May 23, 2022

How to Answer “Why Our Medical School?” - Cheat Sheet for the Top 25 MD Schools

If you’re working ahead (which you should be), you’re probably already pre-writing secondary essays, including the challenging “Why our medical school?” question.

We’re here to help with that. Savvy Pre-Med will be publishing a multiple-part series to provide you with a “cheat sheet” for answering “Why our medical school?” in your secondaries and interviews.

Our goal is to provide a list of five noteworthy aspects of each medical school program (including links) to help you expedite the process of researching, writing, and formulating interview answers.

We’re starting with the top 25 MD schools, but we’ll be publishing articles with other categories that are important to our readers, so stay tuned!

How to Answer “Why Our Medical School?” - Cheat Sheet for the Top 25 MD Schools

#1 - Harvard Medical School

What are the five most distinct opportunities/aspects of this program to highlight in your secondary essays and interviews?

Health Sciences & Technology Curricular Track

“HST is offered jointly by HMS and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and is oriented toward students with a declared interest in a career in biomedical research or a strong interest and background in physical or molecular science. The HST curriculum is designed to emphasize basic and quantitative understanding of modern biomedical sciences and pathophysiologic processes and a fundamental approach to important concepts in modern biology and biotechnology.”

Pathways Curricular Track

“Pathways incorporates pedagogical approaches that foster active learning and critical thinking; earlier clinical experience; and advanced clinical and student-tailored basic/population science experiences that will provide customized pathways for every student.”

Academic Societies 

“The Academic Societies provide a community-based approach to medical education and an organizational framework to help students take full advantage of the plethora of opportunities available at HMS… In addition, the Societies facilitate small-group learning and peer evaluation to help students develop a team-based investigative approach to the practice of medicine.”

Countway Library 

“One of the most comprehensive academic health research libraries in the country and a leader in special collections and the support of historical research, the Countway Library advances the health and biomedical sciences through its robust circulating, online, and history of medicine and public health collections. It champions open knowledge and access to advance education, research, teaching, and professional growth.”

Blavatnik Institute 

“...the Blavatnik Institute at Harvard Medical School is home to world-class faculty who aim to solve the greatest problems of human health through fundamental and translational biomedical research. The institute reflects the unique identity of the scientific enterprise housed on the HMS Quadrangle, encompassing the School’s 11 basic and social science departments.”

#2 - NYU Grossman School of Medicine

What are the five most distinct opportunities/aspects of this program to highlight in your secondary essays and interviews?

Accelerated Three-Year MD

“NYU Grossman School of Medicine’s accelerated three-year MD pathway—the first of its kind at a nationally ranked academic medical center—allows students to earn the MD degree more quickly and at a significantly reduced cost. It provides early access to faculty mentors, opportunities to conduct research, and direct progression into one of our residency programs…”

New York City Free Clinic Elective 

“Through the New York City Free Clinic, an elective option, you have the opportunity to provide high quality primary care to underserved patients and connect them to resources at NYU Langone Health. You gain experience exercising your clinical problem-solving skills while managing the day to day operations of a busy clinic.”

Violet Society Program

“The Violet Society Program combines academic coaching, career advising, and peer mentorship to support your wellbeing and personal growth, share career opportunities, and provide guidance.”

Office of Diversity Affairs

The Office of Diversity Affairs is committed to “include content across the undergraduate medical education (UME) curriculum on systemic racism and its impact on health outcomes.” They are advancing “ground-breaking science that elucidate the causes and help inform strategies to address racial disparities in health.”

NYSIM, the New York Simulation Center for the Health Sciences

“NYSIM will be the hub of simulation education in the health sciences at CUNY & NYU Langone Health and through its simulation education and research, will improve health outcomes, equity, and safety.”

#3 - Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons

What are the five most distinct opportunities/aspects of this program to highlight in your secondary essays and interviews?

Columbia Basset Track

“Ten medical students are selected each year for the prestigious Columbia-Bassett track, which offers the opportunity for them to care for patients in a large, mostly rural population. These students are with their classmates in NYC for the first 18 months of medical school and then enter a curriculum caring longitudinally for their patients in an innovative rural healthcare system in Central New York State. Students receive special training in performance improvement and trauma-informed care, and have been remarkably successful in the residency match.”

Daniel Noyes Brown Primary Care Scholars Program

“The Daniel Noyes Brown Primary Care Scholars Program is a four year longitudinal mentorship program for students interested in primary care… It enhances students’ exposure to urban primary care delivered to the community that surrounds the medical center. This selective does not involve extra coursework; instead, it affords students the critical advantage of having clinical experiences.”

VP&S Equity and Justice Fellowship

“The mission of the VP&S Equity and Justice Fellowship is to increase equity and justice through curricular programming. Each year, the fellowship class works with Dr. Hetty Cunningham (Director of Equity and Justice in Curricular Affairs) on a variety of projects determined by the fellowship group, critically applying an anti-racist lens to the VP&S curriculum.”

Columbia University Care Access Project

“Columbia University Care Access Project (CCAP) is a student-run clinic that strives to increase access to care for all people through providing free medical services, prescriptions, and infection screening to members of the Washington Heights community.”

The Mary & Michael Jaharis Simulation Center

“The Mary & Michael Jaharis Simulation Center at the Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons is a state of the art facility that serves as the hub for simulation-based medical and surgical education and training. …Unique to this enterprise is the partnership with NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital that allows for seamless integration of simulation activities across the Columbia University Irving Medical Center.”

#4 - The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine

What are the five most distinct opportunities/aspects of this program to highlight in your secondary essays and interviews?

SOURCE Service Scholar (SSS) Program

“Our SOURCE Service Scholars (SSS) program is a unique opportunity for community partners to engage health professional students in long-term (academic year) commitments. SOURCE works with community-based organizations (CBOs) to identify and refine projects and make connections to students who express interest in a long-term, regular commitment.”

The Connection Community Consultants Program

“The Connection Community Consultants Program, also known as "The Connection," connects students with community-based organizations (CBOs) in Baltimore to work on short-term projects. Hone your interpersonal group skills and gain exposure to the world of non-profit organizations through short-term consulting projects involving: policy and procedure writing; strategic planning; publication assistance; surveying; research; literature reviews; writing/revising grants; curriculum design; teaching health topics, and more.”

HIV Counseling and Testing Program

“Students selected to go through the HIV Counseling and Testing Program will serve as HIV Counselors at one of three participating community clinics… There will be 10 students per site, including a student leader, Students undergo training to become certified HIV Counselors in Maryland, participate in orientations and site-specific training…”


Shepherd’s Clinic

“The Shepherd's Clinic provides quality, low-cost primary health care to those who are medically uninsured, helping people who are unable to afford commercial health insurance and who do not qualify for government assistance in Central Baltimore. The Clinic relies on the generosity and dedication of hundreds of volunteer doctors, nurses, professionals, retirees, students and others to make these services possible.”


Johns Hopkins HEAT Corps

“JH HEAT Corps is a unique opportunity for Hopkins volunteers to develop their own health education and teaching skills, while simultaneously supporting youth in their understanding of COVID-19. Volunteers will be trained in public health knowledge of how the pandemic started, learn about the science of the vaccines, understand the mental health consequences of the pandemic, while teaching every K-12 student what role they can play in ending the pandemic.” 


#5 - UCSF School of Medicine

What are the five most distinct opportunities/aspects of this program to highlight in your secondary essays and interviews?

Bridges Curriculum

“The UCSF School of Medicine Bridges Curriculum educates MD graduates to excel in the competencies needed by 21st-century physicians. Our students work collaboratively with interprofessional teams to provide compassionate patient care while broadening their knowledge, advancing science, and seeking new ways to improve health care delivery in their communities and nationwide.”

Medical Student Wellbeing Program (MSWB)

“The staff for this program is specially trained in working with medical students. This service is free to all medical students and will always be confidential. We want you to feel safe here at UCSF and we are here to assist you with a broad range of difficulties that may arise during your medical education.”

Multicultural Resource Center

“Rooted in social justice and cross-cultural frameworks, the Multicultural Resource Center aims to nurture our diverse community. We are committed to shaping physical and intellectual environments that honor the experiences of all members of our UCSF family. Through programmatic efforts in community building, education, student support, and social justice we aspire to achieve transformational change.”

Student Success Center

“The Student Success website is meant to help you navigate the wide range of resources and services at UCSF that will help you succeed during your time here – and beyond.”

UCSF Homeless Clinic

“For nearly 30 years, the Shelter Clinic has delivered urgent health care and referral services to people staying at the Multi-Service Center - South homeless shelter. In addition to our original biweekly General Clinic, we have increased the scope of our  services to include Dermatology, Ophthalmology, Pharmacy, and Dental clinics, as well as Women’s Support, Women’s Health, and Men’s Support groups. In addition to our service mission, we are dedicated to educating a new generation of healthcare providers about the medical needs of homeless people.”

#6 - Duke University School of Medicine

What are the five most distinct opportunities/aspects of this program to highlight in your secondary essays and interviews?

Duke AHEC Program

“The Duke AHEC Program Office, a part of the North Carolina Area Health Education Center (AHEC), is located on the beautiful campus of Duke University Medical Center within the Duke University School of Medicine! As a partner in learning and teaching within the NC AHEC System, we are committed to connecting clinical experts from Duke with regional AHEC’s continuing professional development needs; to supporting health professions students complete clinical rotations at primary care sites; and to increasing awareness among middle and high school students of health care related careers!”

Basic Science Research | Duke University School of Medicine

“Duke researchers in both basic science and clinical departments are engaged in a wide range of basic science research, studying cell biology, immunology, neurobiology, biochemistry, pharmacology, microbiology, and genetics in organisms from bacteria to human.”

Clinical and Translational Research | Duke University School of Medicine

“Duke's vast clinical research enterprise includes the Duke Clinical Research Institute, (DCRI) the world’s largest academic clinical research organization. DCRI’s faculty and staff conduct groundbreaking multinational clinical trials, manage major national patient registries, and perform landmark outcomes research.”

Duke Research and Discovery @RTP

“Duke Research and Discovery @RTP is a research hub for Duke University School of Medicine scientists devoted to the study of infectious disease. Located in the world-famous Research Triangle Park (RTP), the campus is in close proximity to more than 300 companies including science and technology firms, government agencies, academic institutions, startups and nonprofits.”

Research Support | Duke University School of Medicine

“Duke University and the School of Medicine offer a breadth and depth of research support offices, programs, educational opportunities, facilities and funding to support researchers at all levels of their careers and at all stages of research. From junior faculty just getting started to established researchers with years of experience, there is assistance and support that helps to ensure successful research projects that advance science and human health.”

#7 - Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania

What are the five most distinct opportunities/aspects of this program to highlight in your secondary essays and interviews?


“Mission: Eliminating structural injustice across Penn Medicine and the communities we serve. Vision: Penn Medicine is united as an anti-racist, equitable, diverse, and inclusive organization. Values: Respect, Cultural Humility, Empathy, Equity and Accountability.”

STEM Outreach - Institute for Regenerative Medicine

“STEM outreach has been a core part of the IRM since the beginning. Through partnerships with schools, universities, and nonprofit organizations, our staff and researchers teach K-16 students in the Philadelphia area scientific skills and provide them with exciting and accurate information about regenerative biology. Our reach is also global through award-winning programs like Project BioEYES – which has impacted over 130,000 students across three countries so far. We strive to provide opportunities to build communication and teaching skills for faculty, trainees, and students. IRM staff members can also support your drive to engage with the community and assist with including this work in your research proposals.”

The Thomas B. McCabe and Jeannette E. Laws McCabe Fund

“The McCabe awards were established in 1969 by a generous gift from Mr. Thomas B. McCabe and Mrs. Jeannette E. Law McCabe to the Perelman School of Medicine (PSOM). The purpose of this gift is to support junior faculty who initiate fresh and innovative biomedical and surgical research projects.  Eligible faculty are those who have received either limited or no external research funding while in their first through three years on faculty at the PSOM or the School of Veterinary Medicine at Penn.  Interested junior faculty in these schools are encouraged to contact their Department Chair.”

Center for Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics

“Improving Population Health Through Research and Training.”

Synergy Grant Program

“The Synergy Grant program aims to connect faculty from different domains, through science and innovation.  Studies funded demonstrate new synergistic collaboration as well as potential for external funding.”

#8 - Stanford Medicine

What are the five most distinct opportunities/aspects of this program to highlight in your secondary essays and interviews?

Community Engagement | School of Medicine

“The School of Medicine’s community and global health programs reduce health disparities through long-term partnerships that strengthen community capacity in underserved populations locally and around the world.”

Leadership | School of Medicine

“Stanford Medicine's leadership works to transform patient care, fuel innovation and empower future leaders.”

Diversity at Stanford Medicine

“Our goal is to draw from people with a variety of backgrounds and life experiences to reach a new level of innovation in instruction, research, and patient care. Varied perspectives encourage new strategies that ensure diversity is reflected in our programs, culture, and leadership.”


“At Stanford Medicine, our strength in interdisciplinary scholarship, our dedicated faculty and a culture of innovation set the training ground for the next generation of biomedical leaders and pioneers.”

SUMMA Premedical Conference | Stanford University Minority Medical Alliance

“The goal of the Stanford University Minority Medical Alliance (SUMMA) is to increase diversity in the health professions in order to better care for underserved communities. Our annual pre-medical conference is one of the oldest on the west coast and draws hundreds of students from throughout the Bay Area.”


#9 - UW School of Medicine

What are the five most distinct opportunities/aspects of this program to highlight in your secondary essays and interviews?

Training | UW Medicine

“Training and mentoring resources, including frequent seminars on clinical research management topics, are offered through the Institute of Translational Health Sciences (ITHS). ITHS provides services to both faculty and research staff.”

Rural Programs | UW Medicine

UM School of Medicine provides multiple programs to assist underserved communities. Programs include WWAMI Area Health Education Center (AHEC), WWAMI AHEC Scholars Program, Targeted Rural and Underserved Track (TRUST), Rural Underserved Opportunities Program (RUOP), WWAMI Rural Integrated Training Experience (WRITE), and UW Rural Programs.

Career Advancement - UW School of Medicine Faculty

“We have brought together a wide array of resources to help you grow in your career.  Whether you want to be a better teacher, need support for your growing research career, want to build new skills to increase efficiency or are contemplating a new leadership role, we hope you will find what you need here.  We are always adding to these pages so please let us know if there are materials we should include.  We want to be there to help you thrive!”

UW Medicine Peer to Peer Program

“The UW Medicine Peer to Peer Program is here to support all members of our healthcare team.  UW Medicine recognizes that there is a growing sense of burnout and emotional fatigue among healthcare workers.  This can be due to specific events or to cumulative stressors.  Through the Peer to Peer Program, UW Medicine aims to better support faculty, staff, and trainees when work/life can feel overwhelming.”

CLIME - UW School of Medicine Faculty

“The Center for Leadership and Innovation in Medical Education (CLIME) was established in 2012 to advance and support health professions education throughout the WWAMI region, and to promote an integrated continuum of medical, graduate and lifelong education at all levels. We do this using state of the art methods, approaches, and activities.”

#10 - Yale School of Medicine

What are the five most distinct opportunities/aspects of this program to highlight in your secondary essays and interviews?

Welcome to the Medical Student Council

“The Medical Student Council is responsible for developing, promoting, and funding student activities, improving medical student quality of life, and fostering greater interactions with other Yale graduate schools and departments. The Medical Student Council serves as a forum for students to discuss issues pertaining to their education and community. Representatives of the Medical Student Council are intimately involved in the education review process at the Yale University School of Medicine.”

Program for Art in Public Spaces

“The YSM Program for Art in Public Spaces was formed to ensure that the artwork in public areas at the school reflects our mission, history, and the diversity of our community.”

Office of Academic & Professional Development (OAPD)

“The Office of Academic and Professional Development (OAPD) is committed to helping faculty at Yale School of Medicine thrive in their research, educational, and clinical careers. Through programs that offer mentoring and leadership development, our goal is to provide resources to support all faculty in the School of Medicine from the beginning of their Yale careers through their transition to senior faculty leaders. The Office oversees faculty development programs in all departments, and provides regular consultation to faculty as they progress through the academic life-cycle.”

Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion (DEI)

“Fostering diversity and inclusion at the Yale School of Medicine is a priority. A number of resources are available that support the goals of ensuring an inclusive environment, facilitating recruitments, supporting faculty, and improving retention.”

Research < Office of Academic & Professional Development (OAPD)

“Research is a critical mission of the Yale School of Medicine. Understanding resources available to facilitate research, develop collaborations, and advance science can be enormously helpful to individual investigators and the school at large. The Yale School of Medicine’s website maintains a list of Research Services and Centers & Organizations. The following sections have been developed to help provide additional guidance.”

#11 - Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai

What are the five most distinct opportunities/aspects of this program to highlight in your secondary essays and interviews?

Ombuds Office | Icahn School of Medicine

“The Ombuds Office for the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai is a confidential, informal, neutral, and independent resource where students and postdoctoral fellows in the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, medical students in the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, residents and fellows in the Graduate Medical Education programs, and faculty across the Mount Sinai Health System can freely discuss any issue of concern. We are dedicated to promoting fair and equitable conflict.”

Office of Gender Equity in Science and Medicine

“The Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai leadership believes in maintaining a supportive, collegial environment free from harassment for faculty, students, and trainees, regardless of gender, gender expression, or gender identity.”

Research Portal | Icahn School of Medicine

“With a focus on translational medicine, the Institutes at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai facilitate interactions within and across disciplines in order to advance research, ensure quality education, and promote breakthroughs in clinical care.”

Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Mount Sinai | Icahn School of Medicine

“The Mount Sinai Health System innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem is dedicated to developing and advancing health care solutions for patients. We believe these solutions can make a difference in the fields of medicine, education, and translational science. We are committed to encouraging and fostering faculty, staff, and students in identifying health care needs, developing technological responses, and creating businesses to bring those solutions to the public.”

Office of Industry Engagement and Conflicts of Interest | Icahn School of Medicine

“Industry-academia relationships represent enormous opportunities but also present unique challenges. At the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai (ISMMS), academia-industry relationships and the management of potential financial conflicts of interest (COI) are guided by rigorous adherence to the principles of transparency and accountability, which are intended to safeguard our core missions—the learning environment of our trainees, the scientific integrity of our research, and the clinical care of our patients. The Office of Industry Engagement and Conflicts of Interest supports successful academia-industry collaborations through development and implementation of policies, processes, and oversight plans that safeguard Mount Sinai research, education, and clinical care.”

#12 - Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis

What are the five most distinct opportunities/aspects of this program to highlight in your secondary essays and interviews?

Research Pathway | MD Program

“WashU encourages all medical students to consider conducting research—either within the Research Pathway or less formally. The Office of Medical Student Research connects each interested student with seasoned investigators in the student’s area of interest. As valued members of research teams, students gain a richer understanding of how scientific discoveries influence practice at the bedside, and vice versa.”

Advocacy/Global Health Pathway | MD Program

“To deliver truly effective health care, future physicians must acquire a deep understanding of the many societal factors that influence health and drive health inequities. Washington University School of Medicine addresses this need by integrating community-based learning on health equity locally and globally throughout all three phases of the curriculum.”

Innovation Pathway

“Providing cutting edge medical care requires physicians to do more than provide care to patients at the bedside or in the operating room. To truly advance health care for patients, physicians must engage in bringing valuable ideas from conception to execution. This may sometimes mean organizing and leading a health care team to treat a disease. At other times, it could mean working with health care organizations to improve the value of care we provide by changing systems to become better stewards of healthcare resources. It could also mean identifying a potential medical need and developing a product or device to address it.”

Coaching | MD Program

“The Gateway Coaching Program is in place to promote and develop a longitudinal coaching relationship to aid in the lifelong learning and medical education journey of the learner.  Each medical student is assigned a Faculty Coach and coaching cohort of 8 peers, with which they will remain for the duration of their medical education at WUSM.”

USMLE Preparation | MD Program

The U.S. Medical Licensure Exam is a national standardized exam administered in three steps.Step 1: Taken after your second year. Register early in your second year, Step 2: Taken during third or fourth year, Step 3: Taken after first year of residency.

#13 - Vanderbilt University School of Medicine

What are the five most distinct opportunities/aspects of this program to highlight in your secondary essays and interviews?

Foundations of Medical Knowledge (FMK) | Curriculum | Vanderbilt University

“Our 13-month preclinical curriculum sends you into immersive clinical experiences an entire year earlier than traditional sequences, but that doesn’t mean your first year is overwhelming.”

Clerkships | Curriculum | Vanderbilt University

“Your second year consists of six core clerkships, each lasting between four to eight weeks. From surgery to psychiatry and everywhere in between, these intensive clinical experiences introduce you to the broad range of medical care and help you identify where your specialty interests might lie.”

Center for Experiential Learning and Assessment (CELA)

“Team up with counseling, nursing, pharmacy, and social work students to learn from your interprofessional peers at clinics around Nashville over a two-year interdisciplinary experience.”

Shade Tree Clinic

“Shade Tree Clinic provides quality general and specialty care at no cost for uninsured or underinsured patients in Nashville, as well as nutrition education programs, a food pantry, and a pharmacy.”

Wellness Student Leaders

“A cohort of med students across seven committees, the Wellness Student Leaders support engagement in effective mentoring, mind and body wellness, education, and research— just to name a few.”

#14 - Weill Cornell Medicine - Cornell University

What are the five most distinct opportunities/aspects of this program to highlight in your secondary essays and interviews?

Research | Weill Cornell Medicine

“Weill Cornell Medicine scientists target some of the most formidable health challenges of the 21st century, including cancer, cardiovascular disease, metabolic diseases, neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, diseases affecting children, and infectious diseases, especially those with significant impact on the developing world.”

Medical Education Program Mission

“Weill Cornell Medical College and the Graduate School of Medical Sciences are committed to excellence in research, teaching, patient care, and the advancement of the art and science of medicine. To this end, our mission is to provide the finest education possible for medical students and students pursuing advanced degrees in the biomedical sciences, to contribute to the lifelong education of physicians throughout their careers, to conduct research at the cutting edge of knowledge, to improve the healthcare of the nation and the world both now and for future generations, and to provide the highest quality of clinical care for the communities we serve. Success in any of these areas contributes to success in the others.”

Joint Degree Programs | Medical College

“Weill Cornell Medical College offers several joint degree programs for medical students to earn dual degrees while enrolled in medical school.”

Diversity & Inclusion | Medical College

“Cornell University has a long commitment to diversity and inclusion, embodied in the principle of “any person, any study." The university’s “Open Doors, Open Hearts, Open Minds” initiative provided the foundation for recent efforts to address diversity and inclusion at Cornell. Cornell recognizes that research, knowledge production, and operational and academic pursuits benefit tremendously from the full engagement of individuals who have diverse points of view.”

Office of the Weill Cornell Student Ombudsperson

“The Student Ombudsperson Office offers a safe place where all students at Weill Cornell Medical College and Graduate School of Medical Sciences may discuss problems or issues. Concerns about situations that interfere with work, study or student life may involve a classmate, advisor, or instructor. Issues may be academic related, interpersonal conflicts, and harassment. The Ombudsperson does not take a side in disputes.”

#15 - Mayo Clinic Alix School of Medicine

What are the five most distinct opportunities/aspects of this program to highlight in your secondary essays and interviews?

Advanced Degree Program Options - Curriculum - MD Program - Mayo Clinic Alix School of Medicine

“Mayo Clinic Alix School of Medicine prepares students for every possible career aspiration. In collaboration with Mayo Clinic Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, Arizona State University (ASU) and several other renowned universities worldwide, we offer a variety of advanced learning programs that offer students the ability to obtain a cross-disciplinary professional degree in addition to their M.D. degree.”

Biomedical Research Training - Mayo Clinic Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences

“Mayo Clinic Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences offers unique training experiences that develop biomedical scientists, educators, and innovators whose leadership will change the world.”

Mission and History

“Since Mayo Clinic was established more than 150 years ago, our goal has been to provide outstanding care to our patients and offer superior educational programs that ensure the success of the next generation of medical, scientific, and allied health professionals.”

Personalized Mentorship

“We take note of where you came from and what led you here. Everything we do is centered around mentoring you in medical research and patient care to have the impact you’ve always known you could have.”

Academy of Educational Excellence - About - Mayo Clinic College of Medicine & Science

“The Academy of Educational Excellence is home to internationally recognized educators and scholars. The Academy provides resources, community, mentorship, and career and skills development to all educators at Mayo Clinic. Our goal is to promote and advance the educational mission and value of Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science.”

#16 - School of Medicine | University of Pittsburgh

What are the five most distinct opportunities/aspects of this program to highlight in your secondary essays and interviews?

Longitudinal Research Project

Every student works under a mentor for a longitudinal project throughout their four years of medical school. There are many options for areas of focus, including clinical research, lab-based research, and non-traditional approaches.

UPSOM Curriculum

A focus on patient interaction is highly valued, and patient contact starts on the very first day of schooling through an introductory course. The curriculum is an even mix of lectures, small group work, and activities (patient and community exposure, simulations, etc.) for the first two years of study.

Standardized/Simulated Patient (SP) Program

This program uses individuals from the community that are trained to portray a specific patient or person in a specific situation so that students can work through a patient case with less pressure. The SP can provide feedback for the student to promote continual learning and improvement.

CRISP: CTSI’s Research Initiative for Special Populations

Funding for research specifically involving “special populations” - those who are underrepresented in biomedical research, such as pregnant women and certain demographic groups.

Curriculum Reform Idea Competition

Students can work in groups to create a proposal for curriculum reform in a competition for a monetary prize. This allows students to have input into their own course load and learning experience in future years, and ensures that the student experience is optimally enjoyable and educational.

#17 - Feinberg School of Medicine - Northwestern University

What are the five most distinct opportunities/aspects of this program to highlight in your secondary essays and interviews?

Area of Scholarly Concentration (AOSC) Project

Every medical student will spend their four years working on an independent but closely mentored AOSC project in a medicine-related field. Many of these projects culminate in publication, and this opportunity allows for the enhanced development of critical thinking skills and problem solving, as well as providing a strong mentor-mentee relationship.

Inclusive and Bias-Free Principle

“Inclusive & Bias-Free” is one of the nine principles on which the curriculum is based. The School of Medicine is committed to a curriculum that promotes health care equity for all, and to creating an environment for learning that is open to and inclusive of differences.

Education-Centered Medical Home (ECMH)

The ECMH is one of the learning strategies used throughout the four years of medical student education. It is focused on exposing students to outpatient primary care settings and emphasizing a team-based approach to medical care. This strategy allows medical students to interact with patients from the start, and promotes the development of patient relationships, teamwork competency, and medical knowledge, all while mitigating primary care shortages in Chicago communities.

Lifestyle Medicine Thread

Lifestyle Medicine is one of the five threads that the curriculum integrates into all four years of medical schooling. It emphasizes a focus on lifestyle factors that influence patient health and wellbeing so that future physicians learn to provide evidence-based advice to optimize patient care.

Problem-Based Learning

PBL is another learning strategy used by the School of Medicine. It too emphasizes small-group collaboration, but uses case studies instead of patients. Students work through a clinical case designed to mimic physician information acquisition in order to apply and integrate their knowledge from coursework.

#18 - University of Michigan Medical School

What are the five most distinct opportunities/aspects of this program to highlight in your secondary essays and interviews?


Students are divided into smaller communities (House group and Doctoring Group) at the beginning of their medical school experience. Within these smaller groups, students are able to form closer connections with each other and various mentors. There are a number of community bonding activities, such as the M-Home Olympics and trivia nights.

Global REACH (Research, Education, and Collaboration in Health)

This program provides funding and support for students to engage in global health initiatives. UMMS REACH has various partners worldwide to allow for integration of research findings and international educational experiences. The goal of the program is to promote sustainable global health approaches, build international connections, and advance education and research in global health.

Capstone for Impact

All medical students complete a Capstone project before graduating. There are an abundance of routes to take in the pursuit of this project - it can be a true research project, or something different like starting a company. The primary criteria are that the Capstone is in an area of interest and results in an impact on health, either at the systemic level or the level of patient care.

Student Support

UMMS strongly emphasizes widespread support for its students through different levels of advising and mentoring. Students are to meet regularly with different faculty and advising members tailored to their position in the medical education journey and their chosen Path of Excellence.

Interprofessional Collaborative Skills-Introduction

The ICS-I allows for regular clinical exposure from the very beginning of schooling. Students meet with patients and their families, as well as different medical providers. The goal is to promote a team-based collaborative approach to medical care and decision making.

#19 - UCLA School of Medicine

What are the five most distinct opportunities/aspects of this program to highlight in your secondary essays and interviews?

HEALS Curriculum

UCLA uses a curriculum consisting of five themes that are frequently integrated throughout all four years of schooling. The themes are Structural Racism & Health Equity, Discovery, Point of Care Ultrasound, Interprofessional Education, and Ethics & Humanities. The curriculum is designed to accommodate the continuous scientific and medical advancement that we are accustomed to today.

Well-Being Workshops & Events

The School of Medicine holds frequent events and workshops addressing important themes in medical education and careers such as the transition into medical school, preventing burnout, maintaining self-care, and the school-life balance.

Campus Life

The scenery, dining, social life, and diversity of not just UCLA but the city as a whole are consistently lauded by students and community members. There is no shortage of leisure activities for students to take advantage of whenever they need a break from their studies.

Global Health Equity Pathway

Students can elect to join this Pathway in their first year of medical school, in which they will receive mentoring for global health projects, leadership development, and networking, among other areas. The college also provides some application-based funding for research and travel expenses.

Big Sib Lil Sib Program

First year students can be “matched” with a second year student, and into their family, on the basis of shared interests, hobbies, and backgrounds. The goal of the program is to strengthen the bond between classes and foster small support systems.

#20 - UC San Diego School of Medicine

What are the five most distinct opportunities/aspects of this program to highlight in your secondary essays and interviews?

Independent Study Project

All medical students participate in an independent study project on a specific topic in which they can develop closer relationships with their mentor. The end goals of the ISP are to foster creative investigation, develop and strengthen learning habits, and promote scholarly investigation.

Simulation Training Center

The SIM center provides an option for students to learn and practice medical procedures and teamwork skills. The rooms are equipped with cameras for playback, analysis, and further teaching. 

Student-Run Free Clinic

The SRFC Project accomplishes two goals: providing both low-cost healthcare to underserved community members and a learning environment to students in a variety of health tracks. Medical students that participate in this clinic also take courses relating to its philosophy.

Academic Communities

The School of Medicine has six Academic Communities that incoming students are assigned to and remain with throughout their medical education. These Communities help students in different years connect with each other and with faculty members.

Advising and Mentoring

UCSD values a multi-layered support system for its medical students that extends beyond academics. Students choose their own Faculty Advisor in their third year and also have support from older students in their earlier years, such as Senior Mentors and Big Sibs.

#21 - Pritzker School of Medicine | The University of Chicago

What are the five most distinct opportunities/aspects of this program to highlight in your secondary essays and interviews?

Pass/Fail Grading System

“Pass/Fail grading at the Pritzker School of Medicine is a true pass/fail for years 1, 2, and 4. Third year — the clerkship year — is a “graded” year with the grades of Honors, High Pass, Pass, and Fail. All four years are uncurved and competency-based. You are evaluated on your mastery of the material, not your mastery compared to others in the class. There is no limit on the number of students who can receive an Honors grade on a particular clerkship. These qualities — pass/fail and uncurved grading — result in a highly collaborative learning environment.”


They are one of the few universities located on the campus of their affiliated university which allows for easy multi-disciplinary work. “Most importantly, the opportunity for interdisciplinary work is outstanding – the law school, the business school, the school of public policy, and the humanities division - to name just a few - are located within steps of the medical school, providing a rich array of opportunities for our medical students. Many of our students also pursue joint degrees with these other outstanding graduate programs.”

School Organization

“The Pritzker School of Medicine is one of few medical schools to be situated within a larger Division of the University—the Biological Sciences Division” which provides the opportunity for research and close collaboration with others in that department.

Community- Based Medical Education

“The Department of Family Medicine plays a leading role in Community Based Medical Education at the Pritzker School of Medicine and in the University of Chicago Medicine's Urban Health Initiative. Medical students have multiple opportunities to learn about and serve different communities on Chicago's South Side. They can participate in clinical care with family doctors at community health centers in both the Longitudinal Program and the Family Medicine Clerkship; they can choose to participate in service-learning projects in local schools, free clinics, and community organizations; and they can participate in community engaged scholarship with community and faculty mentorship through the Community Health Scholars Track.”

Work-Life Balance

“We know that it is important to balance academic and professional pursuits with hobbies and social activities. Being located on UChicago's main campus allows our medical students ample opportunity to find and participate in extracurricular activities and to take in cultural attractions and events.”

#22 - Baylor College of Medicine | BCM

What are the five most distinct opportunities/aspects of this program to highlight in your secondary essays and interviews?

Focus on Student Wellness

Baylor has offices and programs dedicated to student and resident wellness respectively. There are a multitude of resources available regarding emotional, mental, physical, financial, social, intellectual, environmental, and spiritual wellness. 


“Baylor College of Medicine has developed pathways to help students explore their interests and customize their education to match their career goals.” Pathways include: 

  • Care of the underserved
  • Genetics and genomics
  • Global Health
  • Health Policy
  • Medical Ethics
  • Medical Research
  • Space Medicine 

Peer Resource Network 

“Even before you arrive on campus, you will feel welcome because you will receive letters from current students who form your Peer Resource Network.

The PRN is the student-led mentor program at Baylor College of Medicine for incoming first-year medical students to assist them in transitioning to medical school. Each first-year student is placed in a group with nine or ten other first years and two MS2, two MS3 and two MS4 medical student mentors. The PRN leaders guide the new students through orientation week and lead the Transitions to Medical School course during the first three weeks of school to promote not only academics but also physical, emotional and mental wellness.


After the first few weeks of school, the PRN leaders continue to support their PRN group by providing breakfast once a week for their first-year students and organizing social events (dinners, game nights, intramurals, etc.) throughout the year. Beyond scheduled events, the PRN leaders also make themselves available to meet with students one-on-one and give guidance if students find themselves having difficulty adjusting to medical school.”

Student Opportunities for Advancement in Research (SOAR)

“The Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences along with the School of Medicine has established the Office of Student Opportunities for Advancement in Research (SOAR). The purpose of the SOAR Office is to educate and support all BCM medical students interested in pursuing research opportunities offered at Baylor College of Medicine and its affiliates. The SOAR database provides students with an opportunity to identify research projects and gain valuable research experience while pursuing their medical studies. The SOAR Office also offers SOAR Travel Awards to support medical student research presentations at scientific and medical conferences.”

Healthcare Outreach

“At private and public hospitals and practices throughout Houston, Baylor College of Medicine healthcare providers serve the health needs of our community. However, not everyone’s health needs are met through traditional modes of care delivery. When Baylor faculty, staff and students identify unmet needs, we develop services and programs to fill the void.”

#23 - Emory School of Medicine

What are the five most distinct opportunities/aspects of this program to highlight in your secondary essays and interviews?

Discovery Phase

Allows the student to conduct research over a 5-month period in the middle of their clerkships with Emory faculty. The 5 months conclude with a research paper and poster presentation.


Emory School of Medicine is well connected with the local community and has a variety of initiatives and programs that benefit the community including Emory University's Urban Health Initiative, HEEL to HEAL 5k, Art for a Cause, Emory Farmworker Project, and the Student-Run Clinics.


Emory School of Medicine has extensive mentoring opportunities ranging from one-on-one mentoring of students by faculty to peer mentoring. Faculty themselves are well-supported by a network of mentors (such as the consult program) which allows for a strong foundation of mentoring for medical students.

Continued Medical Education 

Emory School of Medicine has an office devoted specifically to continued medical education. “The Office of Continuing Medical Education, in accordance with the mission of the School of Medicine, leads and facilitates the independent development of postgraduate educational activities designed and implemented for the continued professional development of physicians and other healthcare professionals.”

Immediate Clinical Work


“Our clinical training begins the very first week, with rotations starting halfway through the second year. This grants valuable hands-on exposure to a range of specialties and subspecialties, giving you experience in 14 disciplines in both hospital and outpatient settings before you begin applying to residency programs.”

#24 - School of Medicine | Case Western Reserve University

What are the five most distinct opportunities/aspects of this program to highlight in your secondary essays and interviews?

Pathway Programs

The Pathways Programs at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine are parallel programs designed to provide individualized enrichment experiences for students with interest or expertise in pursuits beyond the core curriculum. Each pathway has a unique curriculum. On average, pathway students meet weekly or biweekly in the pre-clerkship phase to explore content and complete mentored projects or scholarly activities in the pathway. We have six active pathways:

  • Advocacy and Public Health Pathway - new for AY 21-22!
  • Andrew B. Kaufman World Medicine Pathway
  • Humanities Pathway
  • Jack, Joseph, and Morton Mandel Wellness and Preventive Care Pathway
  • Dr. Edward J. and Nancy M. Mueller Health Innovation and Entrepreneurship Pathway
  • Urban Health Pathway

InQuiry Teams

At Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, “IQ” stands for InQuiry Team (IQ Team), our main learning vehicle in the first two years of the WR2 curriculum. An IQ Team is a small, student-centered learning team that uses elaborate patient cases and discussion to learn, retain, synthesize and integrate knowledge. Each team includes 9-10 students along with a faculty member who facilitates discussion and ensures that the learning objectives are addressed and that each member of the group contributes to the learning effort.

Student Run Health Clinic

Allows students to directly serve the Cleveland area: “To provide health-profession students unique clinical practice and mentorship opportunities at the earliest stages of their careers. The SRHC offers first- and second-year students a unique opportunity early in their medical training to evaluate their first patients as junior members of their student assessment teams. Third- and fourth-year students have the chance to act as mentors, guiding their preclinical counterparts as senior members of their student assessment teams.”

Hospital Affiliation 

Case Western is affiliated with not only one hospital in the area, but with four which allows for extensive inclusion of students into the hospital environment and research. Partner hospitals: University Hospitals, Cleveland Clinic, MetroHealth, VA Northeast Ohio Healthcare


Dual Degrees 

Case Western offers a variety of Dual Degree programs: 

  • MD/MA in Bioethics 
  • MD/MPH (Master of Public Health)
  • MD/MS in Applied Anatomy
  • MD/MS in Biomedical Engineering
  • MD/MS in Biomedical Investigation 
  • MD/MBA in Business
  • MD/MA in Anthropology 

#25 - UNC School of Medicine

What are the five most distinct opportunities/aspects of this program to highlight in your secondary essays and interviews?

Transitional Education at Carolina (TEC) 

“The School of Medicine launched its new curriculum, Translational Education at Carolina (TEC), in August 2014. TEC seeks to transform the way medical students learn the art and science of medicine by integrating basic sciences and clinical skills, providing longitudinal patient care experiences and offering earlier clinical opportunities in specialty fields to better inform residency program decisions. This redesigned curriculum reflects the ever-changing practice of medicine, meets the desire for early career differentiation and exploration, and incorporates the learning preferences of today’s medical students.”


Rural Medicine Pathway Program


“The undergraduate Rural Medicine Pathway Program is composed of Carolina Covenant Scholars from underserved rural populations within North Carolina who want to make a lasting impact within their communities. The program is the result of a partnership between the UNC School of Medicine and the Carolina Covenant Scholars Program with a goal to increase the number of students from rural NC applying to and being accepted to UNC School of Medicine.”


Medical Mentors Program


This program allows medical students to mentor undergraduate students and “give back” in a way. “The goal of the Medical Mentors Program is simple: to bring medical students together with their undergraduate peers. By doing so, our hope is that medical students and pre-medical students will build relationships that supplement the undergraduate advising experience and relieve some of the stresses of choosing a career in medicine. MMP matches interested undergrads with available medical students at the beginning of each academic year. After that, mentors and their mentees can choose exactly how they want to work together: from email conversations to lunches to visiting medical school classes.”


Physician Scientist Training Program


“The Department of Medicine at the University of North Carolina is committed to the development of physician-scientists and offers a program to recruit and train young physicians interested in pursuing academic careers in medical research. This program allows candidates with significant research experience (PhD, MPH, or equivalent research background) to complete Internal Medicine residency, fellowship, and postdoctoral research training via the ABIM Research Pathway.


DEI Path Forward


The DEI Path Forward Plan, executed during the Summer of 2020, united faculty, staff, trainees and students across the School of Medicine to create a path forward. With thoughtful discussions and a desire for change, a DEI Framework was presented and implemented: a plan to provide structure and a system to assess, establish, and synergize DEI efforts. The framework will help the school promote a more diverse and inclusive working and learning environment. This is documented in a series of action items that brings transparency and accountability to this work by department.

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