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The changing face of admissions

This year the Medical School welcomed two new associate deans of admissions to its Twin Cities and Duluth campuses. Dimple Patel, M.S., moved from Denver, Colo., to Minneapolis in mid-May to assume the role of associate dean of admissions for the Twin Cities campus. In August, a former colleague at the University of Colorado Medical School, Robin Michaels, Ph.D., began as associate dean of student affairs and admissions for the Medical School’s Duluth campus. Michaels will also hold a faculty position in the Department of Biomedical Sciences.

Here’s what they had to say about recruiting and selecting the right mix of students at their respective campuses.

Dimple Patel, M.S. (Photo: Dan Marshall)

Dimple Patel, M.S.

What forces shape the admitted student profile?

Students are coming in with more diverse experiences because they know their acceptance into medical school is more than just about their MCAT scores and GPAs. We are not only looking for applicants who have demonstrated outstanding academic achievement but also have had leadership experiences and performed civic-minded activities outside of the classroom.

Admissions committees want those experiences to speak to an applicant’s ability to communicate, lead teams, and work with people who are different from them. We want applicants who will actively engage in their own learning process and development. Our patient population is changing, and the admissions process and who is selected must change to meet their increasingly diverse needs.

What new approach do you bring to this position?

I believe in recruitment. Medical schools do not have to recruit in ways that other programs might have to at the undergraduate or graduate level. If we want to enrich the medical education experience and educate a diverse physician workforce, we must seek out candidates who will fulfill that need. Simultaneously, we must grow a more robust researcher pipeline. Research experience can no longer be an option; it must be strongly encouraged and cultivated.

What wisdom are you eager to apply at the U of M?

The African proverb “It takes a village” resonates with me. recruiting and retaining a diverse and competitive applicant pool requires the commitment, dedication, and hard work of the broader community — beyond the admissions office. Faculty play an integral role in this process, and we should create opportunities to engage them and their expertise.

What’s your admissions philosophy?

We must seek excellence by actively recruiting topflight students. We cannot expect they will simply show up. Most important, we must be aware of whose face is missing in our classes and research labs. Those are the people who are very likely silenced in our patient population. Until they see faces like theirs providing high-quality health care, they will remain silent and untreated.

Robin Michaels, Ph.D. (Photo: Jeff Frey)

Robin Michaels, Ph.D.

How do you know you’re selecting the “right” students?

Nationally, about 8 percent of medical school seniors select family medicine in their residency match. In 2013, 45 percent of our medical students from the Duluth campus selected family medicine residencies. Since our first graduating class in 1976, 49 percent of our alumni have selected family medicine. We are second in the nation in graduating American Indian physicians. It’s all about our mission and whether we’re meeting the mark. Looking at our data, I’d say that we are.

What attracts applicants to the Medical School, Duluth?

Our students and faculty appreciate the small community feel of our regional medical school program, with a class size of 60 and all classrooms, labs, faculty offices, and administrative offices housed in the same building. That said, our students benefit from having faculty who are doing cutting-edge biomedical and community-based research, and from the extensive clinical experiences that are built into the curriculum. Each student has two family medicine physician preceptors, one in the Duluth area and one in a rural setting. Students have their first clinical experiences in the first week of school, learn how to take a patient history and do a physical exam during the fall semester, and visit their rural preceptor for their first weeklong visit in January of their second semester.

What wisdom are you eager to apply at the U of M?

Always keep your sense of humor, work together as a team (it’s more fun that way and there’s safety in numbers!), be up-front when problems arise, ask for help when you need it, say you’re sorry when you screw up, put your ideas out there even if everyone thinks you’re crazy, and always keep your eye on the prize of providing our students with the best curriculum, resources, and support they need to be successful and happy.

What’s your admissions philosophy?

Open the door and provide people from all backgrounds with a vision of what is possible, then help them get there.

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