I was pathetically nervous for my first multiple mini interview. It was 2007. I was interviewing at a med school. They asked me a question about breast-feeding. I do not know what the question was. I do not recall my answer. I do, however, recall the intense corporeal anxiety associated with me fumbling for an answer to the question. I was so focused on figuring out the correct answer that I did not spend any time telling that interviewer about my relationship to the topic, how I think, the way I problem-solve, or who I am. I did poorly on that interview. I was not accepted that year.
Since 2007, I have participated in three MMI interviews as a candidate and two more as an evaluator at McMaster med school. Of the dozens of MMI questions I have encountered since my first MMI experience, I only felt very well prepared – substance wise – for a handful. I only had pre-designed answers for those questions that had to do with me and my life.
There is no use trying to pre-design your answers for the majority of MMI questions because it's not possible for anyone to predict them in advance. Instead it's way better to learn strategies for identifying and answering different types of MMI questions. There is a also lot of value in MMI prep that allows you to reflect on the various experiences that you’ve had that lead you to the moment of the interview. In addition, there's value in reflecting on your own opinions, your moral persuasions, your own biases, and your own view of the major issues facing our public today.
Before I tell you more, if you like us to help you with your MMI and learn how to identify and ace different types of MMI questions, click the button below to learn more about our MMI prep programs. You'll have the option of unlimited prep with mock MMIs until we're confident you are 100% ready. And we put our money where our mouth is. Everything comes with our 100% satisfaction guarantee and a couple of our programs even come with our Get In Or Your Money Back guarantee. We do this because were were students just like you and we only create programs we believe in ourselves and willing to offer our own family and friends at full prices. Click the button below to enroll now or use the organe button on the next page to schedule a free initial consultation to learn more.
OK. Let's keep going. In this blog, I’ll draw on my own experiences on both sides of the MMI interview, helping you understand the MMI and providing key tips for performing effectively during your own MMI interview. As well, you’ll see sample MMI questions and expert responses, to help you think through your own approach to this challenging interview format.
Overview of what you will learn about preparing for the MMI Interview in this blog:
Section I: Understanding the MMI Interview Format – Important information about the history, structure, and goals of the MMI interview, so that you understand what is being evaluated, how the MMI is scored, what key qualities are under investigation, and how effective the MMI is in making those evaluations.
Section II: 8 Pro Tips for the MMI Interview – Key tips for acing the MMI Interview. Here, you’ll receive practical advice for the day of your interview, as well as useful instructions for preparing in advance.
Section III: Sample MMI Interview Questions and Expert Responses – Sample questions and answers to help you learn to construct strong MMI Interview responses of your own. You’ll also find links to a wealth of free instructional and informative resources to help maximize your MMI prep!
If you'd like to jump ahead to one of these sections, simply click on the section link above.
MMI Interview: Understanding the System
If we could, we would try out potential doctors in the clinic and in the hospital to test their suitability for the profession. We would try out potential lawyers in a courtroom. We would "test run" aspiring candidates in their chosen field, seeing how they actually conduct themselves in professional circumstances. But this is completely unrealistic. All we can do is leverage a system that is designed to have each candidate paint us a picture of who they may be as a physician, lawyer, nurse, pharmacist, veterinarian, and so on. We can then map our impression of each candidate onto the clinical or professional setting based on their responses to how they would behave or respond in a variety of stressful, ethically-nebulous situations.
What is the system that has been designed to show evaluators who each candidate may be as a future practicing professional? It is the MMI. This unique, and now popular, interview format began in 2002 at McMaster University as part of a research project aimed at understanding how to select for the kinds of medical students that would eventually become humane, and competent doctors (though, it must be noted, the MMI is not used only for medical school today – many programs in veterinary medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, nursing, and others now utilize the MMI). McMaster was hyper-aware that medical schools across Canada & the United States were graduating future-doctors about which patients frequently complained.
The Official Interviewer Manual is in the public domain and it explains how McMaster uses the MMI to select for specific traits in their student body. Much like CASPer test prep, preparing for the Multiple Mini Interview – or MMI – begins by understanding it as a situational judgment test (SJT) claimed to help interviewers identify soft skills, such as communication, professionalism, and adherence to ethics, and to more accurately predict medical school performance based on such an evaluation. If you have made it to the MMI interview stage, it is because you have achieved solid academic accomplishments, put together a compelling application, scored well on the MCAT or other standardized tests, performed well on a CASPer test, or some combination of these. So, congratulations on getting this far! But, the MMI is a significant hurdle, but getting through it simply requires understanding it, ensuring you’re practicing effectively, and getting expert feedback on your MMI prep.
Here's a brief video explaining the present and future of situational judgment tests (SJTs)!
MMI Interview: Understanding the Interview Structure
At a Multiple Mini Interview, each candidate is asked to participate in a variety of short, problem-based stations. Traditionally, these stations last for 10 minutes each and there are 12 stations in each interview. However, there are many variations on these details. There are many different types of multiple mini interview questions, and each station involves something new: a new patient or client to engage (i.e., an actor), a new issue to problem-solve around, a debate on which to opine, a team-building exercise to complete collaboratively.
Multiple Mini Interviews can vary in length, but the fundamental components are the same. Prior to meeting with the interviewer at each station, you will be given a prompt – this could be a direct question, a scenario, a role for you to play, a quote to ponder, etc. – and you will be given a short amount of time to consider the prompt, usually 2 minutes. The prompt is usually provided in text format, but video format is possible, as well (for the details of the MMI you will take, please review the website of the individual institution, or contact them directly). Note that the prompts at each station are often vague or have the potential to be interpreted in several different ways; this is completely intentional and is meant to determine how you will navigate such ambiguity.
After the time allocated to reviewing the prompt has concluded, a buzzer will sound, and you will enter the interview space with the interviewer (and/or the actors or other interviewees with whom you will interact at the station, in acting and collaborative stations). At that point, you will have a limited amount of time to discuss your answer, generally anywhere from 6 to 10 minutes. Often, though not always, the prompt will be available inside the interview space, so you don’t have to memorize it, but you should contact the school to find out if this is the case (you can also ask about the duration of each station, whether you’re allowed a pen and paper to take notes, etc.). During the interview time, if you’ve concluded your answer before the time expires, the interviewer may ask you a follow-up question about your response, which you must also attempt to answer within the allotted time; if there is no follow-up question, you will simply remain in the room with the interview until it is time to move on. Review our blog to learn how to answer multiple mini interview follow up questions.
After the answer time is up, another buzzer will sound, and you will move to the next station. You must stop your answer when this time is up – even if you haven’t finished your sentence. The interviewers are instructed not to let the answer go over the time limit, under any circumstances. This pattern continues until you have completed all stations.
MMI Interview: Understanding How the MMI is Evaluated
The MMI is not intended to test your pre-existing knowledge within the field you’re pursuing. Rather, it is a test of your analytic and communications skills, your ability to problem-solve in a social context, and your overall suitability for the profession. Interviewers do not necessarily have a background in the program or profession; they could be practicing professionals, or they could be professors, students, or even people from the general community.
Interviewers are instructed to evaluate each interviewee’s performance relative to all other interviewees that day. Your performance is evaluated via a Likert scale from 1-10, where 1 is “Unsuitable for the profession”, and 10 is “Outstanding”. You will not receive feedback from the interviewers at any point.
Learn more about how the Multiple Mini Interview is scored:
It’s important to note that all aspects of your presentation for the day are under scrutiny for professionalism and suitability for the profession. That includes things like your physical presentation, so be sure to review our medical school interview attire blog (with tips that are pretty universal, in terms of profession). Check out this link for tips on how to prepare on your interview day.
Here is a video exploring a frequently-overlooked aspect of MMI performance evaluation -- your behavior in between stations:
MMI Interview: Does this System Actually Work?
First, we have to mention that the MMI is not perfect and in a previous blog we highlighted some shortcomings inherent in multiple mini interviews.
Here is a 2013 systematic review synthesized over 10 years of MMI research. The most important questions that MMI researchers ask are:
1. Is the MMI at least as good as a traditional panel interview in predicting future performance on medical licensing exams?
2. Is the MMI at least as good as a traditional panel interview in predicting professionalism in practice?
The systematic review found that the answer to the first question is: Yes.
The answer to the second question? Not sure, more research is required.
The findings persist for assessment of MMI performance as a valid predictor of licensing performance for international medical graduates (IMGs) (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/19493182/). In their 2009 study of MMI validity for licensing exam performance predictions, Eva et al write "although a complementary predictive relationship has consistently been observed between grade point average and MMI results, the extent to which cognitive and non-cognitive qualities are distinct appears to depend on the scope of practice within which the two classes of qualities are assessed" (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/19659490/). That is, in some practice settings, there are professional skills that matter but have nothing to do with the cognitive assets employed on the licensing exam. Conversely, there are practice settings for which the professional skills required match the cognitive and non-cognitive skills assessed in the licensing exam perfectly. So, when it comes to figuring out if the MMI will predict things like possible future complaints from regulatory bodies, the verdict is still out.
Though it was originally designed as a vehicle for assessing personal traits and professional acumen in medical students, it is claimed that the MMI is actually a great predictor of cognitive performance as assessed by the licensing exams. Licensing exams do, however, have sections dedicated to the legal and ethical issues of medical practice but do not test their deployment in a simulated clinical setting.
First and foremost, as you may already know, and as evidence shows, you must practice with realistic, timed simulations and get expert feedback for your responses to learn from your mistakes. I’ll talk more about that shortly, but there are some other important tips to review first.
MMI Interview Tip #1
Relax: Examiners and actors want you to be at ease so they can get to see the real you. It is common for students to anticipate an audience who wants to see them mess up, who wants to call them out on some failing. But let me tell you a secret: You audience wants to see you succeed. No one wants this to be stressful – including your interviewer! No one is out to watch you fail. Everyone present wants to have an interesting conversation with you. They want to see you at your best, so they can give you a fair evaluation. Remember, they’re not necessarily looking for reasons to exclude you, to strike you off the list of candidates; they’re also looking for reasons to keep you.
MMI Interview Tip #2
Thoughtful Quality: Take your time to say a few things of substance rather than rushing into a topic with a bunch of clichéd phrases while you buy yourself time to think up something good. Just take a second. Take a deep breath. Square your shoulders. Smile warmly. You already have something of substance to say because you’ve been practicing and reading widely. In your MMI preparations, review multiple mini interview sample questions and answers to see this thoughtfulness in action (more on this in Section III).
You can even look for inspiration in the headlines and the world around you as you prepare for your MMI. Here’s an example of an ethical dilemma in the news:
MMI Interview Tip #3
Show Empathy: When situations call upon you to be in relationship with another person, situate all your actions and positions from an “If I was in their shoes, what would this be like?” perspective. This shows intellectual adaptability and humane situational analysis skills. And it’s what is asked of professionals every day, all day, particularly in medicine, nursing, law, dentistry, veterinary medicine, teaching/scholarship, or any career that allows you to serve others or has others relying on you for advice, guidance, and instruction.
MMI Interview Tip #4
Ethical Acumen: Know your ethical principles and the legal framework for controversial issues. If you’re an aspiring medical student, read Doing Right, by Philip Herbert, and be prepared to draw upon the terminology in framing your responses. Whatever your desired discipline, review the ethical standards of the profession prior to the MMI interview. You don’t need to know the ethical code inside and out, but you do need to show that you understand the kinds of ethical responsibilities you’ll be expected to take on, and that you’re willing to invest yourself – even at this early stage – to beginning the process of internalizing these ethical principles.
MMI Interview Tip #5
Don’t force the story, but try to tell it: Often, you will see no direct parallel between the MMI question and your own life. That’s ok. Don’t try to worm in a story about your time on the volleyball team when they’re asking you about end-of-life care. But if the question is about handling conflict, for example, you can definitely share some insight into your life and particular situations where you have experienced something similar.
MMI Interview Tip #6
Learn the different types of MMI questions: There are many different types of MMI Interview questions, including scenarios, policy questions, acting stations, collaborative or teamwork tasks, personal questions, and more. We’ve addressed the most common MMI question types elsewhere, so follow this link for a rundown of the seven most common types of MMI questions.
Follow this link for more detailed information on Collaborative Multiple Mini Interview stations.
Follow this link for more detailed information on Multiple Mini Interview policy stations.
Follow this link for more detailed information on Multiple Mini Interview acting stations.
Here's a detailed video discussing MMI acting stations:
MMI Interview Tip #7
Review MMI sample questions and expert responses: This will help you understand what a polished, well-thought-out, and reflective answer looks like, and how such answers convey key qualities and core competencies sought by MMI interview evaluators. Remember, this isn’t necessarily about having a robust background knowledge of the intimate details of each situation, and your own unique answers may vary considerably from these, because your answer should be yours, and not something scripted out by someone else in advance. You can think about the content of the answers and your opinions of this content, but you should pay just as much attention to how these ideas are conveyed. These answers show thoughtfulness, reflectiveness, compassion, critical thinking, and effective communication skills. This should be your goal, as well. You can see some MMI sample questions and answers at this link, and we'll have even more for you in Section III of this guide!
MMI Interview Tip #8
Learn strategies for how to prepare for MMIs in advance and get expert feedback: While there are no “correct” answers to Multiple Mini Interview prompts, there are absolutely more and less effective strategies for approaching them. Your communication, professionalism, and suitability for the profession are determined in a number of ways. The interviewers are looking to determine how many of the key ideas in the prompt you have identified, and whether you have effectively prioritized those ideas (focusing on the most pressing issue, and dealing lower priority issues later), and whether you have isolated the key pressing issue(s) and addressed this maturely and professionally.
They also need to determine whether you are objective, non-judgmental, professional, mindful, compassionate, and diplomatic, and whether you’ve carried over any assumptions from the prompt (or, better, whether you have questioned such assumptions and applied critical thinking skills in exploring the scenario). Your ability to avoid a biased, one-sided response and to consider multiple perspectives will highlight your critical thinking skills and your maturity.
It's important to demonstrate consistent ethics and the ability to maintain your ethics under pressure, and when presented with conflict, you want to pursue productive, positive resolutions, focusing on maximizing the well-being of all involved.
A response that manages to do all of these things will likely receive a strong evaluation.
While sample MMI questions and expert responses are very useful, such MMI Interview prep is only effective if you have expert feedback. Even good responses can benefit from additional consideration to make them truly outstanding, and our highly-rated, one-on-one Multiple Mini Interview prep programs give you the opportunity to work with experts, who will give you the most realistic mock MMI possible, and individual, customized feedback to determine exactly what is best about your responses, and what still needs additional work. We’ll also ensure you have the information to continue improving, while helping to build your confidence, giving you pointers on every aspect of your presentation and professionalism, and additional resources to keep practicing. Without expert feedback, there is no way to know if you are unintentionally making unconscious mistakes, missing key concepts, or carrying over assumptions from the prompt. Are you wondering how long it takes to prepare for the MMI? Check out our blog for the answer.
Here’s a video that discusses the most common MMI question types and some strategies for answering them:
Want our help in acing your MMI Interview?
If you’ve followed our advice above, you’ve reviewed common types of MMI questions (and if you haven’t, there’s the link again!), which means you understand the difference between things like “scenario” questions, “policy” questions, “quirky” questions, and “quote-based” questions. Here is an example of each of these question types, with expert responses for each.
Note that we have several more of these on our blog, The Admissions Experts, and on our YouTube channel, and you can see additional sample questions and answers here, as well: Multiple Mini Interview Sample Questions and Answers.
Sample MMI Interview Scenario Question with Expert Response
You are a family physician working at a walk-in clinic. You are almost at the end of a busy 10-hour shift and still have 3 patients to see. You must leave work as soon as you are done seeing these patients, as your spouse will be leaving for their work shift and you need to be at home with your children. Your friend, Tina, texts you and says that her partner is not feeling well; she suspects he has strep throat, and that he probably needs antibiotics. She would like you to see him and prescribe him the medication. You tell her that you are fully booked and she says, “It’s the end of the day and everywhere else is closed. Could you please just tell one of the walk-in patients to come back tomorrow and see my partner instead?” Tina is not just a friend, but a medical school classmate and a specialist to whom you often refer patients. What do you do?
In this scenario, I am a physician at the end of a long shift at a walk-in clinic when Tina, a colleague and friend, asks if I can see her partner and prescribe them antibiotics. However, I still have patients waiting to see me and family commitments that require I leave the clinic on time. My main concern here is seeing my patients in a timely manner and addressing their health issues. I also need to be mindful that I keep my spouse aware of my timing, as I need to get home on time to look after our children. I also should acknowledge my friend’s request, as she is reaching out to me for help.
First, I would need to gather some more information. I would need to clarify whether I can actually treat Tina’s partner or not. If they are both close friends, it may not be ethically right for me to treat them as patients. If it seems like I can treat my 3 waiting patients in a relatively efficient manner and then see Tina’s partner at the end of the day to assess his problem, I will do that and let Tina know that her partner can come see me. However, if it seems like my waiting patients need longer to be properly and fully assessed and I will have to leave for home immediately after their appointments, I have two options. First, I can check in with my spouse to see if there is any way I can be a little late coming home and they can wait at home with our children until I arrive, without interfering with their working shift. Failing that, I can offer Tina and her partner some alternatives for receiving care today or early the following day.
If there is no way that I can stay longer at my clinic and I need to get home to look after my children, then I cannot see Tina’s partner at the end of the day. I will let Tina know that, unfortunately, I am unable to help in this situation. I will fully explain why I cannot see her husband today and that I have patients whose health is important and who have been waiting to see me. I will speak to her non-confrontationally and gently to ensure she does not get upset. I will also proactively suggest other avenues for Tina to seek help, such as perhaps seeing an available colleague at my clinic or going to a walk-in clinic or urgent care. Under no circumstances would I not see one of the waiting patients and see Tina’s husband instead, as this would be unprofessional and I need to make sure my patients are looked after.
I will proactively look into improving the scheduling system used at my clinic, perhaps by leaving a couple of empty slots for urgent patient concerns that come up during the day. I will also check in with Tina to see if her husband was able to get the help he needed. By prioritizing my patients’ well-being, as well as the need to be home on time to look after my children, as well as considering different ways to help Tina and her husband, I hope to effectively resolve this conflict.
Here's a video with guidance in thinking through MMI ethical dilemma scenarios:
Sample MMI Interview Policy Question with Expert Response
In 2017, the Canadian government passed a law that allowed expanded parental leave for new parents. The new policy offers new parents the option to spread their original 12 months of employment insurance benefits across 18 months after the birth of their child. Discuss your thoughts on this policy with the interviewer.
This prompt addresses a recent policy change in Canada, which allows parents the ability to take 18 months of employment insurance benefits (unemployment, in U.S. terms) following the birth of a child. In this policy, the most pressing issues are the well-being of the general population and the Canadian economy. There are several pros and cons to the policy:
• Parents get to spend more time raising their children through important developmental milestones.
• Allows both parents to take time off to spend with their children.
• Fewer childcare expenses, as parents would not need to hire childcare, as children are not entering daycare until 18 months.
• Encourages bonding and breastfeeding for longer periods, which have health benefits for both mother and child.
• Greater work-life balance can improve employee productivity; returning to work early can actually result in distracted employees.
• Productivity of business may be impaired as duties and roles are continuously shuffled.
• It may reduce hiring, as small businesses may be unable to recover from an employee’s 18-month leave.
• Although this longer leave may be offered, it may be "unofficially" expected that individuals return after 12 months. Employees may feel pressured to refrain from extending their leave.
• Employers may be less likely to hire reproductive age workers, as they may be more likely to take up to 18 months off of work.
• Households may have financial strain as they will have less money per month if they elect for the 18 vs. 12-month leave. The policy offers the same amount of employment insurance funds, these are just spread over a longer period of time.
• Parents may take the 18-month leave and then not return to work.
(At this point, you would give your own opinion on which “side” you think is most compelling, explaining your rationale. As well, if there are negatives or unresolved issues leftover, you’ll want to try to think creatively about how to address them effectively. For example, employers could be given additional governmental support to find temporary workers to fill the gaps of parental leave, providing more options to precarious workers who rely on temp positions, while also ensuring the business continues to function in the absence of the worker on parental leave. The most important thing is to demonstrate a mature, reflective response that centers the well-being of others – this is far more important than any specific "agree or disagree" response to the policy in the prompt.)
Sample Quirky MMI Interview Question and Expert Response
If you could be any kitchen utensil, which would you be and why? Enter the room and discuss your answer with the interviewer.
The prompt has asked me which kitchen utensil I would choose to be, if I had the option. This is an interesting question, which could be viewed from a number of different perspectives. We could consider versatility, precision, and durability, and likely many other qualities. With these qualities in mind, I think I would choose the standard chef’s knife. This is usually a knife that has a clean edge (i.e., not serrated), approximately 8 inches (20 cm) long, and about 1.5 inches wide. The blade itself is mostly straight, with a deep curve toward the tip, and it is most often made of steel. As well, the blade has clever indents which keep sliced food from sticking to it, allowing air to flow in between the blade and the object being sliced, meaning it was thoughtfully designed. If you ever watch cooking shows and see a chef quickly slicing, chopping, or mincing vegetables, you’ve likely seen a chef’s knife in action.
Chef’s knives are remarkably versatile and have many creative uses beyond what is intended. While they are superior for slicing, dicing, chopping, mincing and other standard kitchen moves, they can also be used in many novel ways. A quick “thwak” of the sharp side of the blade into an avocado pit will allow for easy extraction, and the dull side of the blade can be used for creating dents in difficult-to-open jars, breaking the seal and making opening the jar quite easy. The curve of the blade at the tip means that it can be used for hefty jobs, such as splitting open a large, stubborn squash, or delicate jobs, such as peeling fruits or decoratively carving radishes or strawberries. As well, the flat sides of the blade can be pressed into minced garlic to create garlic paste, and the dull side is said to be useful for cracking coconuts (though I’ve not been brave enough to try this myself!). If you need to open plastic or taped packaging, a chef’s knife is usually sharp and sturdy enough to do this with ease, and it can be used for similar trimming jobs around the house. It can even be used to slice through paper or cardboard, if needed. So long as it is kept sharpened, it can be used for many tasks.
In addition to its versatility, the chef’s knife is often precisely balanced during the manufacturing process, ensuring optimal comfort, balance, and precise control, so that any food preparation work can be done quickly, effectively, and safely. The precise balance is meant to allow the cook to very rapidly process foods that need to be broken down (sliced, diced, minced, etc.), and to do so safely, with a good grip, given that the blade itself is extremely sharp. The ease with which this knife is employed makes it superior to paring knives, steak knives, and other common utensils, and it is very easy to sharpen, as opposed to serrated blades.
Lastly, the chef’s knife is remarkably durable. Often made of folded steel, a good chef’s knife can last a person their entire lifetime. While not all blades are made this way – and those that are often come with hefty price tags – even mass produced, “stamped” blades will last for many years. This allows a person to become deeply familiar and comfortable with the blade, increasing their skill over time.
So, if I were a kitchen utensil, I’d be a chef’s knife. In particular, I appreciate how versatile the blade is, and the fact that it is adaptable for use in any number of contexts. The care that goes into the manufacturing of such knives results in a tool that is remarkably precise; although it is a rather large piece of kitchen equipment, its range of usefulness is extended on the sheer basis of its precision and balance. I also like the fact that it is a remarkably durable tool, capable of lasting a person’s entire lifetime.
These qualities – versatility, precision, and durability – can also translate into the context of medicine. As physicians, we will certainly specialize in particular sub-disciplines, but we must be able to constantly adapt to new circumstances and new contexts. The flow of work differs greatly, for example, between rotations in a hospital setting and in private offices or clinics. Oftentimes, physicians must work in multiple contexts, and thus must adapt day-by-day to these very different areas of practice. As well, with meticulous note-taking and reviews of complex medical histories as an everyday part of the job, precision is fundamental in ensuring optimal patient care, where nothing is missed or overlooked. Finally, such shifting contexts and need for constant vigilance can easily lead to burnout, if a physician is not practicing appropriate self-care and building up their durability. This is a difficult and demanding (though also rewarding) profession, and the ability to shoulder that stress, to compartmentalize personal issues with which we may be struggling, and to keep our own well-being in mind as a priority, are all necessary to build up our own durability, which in turn will ensure optimal patient care, and thus optimal patient outcomes.
Sample MMI Interview Quote Prompt and Expert Response
"My humanity is bound up in yours, for we can only be human together" (Desmond Tutu). Enter the room and explain what this quote means to you.
The prompt has asked me to reflect on a quote, which reads, “My humanity is bound up in yours, for we can only be human together.” On an initial reading, the quote is perplexing, since it begins by talking about “humanity”, but then goes on to complicate that very notion, by speaking of something necessary for that human essence to become actualized. Upon reflection, this quote seems to invoke the fundamental question, “What does it mean to be human?”
I’d like to talk about each half of the statement separately, and then consider them together. First, “my humanity is bound up in yours”: I remember taking an undergraduate elective course called, “Language, Symbols, Self,” which explored the ways in which our perceptions of reality, the world, ourselves and each other are shaped by the language we use. That is, it looked at how language and communication influence who we are and how we engage the world around us. A key idea was the notion of “intersubjectivity” – the idea that both “subjectivity” and “objectivity” are insufficient concepts: over-emphasis on subjectivity suggests that we exist as isolated entities and that our ideas are wholly our own, and over-emphasis on objectivity suggests that we can wholly disconnect from our shared world and the contexts and experiences that shape our beliefs, ideals, and worldviews. Rather, because we are intensely social creatures, we learn about the world largely through others (parents, family, school, social groups, politics, etc.), and this learning takes place through various kinds of communication (verbal language, body language, popular symbols or social norms, expressions of approval or disapproval, etc.). As such, we all shape and are shaped by one another in meaningful ways – no one’s ideas form in a vacuum, disconnected from all others, and no one can wholly detach from their experiences to form a truly objective, detached perspective. We rely on each other to make meaning, so in that way, our “humanity” (how we see ourselves, how we see each other, and how we see these as related to one another) is “bound up” in the humanity of others.
Next, “for we can only be human together”. If our humanity is constructed in that exchange between ourselves and others, then to “be human” is to be socially connected to others. If we isolate ourselves and cut ourselves off from others, not only are we depriving ourselves of that shared, social experience, we are abandoning the human project altogether. “Humanity” becomes manifest in those very exchanges between oneself and others; without that intersubjectivity, we are starving a crucial part of our inner self. On the other hand, when we recognize this shared, mutual experience as a process or journey of becoming that we follow together with others, we enhance our own sense of humanity and that of others. We are – or become – “human together”.
That course, and this quote, remind me of the duty we have to one another. If we are, at least in part, responsible for the way others see the world, that is a heavy responsibility to bear, and one that should be approached with seriousness and consideration. As a physician, I will not only be responsible for helping my patients achieve the best possible health outcomes, I will also be a representative of the medical establishment. I will contribute to patients’ well-being (or, negatively, to their suffering, if I do not uphold best practices), and I will shape their understanding of their bodies, of the notion of “health” in general, and of the patient-physician relationship. Doctors are healers and educators, but they are also much more than that, in the wider public imagination. They represent a host of ethical ideals and are often viewed as authorities – one only needs to look at organizations like Doctors without Borders or the World Health Organization, or the statements of individual doctors on social media (for example, discussing the refugee crisis, treatment of asylum seekers, etc.) to see the ways in which physicians and other medical experts can contribute to and shape wider social and political conversations. We must be socially aware and socially conscious individuals, and take that responsibility seriously, as we think through our relationships with our patients and with the wider public discourse. Because of our role in patients’ lives, we can offer a unique perspective in the process of becoming “human together”.
MMI Interview Prep: Conclusion
Facing the MMI interview can be intimidating, but understanding why the MMI was created, what evaluators are looking for, and what constitutes a strong answer helps make the task more manageable. Remember, they are looking to see if you are a mature, reflective, ethical person who is well-suited to the profession. They want to understand who you are at your core, whether you've looked into the key qualities of those in the field, and how you respond to ethically-challenging situations. Reflect on who you are, what you value, and the kind of person you want to be as a practicing professional. Review sample MMI questions and look at the answers given by experts, and then consider your own position. When it's time to enter the MMI interview room, take a deep breath, open the door, and show them the thoughtful, empathetic, interesting aspiring professional you are!
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