How Would You Grade This “Why Medicine?” Interview Response?


“Why medicine?” feels like it should be an easy interview question.

You’ve already answered it in your personal statement, and schools must have liked that response if they granted you an interview.

So just repeat exactly what you said in your essay and you’ll be fine… right?

Unfortunately it’s not that simple - “Why medicine?” is a deceptively hard interview question that likely needs a slight revision from the essay.

To help guide your own response, we wanted to give you the chance to grade a “Why medicine?” response from a REAL candidate.

Grade This “Why Medicine?” Interview Response

Here are your simple instructions.

  1. Watch the video

  2. Read the grading rubric

  3. Re-watch the video

  4. Fill out grading rubric

  5. Read our advice and form your own answer

(Our VERY kind volunteer did her best to make eye contact with both the interviewer and camera - so let’s call it a “panel” interview!)

Have fun. Ready? Go!

Overall grade: ___ / 5

What are some things that the candidate did well?

What are some potential areas of improvement?

Our Grade:

Overall grade: 3 / 5

What are some things that the candidate did well?

The pacing and tone of the response were both very strong. The candidate exuded a confident, relaxed demeanor. The amount of eye contact and verbal pauses felt in rhythm and balanced.

The conversational tone made the response feel unscripted, which will be refreshing to interviewers who hear lots of overly-rehearsed, cookie-cutter responses. 

There was an element of comparison to other careers, which is a smart move to help differentiate medicine and avoid the much dreaded “Why not social work?” follow-up question.

The response included a “thesis” of criteria that the candidate desired in her career in medicine. This ensures that the concrete answer to the question at hand isn’t lost in the greater narrative or story. 

What are some potential areas of improvement?

Using too many stories or examples can bog down a “Why Medicine?” answer, BUT this response didn’t have ENOUGH personal details to understand the relevance behind the criteria listed.

It would have been wise to give some brief examples of her experiences (in a list or catalogue form) that led to these interests and passions. In essence, she needed to more thoroughly PROVE her thesis statement. 

In particular, the candidate discusses medicine’s intersection of different realms - showing ONE really strong example of that intersection in practice would have helped the interviewers see the candidate’s vision more clearly. 

Expressive hand gestures can be helpful in moderation, but the candidate’s generous amount could be distracting to some listeners.  

Our Advice for Building Your “Why Medicine?” Interview Response

When answering “Why Medicine,” don’t rely too heavily on story mode - anecdotes work better in writing, where you have more space to explain things and anchor the reader.

It’s okay to use stories/examples to support yourself in your interview response, but keep them brief and functional. Don’t go off on a tangent and forget to explain your actual motivations towards the career. 

We might even suggest creating a thesis statement that nails down the precise criteria for your decision - that way, your answer has a blueprint that’s easy for the listener to follow.

Everyone’s motivations are similar--some derivative of “I like science and helping people.” So how do you answer “Why Medicine?” without sounding cliche?

Don’t waste your time trying to come up with a profound reason the interviewers have never heard. Instead, put your own spin on old ideas and say them in a new (or at least personalized) way. 

“Why Medicine” Strategy #1. The Selfless + Selfish Dichotomy

Most “why medicine” reasons we hear are selfless:

I want to use medicine to protect the underserved and help them restore control over their health.

Not bad, but it ignores a crucial component: how medicine will fulfill and stimulate you. Few doctors spend their entire career being selfless, so your “why medicine” will seem unrealistic unless complemented by your own self-interest.

Medicine will allow me to protect the underserved and help them restore control over their health, which I see as the most fascinating and fulfilling way to pay back the lifesaving efforts of physicians in my immigrant community. 

Just by adding the “fascinating and fulfilling” we see what you get from a career. Those aren’t particularly selfish, but there’s more personal relevance behind the motivations.

So add a little selfishness to your “Why Medicine” to see if it makes it more convincing. 

“Why Medicine” Strategy #2. The Why Medicine Stew

Like a thesis statement of different criteria, the idea behind this strategy is to show medicine as the ideal combination of several things you cherish. Let’s say you want these ingredients in your stew: a) intellectual stimulation, b) helping others, and c) leadership.

From my clinical exposure, I’ve realized that medicine is the only career that would fuse my love for physiology with my love for building relationships and solving problems, all while giving me the chance to be a mentor and lead teams towards successful outcomes. 

This collage has a comprehensive feeling to it, giving the reader fewer holes to pick apart. You never want the reader to see your reasons and think, “Okay then, just become a social worker, teacher, nurse, etc.” This strategy helps prevent this from happening. 

The precise ingredients of the stew will vary from student to student, but this flexibility is exactly why this strategy is so successful.

“Why Medicine” Strategy #3. Confirm by Contrast 

This works especially well for candidates with experience in another field (business, software, public health, etc.), but it also works for anyone with research, teaching, or counseling experience (which in our experience is most pre-meds).

With this technique, you’re comparing medicine with other roles you’ve pursued:

As rewarding as it is to run experiments and develop lifesaving drugs, my clinical interactions with patients have highlighted the human connection that’s missing from my work at the bench. Rather than having an indirect impact behind-the-scenes, I want to use my knowledge and problem-solving on the frontlines to make a tangible difference in patients’ everyday lives.   

NOTE: this does not mean you belittle the other field. Instead, you show how medicine offers your favorite aspects of the other field while also giving you something you currently lack.

Want to know if your “Why Medicine?” answer is up to snuff? Bounce some ideas off us in the comments below, and we’ll let you know what we think.

Good luck crafting this response - we hope it presents you as an excited, prepared, and insightful future doctor!