done so much research, I'd be a great candidate for studies. Because I've done a lot of research." (research is very important in my specialty).