By: Savvy Pre-Med Staff
On November 16, 2020, during the AAMC Learn Serve Lead webinar, AAMC President and CEO David J. Skorton hosted a plenary session entitled “Is There a Cure for Racism?” which featured Nikole Hannah-Jones (author of the 1619 Project) and Ibram X. Kendi (How to be an Antiracist).
For two hours, they discussed disparities in healthcare and education, as well as the distrust of medicine among marginalized and oppressed communities. But they also addressed ways to potentially “cure” the racism that plagues American society.
This is just one of many recent AAMC webinars and events that have focused around the concept of equity in healthcare and medical education.
In response to the growing concern over systemic racism, certain medical schools, like Miller School of Medicine - University of Miami, added new secondary essay prompts last cycle (2020-2021) that specifically addressed the problems of inequities and how to solve them.
Let’s take a look at Miller’s new prompt and consider some good and bad approaches to answering it in your secondary essays.
In the past, Miami Miller’s secondary prompts were fairly typically, albeit rather long (500 words maximum), with essays about your clinical experiences, research, leadership, and reasons for why you want to attend the program.
Last year, the school kept its 500-word limits, but it added a new essay about the lessons of COVID-19, along with this new prompt about systemic racism:
9. What have you done to help identify, address and correct an issue of systematic discrimination?
This prompt is not as politically charged as a school like the University of Minnesota - whose recent prompts specifically mention a “reckoning of race” and names like George Floyd and Breonna Taylor - but this new prompt from Miller is undoubtedly inspired by the recent racial and political turmoil.
With that in mind, how do you go about answering this sensitive, hot-button question in your secondary essays?
Examples of Good Approaches:
As the old adage says, we recommend that you “show, don’t tell.” Try to deliver a narrative about a specific effort you made to help marginalized, minority communities. Focus on longer, sustained activities.
1. Expanding Entrepreneurship for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC)
One of our students was a member of his college’s startup incubator, and he spearheaded an initiative to help BIPOC founders launch their own companies. He recruited seven teams and connected them with the incubator and college’s vast network of designers and engineers.
He mentored founders of diverse backgrounds to tackle problems of historically underserved communities. This resulted in a media venture that promoted healthy eating within the BIPOC community and a beauty product company that addressed the unique needs of Black hair.
2. Connecting Immigrants to Pro Bono Attorneys
One of our students built a virtual platform that securely connects pro-bono attorneys with low-income, high-risk populations like food industry workers, wrongly convicted individuals, and undocumented immigrants.
The technology is secure and anonymous to protect clients’ safety while ensuring all participants abide by applicable laws with encrypted and transparent communication. This centralized supply-and-demand legal platform helps organizations like the Electronic Frontier Foundation identify individuals most in need of legal aid.
3. Creating Dialogues of Peace and Compromise between Israelis and Palestinians
One of our students created a non-partisan campus group to host dialogues about the modern state of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, while also acknowledging the confusing nature of the topic. The goal is to recruit diverse voices who can engage in open dialogue about sensitive issues, challenge each other’s preconceived notions, broaden their worldview, and encourage a more inclusive environment.
The group has hosted Arabic and Muslim presenters alongside Zionist and Jewish ones, in an attempt to foster political, cultural, and ideological exchange while promoting mutual understanding and equal representation across different groups and voices.
Examples of Acceptable Approaches:
Not everyone will have such a monumental example to share, but that’s okay. You can still write about more “typical” pre-med activities, such as the following:
These are smaller in scale, but they’ll still let you answer Miller's secondary essay prompt in a compelling, convincing way.
As we said in our last post about Loyola Stritch’s new prompts, the secondary essays are not the appropriate time to put your political allegiances on display. Not only does this run the risk of offending readers who don’t share your particular views, but it also tends to lead to dense, expository essays that don’t SHOW anything about you. Your essays need to do more than “talk the talk.” They need to “walk the walk.”
Try to avoid the following approaches, if possible:
These approaches run the risk of sounding uncommitted, or worse, they could make you seem naive, self-righteous, or zealous.
Instead, try to remain humble, diplomatic, and open-minded while letting your actions and concrete contributions do most of the talking for you.
Have any questions about Miami Miller’s prompts or secondary essays in general?
Let us know in the comments below, and we’ll respond to you personally!