Behind the Scenes with Deans

Admissions Tips for the University of Maryland School of Medicine

Below is a transcript of the conversation with Dr. Kathryn Robinett, Assistant Dean for Admissions at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

An Introduction of Dr. Kathryn Robinett

I am Dr. Kathryn Robinett. I am a University of Maryland alum and currently the Assistant Dean for Admissions here at the University of Maryland. After medical school, I did my internal medicine residency at UNC Chapel Hill for three years, then returned to Maryland for a four-year pulmonary and critical care fellowship. In 2011, I joined the faculty.

I’ve always been interested in admissions and who gets to be a physician. My MCAT was not the strongest, and I was taken off the waitlist at the University of Maryland, partly because of the understanding that it’s not just about numbers. I joined the admissions committee as a second-year student and continued to be involved, eventually becoming the Assistant Dean for Admissions once I was faculty. Undergraduate medical education is crucial; we aim to produce doctors we want to work with in the future and who will take care of ourselves and our loved ones. The team here at Maryland is terrific, with a fantastic Office of Medical Education, Office of Student Affairs, and Office of Student Research. It’s a great place to work.

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What Makes A Pre-Med Applicant Stand Out?

The question of how to get into medical school starts with whether you truly want to be a doctor. It involves having reflective and discerning thoughts about your experiences and shadowing. My first shadowing experience made me realize it wasn’t for me, but later experiences during research made me fall in love with it. We look at motivation because medical school is long, expensive, hard, and emotionally and physically taxing. The best applications show thoughtful messaging about the applicant’s motivation for medicine beyond wanting to be a doctor since childhood.

At the University of Maryland, we closely examine community service. Being a physician means being part of a team and working with people from different backgrounds. Community service demonstrates the ability to work with diverse populations. The applications that stand out are from those who are genuinely passionate about their service, not just checking a box.

What Are Some Recent Changes to the Medical School Admissions Process?

I’m proud to be at Maryland because we’ve always done holistic reviews of applications, looking beyond numbers. More data shows that health disparities shorten lives, and we need physicians who meet patients where they are. Diverse teams do a better job of taking care of diverse patients. We’re moving away from objective cutoffs like GPA or MCAT scores and focusing more on experiences and personal qualities. Admissions deans across the country are embracing this shift.

What Makes the University of Maryland School of Medicine Special?

I love the people at Maryland. Initially, I didn’t plan to stay in academic medicine, but during my fellowship, I got to know the faculty, patients, nurses, and physical therapists. This campus is unique, hosting all our professional schools: medical, nursing, social work, pharmacy, dentistry, law, and physical therapy. Our patients are phenomenal, providing a fantastic clinical experience. We have one of the sickest hospitals in the country with the best patient case mix, a VA hospital for veterans, and community hospitals.

Our Renaissance curriculum, launched in 2020, focuses on critical thinking, teamwork, and early clinical exposure. We emphasize humanism and working with patients and colleagues. Students start seeing patients in their first semester and engage in activities with standardized patients to learn essential skills like delivering bad news.

What is Your Biggest Piece of Advice for Medical School Applicants?

Make sure this is what you want to do. Taking care of sick people is not for everyone. Spend time shadowing to confirm your desire to pursue this career. Apply early and ensure your application is the best it can be. Most of our students take gap years, and it’s not seen negatively. Get to know your professors during undergrad, as their supportive letters can be crucial.

What Additional Tips or Info Would You like to Share?

Discuss your identity on applications if it has influenced your decision to pursue medicine. We want to hear about who you are and how your life experiences have led to your interest in being a physician. Baltimore is a fantastic place to live, with vibrant city life, great sports teams, and diverse experiences. It’s a privilege to live and work here.

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