Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Good

Thirty interviewees are sitting around the table all wearing nametags indicating they went to Brown, Dartmouth, Harvard and Georgetown for undergrad. I proudly adorn my George Fox University nametag to my suit and strike up a conversation. The faces around the table are all a little nervous, but several respond and ask me if I'm a senior. I explain that I’m a little older, currently traveling, etc. The room is transformed into a bunch of friends at a bar, “No way! Tell me all about it. What countries have you been to? Where did you like best?” The ice was broken and we all enjoyed the casual conversation warm up for the coming day.

The introductory presentation starts right on time in an auditorium and the speaker has prepared a PowerPoint presentation. He has a clear grasp of the material and has mastered not walking in front of the screen and avoiding microphone feedback. He highlights the differentiators of BU,

“We see medicine and the health sciences existing in a larger social context…many of our students have majored outside the biological sciences…unusually strong bond among students and between faculty and students…commitment to a mission of service to society…the only one of the 3 medical schools in Boston to have a Department of Family Medicine…place a high value on primary care…collaborative, not a competitive place…fully electronic medical record system throughout the hospital…safety net hospital…provide care regardless of ability to pay…”

Wow. This sounds like an amazing place. I’d assumed because I recognized the name that it was one of those giant research-oriented monoliths that I’d have to really work to like. I really like the polished, professionalism paired with a sense of mission and compassion.

My packet indicates that my interviewer is a female primary care doctor and includes a short biography. A quick comparison with my fellow interviewees indicates that the school matched us with interviewers who share our interests and/or background. Wow, that’s an impressive amount of attention to pay to the thousand interviewees that pass through each year.

I walk in and Dr. Phillips invites me to sit down and call her Susan. She says,

“I’ve got a whole file of information on you, it’s only fair that you know a few things about me. I attended medical school at Harvard, completed my residency here and haven’t left. I liked the sense of mission, diversity of patients and kind of people who want to work at a place like this. It’s a collegial place that produces both high quality research and exceptional primary care practitioners. I’m a mom and work three days a week right now. I see patients, supervise medical students and work with the Admission Committee. I love this place and from what I know about you, I expect you’ll find it a great fit.”

She’d read my complete file and asked insightful questions. She seems to genuinely enjoy me, is anxious to discuss why bright students are discouraged from primary care and how being an intelligent professional need not be at odds with being a devoted parent. For the first time, the list of questions I’d prepared for the interview is noticed, appreciated and answered.

I came away appreciating her authenticity, respecting her intellect and truly thrilled with this place that had risen to the top of my list.

At the end of the day I noticed that every single person I interacted with was professional, friendly and competent. From the interviewer bio to the PowerPoint proficiency, the system ran like a well-oiled machine. I heard the same core values reiterated from students, faculty and Admission staffers. This is a place that seems to live up to it’s motto of providing “exceptional care without exception.” They are determined to teach collaboration and have even eliminated grades for the first two years in the name of relieving competition. Teaching patient care is a priority and you spend one day a week for the first two years with a supervising physician honing your communication and examination skills. Diversity of student body and patient population is prized as a component of a rich education.

Of course, the school I’d fallen in love with was the most challenging to gain acceptance.

Only 1 in 10 of us were selected to interview, and then only 1 in 3 interviewees would be offered a spot.

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