More Medical School Admission Advice: Addressing the Diversity Puzzle (Real Questions from Real Readers)

(Once again I dig deep into the archives to answer questions about the medical school admissions process-PB)

Dear Panda,

In order to take advantage of affirmative action, I lied about my race. Good move or not?


Plain Vanilla Pre-med

(Eating a Baloney Sandwich, on White Bread, With Mayonaise, somewhere in Minnesota)

Dear Vanilla,

I also lied about my race. I said I was black. At first my interviewers didn’t want to believe me because not only am I actually Greek but my ancestors are Macedonian Greeks, i.e. the Swiss of the Hellenic world.

So we went around and around. I’d give some proof, they’d refute it. I tried busting a rhyme, they cited Vanilla Ice. I railed against “the Man,” they yawned as every white liberal does this. I even tried a few break dance moves but despite my baggy pants, apparently MC Hammer sold out and is now considered a white man.

Finally, I dropped the big one. Let’s just say that they didn’t call him “Alexander the Great” for nothing.

But generally you need to leave this kind of thing alone unless you can produce the goods.


P. Bear, MD

No Moussaka, No Peace

Dear Uncle Panda,

During the admission interview I was trying to be conversational and asked my interviewer how their medical school reconciled their primary care rural setting with their research goals. As they also have a homogenous, rural population, I asked how they increase student’s exposure to diverse patient populations. My point was not to be intense or to show intellectual superiority but to ask about genuine issues that the school faces. I think I threw my interviewer for a loop because he ended the interview shortly thereafter. Were these not appropriate questions?


Trepidatious in Tacoma

Dear Trepidatious,

Sweet smiling baby Jesus. I admit it. I must come from a different planet than a lot of you guys. Who actually thinks like that? Or cares about that kind of crap anyways? Diversity is a totally meaningless concept. I know it has become something of a growth industry and sucks hospital resources from important things like patient care and paying the residents a little more but if there is one thing you are going to learn, despite all of the “Sprit Catches You and You Fall Down,” the diversity seminars, the multi-cultural gestapo, and the linking of hands to sing Kumbayah, efforts to promote diversity only serve to drive a wedge between people, particularly Americans, who should be striving for a little more conformity.

(Ah…Sweet, sweet conformity. What a great society it would be if we all stopped whining about our past and looked to the future. A society where we could put away the emphasis on our differences and strive to live like Americans, embodying as this does our best traits as a people which include enterprise, courage, self-reliance, generosity, and an abhorrence of being perceived by our fellow citizens as a whiner.)

Come on. ‘fess up. If they offer you a spot you’ll still have the freshly opened acceptance envelope in your sweaty hands when you call and say, “Thank you, I will certainly come.” All of that crap you mention above (and it is meaningless, irrelevant crap) won’t matter a bit.

I weep for the youth of today. When I was in my early twenties I did normal things like chase girls, drink too much, and get in minor scrapes here and there. Somebody please tell your Uncle Panda that you kids still know how to do these kinds of things.

Sorrowfully Yours,

P. Bear, MD

Dear Dr. Bear,

I secured an interview at a prestigious Eastern medical school and everything was going fine at the interviews until my interviewer asked me if I had any questions. Now, to be honest, they had done a pretty good job during the tour answering our questions. To be even more honest I really want to attend this school and would accept admission there even if a pre-requisite was having a nest of rabid weasels lighted on fire and packed in my ass. I’m afraid I blurted out the first thing that came to mind which was, “What qualities are important for your graduates to possess?”

Did I blow it?


Depressed in Dallas

Dear Depressed,

Man. Must everyone be a tool all the time. How do you expect them to answer that?

“Gee, buddy, if we can get them to stop yelling racial epithets and molesting the patients by the time they graduate we put ’em in the ‘win’ column.”

I repeat, it is not necessary to be a tool all the time. It’s all right to make small talk and perfectly acceptable to ask, “So, how’s the nightlife around here?”

I think you blew your shot at that medical school. Sorry.


P. Bear, MD

9 thoughts on “More Medical School Admission Advice: Addressing the Diversity Puzzle (Real Questions from Real Readers)

  1. Do some medical schools really require reading “Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down?” Every pre-med aught to be reading “The House of God” and watching “Scrubs” to get a real feel for what medicine is like. If one more college sophomore asks me if my life is like “Grey’s Anatomy,” I’m going to start throwing punches.

  2. Half MD,

    Yes they do – it is required reading during M1 year at my school. In fact, there’s even a talk being given tonight somewhere on my campus on the book and featuring one of its characters. Should I save you a seat?

  3. The premise of the book is kind of ridiculous. Cultural competency, diversity blah blah blah. I get it. But the difference in sophistication between Western medicine and Hmong medicine is not a trivial thing that only depends on your cultural perspective. Animal sacrifices will not, repeat not, cure epilepsy which is what I believe the little girl in the book had and part of the cultural practices of her parents involved traditional things like that. I have not read the book in a long time but I never understood why the parents brought the girl to a Western Hospital if they weren’t willing to go along with their doctors.

     In other words, it all came down the girls parents just sucking it up and giving her the required medications in the correct dosages.  Stubborn pride kept them form doing it.  Of course, that wouldn’t make a good book.

  4. I’m currently going through the residency interview process.

    I have been with interviewers who, as soon as they say sit down, start with “So, what questions do you have for me?”

    Then give some rambling answer I have already heard 10 times. Repeat X30min X 5.

    At one interview I got so sick of this, after the 1st question I said I don’t have more questions. The response was “That’s fine, you are not required to have questions.”

  5. “not only am I actually Greek but my ancestors are Macedonian Greeks, i.e. the Swiss of the Hellenic world”

    Neat, my mom’s side of the family is Greek (I’m half Greek), George Emmanuel Mylonas was my grandfather’s name (kind of like saying John Smith in the states).

    No Moussaka, No Peace

  6. Dear Uncle Panda,

    What is more important in a secondary essay: catch their attention or tell them what you think they want to hear? I need a medical school to lower their admission stats for the year and accept me, any med school will do.I was honest on my AMCAS, research, shadowing, started a community outreach program, all that junk. I’m just another humble jew trying to get into medicine. They want me to talk about how my extracurriculars affected my choice to go into medicine and they didn’t at all. What do I tell them? I don’t know whether to write like it’s House of God, or Harrison’s Principles. Thanks for your time.


    Froggy Hollow

Comments are closed.