Last weekend I got a chance to be an interviewer for the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry admission’s weekend. I didn’t originally expect to be a part of the panel, it was going to on a post-call day while on a busy General Surgery service and earlier in the month received an email stating that all the spots were filled and I would not be needed.
Fortunately, someone could not make it last minute and I was given the opportunity. Post-call or not, I was going to take it.
While this was not my first experience interviewing others for important roles nor was this the first time I was helping out with the Schulich Medicine Admissions weekend. This was, however, this was the first time my role would be part of the interviewing panel. The weight of having my opinion, experience, and judgement be made into part of the consideration of what gets a medical school hopeful accepted or not does not escape. It’s a tremendous honour and I was initially a little nervous about being suitable to fill such a role.
Then I did a gut check and realized whatever anxieties I may be having are dwarfed by what a good chunk of the interviewees must be feeling. #Firstworldproblems? More like #MedStudentProblems.
So what can I say about the experience of being on the other side? Well, first of all, not much in terms of details. That contract of confidentiality we all sign at the beginning of the day was fairly clear on that. So, sorry hopeful premeds (who I doubt are reading this anyway), no hints here.
The experience did let me to think back and try to remember what it was like to be one of the interviewees again. That whole memory was only 3 years ago, but it seems so distant in the past. Yet, that time seemed to past so quickly as well. Very strange how alien the memories of pre-med school Jimmy feel to current med school Jimmy.
There was a deja vu sensation in how tired I was that morning, coming off post call following a whole night in the OR (10:30pm – 7am of operating, I’m not joking) will do that to you. I didn’t sleep the night before my Schulich interview either, as I was spending it on a turbulent red-eye flight from Vancouver to London. It was also a little fitting that I was still stuffing my “dress-up” clothes – a suit and tie back in 2011, business casual slacks and a button-down in 2014 – in beat up trekking backpacks. Wrinkles be damned.
However, prior to my medical school interview, I had never been to either Western or London and I remember being incredibly confused on figuring out how to get from York street to the Western Campus. The sense of being lost and almost late to an interview doesn’t help one’s nerves, and I could imagine that for a lot of last weekend interviewees that they, too, would be leaving their home schools, home towns, home provinces for this one day. In 2014, I have a much better sense of London, and even a tiny bit of the surrounding region. At least I could easily find the stupid purple balloons at the entrance this time.
Surprisingly, thinking back, I was a lot more self-assured prior to entering medical school. I knew the undergrad system that I was in at UBC, I knew how to excel in that setting. These days, not much at all. I’m constantly feeling lost in medical school. Information I thought I had studied just the night before, suddenly can’t recall it when I’m being pimped. There’s always something new to learn and yesterday’s achievement is today’s square one. Looking and listening to these fresh, well rested, faces, I know a bunch of them deep down think they are the shit. Without a doubt they are incredibly decorated and accomplished people. I wonder if they really realize what’s lying ahead for them (Somedays the only solace I can take is that hundreds of other students have gone through the same experiences as I have, faced the same challenges, and emerged out of it MDs). As an old rugby coach used to say, “Trust the system.”
One last stark difference is this time I’m in the know. As an interviewee, it was hard not to try to read in between the lines and try to figure out what exactly the question used was getting out. Turns out there definitely is a method to the madness. As an interviewer, it’s quite clear how we were supposed to be directed in our panels. That’s the most I can divulge I believe, due to the aforementioned confidentiality clause.
One final thing I should mention is that as both an interviewer and interviewee I had a great time. Being new to Western in 2011 I was blown away by the hospitality, enthusiasm, friendliness, and community spirit shown by the admissions volunteers. That impression definitely was a driving force in my decision to choose London in the end. On the other side of the panel, I had a great time connecting with the other panelists on my team. There were also breaks to get to catch up with some classmates and other volunteers. There are definitely a fair share of good feelings behind the scenes as well.
With the past weekend over, that wraps up the 2014 Admissions Weekend for Schulich. It’ll be a nervous and exciting time for the interviewees I’m sure. I am curious to see if the people who went through my panel got accepted and end up choosing Schulich for next year. If one of the them do end up coming to school here, I do hope that at some point within their 4 years they get to have a chance to side on the other side too.
So the cycle continues.