Admission to The Ohio State University College of Medicine used to begin with a screening practice involving only two people sifting through 4,000-5,000 applications. Today, nearly 80 people are involved in this process. Reading five applications a week enables screeners to do a “deep dive” to effectively give students an equal chance at admission to medical school. Applications to medical school grow year by year; in 2019, Ohio State had more than 7,200 applications for its approximate 200 seats.
“Screeners” are an important part of the admissions process at the Ohio State College of Medicine—they filter applications and decide who moves on to the next phase of admissions. There is a human being behind every application and a group of human beings reading every application, so it’s important for screeners to understand their responsibility to maintain a clear mind in order to mitigate bias.
Quinn Capers IV, MD, associate dean of Admissions and professor of Internal Medicine, and Julie Brim, associate director of Medical Education, carefully train screeners at an orientation session each July. Dr. Capers leads the screeners through a training workshop, and everyone in the room screens an application together for practice.
“We cannot forget the need for recruiting socioeconomically disadvantaged,” says Dr. Capers. “We must be acutely aware of the indicators for such students: like fee assistance program (applicants must reach the poverty level), and self-reporting of disadvantaged/underserved status (must be federally designated).”
Screeners are in the position to accept, reject or defer an application.
Dr. Capers reminds screeners that Ohio State’s vision statement, “to work as a team shaping the future of medicine by creating, disseminating and applying new knowledge and by personalizing health care to meet the needs of each individual,” is “worth reading out loud once a year.” Mission statements differ by college, and may be used as the backbone for admitting students.
Holistic review is more effective and fair than that of a meritocracy. The MCAT offers four different sections—biology, chemistry, psychology and critical analysis—a d, as a result, four different scores. But as important as those scores are, Dr. Capers stresses, standardization isn’t everything.
College of Medicine screeners take metrics, attributes and experiences into account as well. In addition, they are required to take implicit/explicit bias tests and be screened for any racial preferences, as even small briefs about an incoming student can elicit a biased response. To neutralize bias, Dr. Capers suggests screeners take part in the following mental exercises: common identity formation, perspective-taking, counter-stereotypical exemplars and consider the opposite.
Learn more about Dr. Capers’ work around implicit bias.