April 18, 2022

Breaking Down the AAMC Core Competencies - Written Communication

The 15 AAMC Core Competencies can be seen as the backbone of the ideal medical student. Some, of course, are straightforward enough - service, teamwork, cultural competence.

But what about the ones hidden at the bottom of the list? How would you make, say, ‘Written Communication’ hold substantial weight in your application?

What Exactly is ‘Written Communication?’

Luckily for us, the AAMC establishes written communication in simple enough terms; it “effectively conveys information to others using written words and sentences.”

What Does It Mean for Your Career as a Physician?

As a doctor, your written communication needs to match your verbal delivery. Patients come from all walks of life, which creates a need for diverse communication from healthcare providers.

When providing care, you will often need to replicate what you explain to the patient through electronic medical records (EMRs). What you write needs to be concise but clear to ensure no discrepancies are encountered by any parties, whether it be the patient, the pharmacy, or even yourself. Yes, you heard that right. Even yourself!

Think of your written communication as parallel to autocommunication. You are writing as much for yourself as for anyone else with access to the EMR. When a patient returns to you in a month, a year, or perhaps three years, you are expected to know their medical history, the symptoms they are presenting with, and how those symptoms relate to their most recent visits with you. Of course, considering the sheer amount of patients you see, it is not humanly possible to record all this information solely in your memory.

Thus, Written Communication will be the star of the show.

What are the Best Ways for You to Display This Competency in Your Application?

Let’s see how we can take this competency and weave it into the varying experiences in your application. Throughout your undergraduate and gap years, there are many ways to showcase your ability to effectively disclose written information.

Scientific Publications

A straightforward way is through having a publication that blossoms from your research with a doctor or another qualified individual. This type of document portrays strong attention to detail, an ability to form coherent written language, and overall skill in synthesizing bulk amounts of information in a strategic but sensible manner.

Healthcare Jobs 

Another possibility is working in a healthcare job. Almost any job you pick - medical assistant, medical scribe, clinical research coordinator, or something else - will require you to use Written Communication to convey information to multiple people. This is a perfect opportunity to exemplify that you can be an asset in a medical setting and engage your written skills simultaneously.

Leadership Roles

As the president of a club, the founder of a community project, or the supervisor/trainer at work, you need your written delivery to be concrete and comprehensible. Building teamwork necessitates not only verbal instruction, but also clear goals defined in ink.

However, these goals won’t be your only job; being a leader is not a one-day position. You will be able to demonstrate how you turned an idea into action through productively utilizing multiple realms of communication, including written. 

Journalism or Blog Writing 

This is a broad spectrum of creative writing and can be about anything you are passionate about. For example, you can write articles sharing valuable pre-medical knowledge in order to assist other students. During the COVID pandemic, college students have become more aware about other issues plaguing the country such as mental health. Journaling or blog writing about this sensitive topic is another way to communicate through literature. 

Freelance Employment 

The benefit of freelance writing is a flexible schedule to be able to write on a per case basis. Oftentimes this can include technical writing, which is an apt way to display an occupational approach to medicine.

Marketing (Social Media)

Marketing through social media can express itself as a form of persuasive writing. 

Teaching Assistant / Tutor


  • Writing study guides 
  • Creating lessons plans 
  • Delivering written feedback on students’ papers/assignments



  • Translating medical information 
  • Translating resources into foreign languages

The best way to seamlessly incorporate written communication is to entwine it in the activities you love. You don’t want your writing to evolve as forced and unnatural; otherwise, you won’t be able to tie the competency into your medical school applications.

Instead, find ways in your current or future activities in which you can underscore your written communication. If you cannot find a clear path to this, consider one of the independent options above in which you can hone written communication.

About the Author: 

Vanshika Goyal is a graduate from the University of California, Davis with a B.S. in Neurobiology, Physiology, and Behavior. Her aspiration is to become a physician with a focus on patient-centered care and individualized treatment. She is currently an IGNITE fellow with Teach for America and a very active member of her community. In her free time, she enjoys writing poetry and painting.

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