Out of all the different types of MMI questions and medical school interview questions you might encounter during your interview, students are always wondering how to ace medical school interview policy type questions. You’ve probably heard of questions like “tell me about yourself”, but policy questions are in an entirely different category. Before your interview, you must familiarize yourself with the hot topics of your profession and be ready to discuss current issues. In our blog, you will learn how to answer medical school policy interview questions!
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What is the Multiple Mini Interview?
Multiple Mini Interview (MMI Interview) and traditional/panel questions that ask you to address substantive matters of policy or practice in medicine afford you an opportunity to exercise your 'big picture' analytic skills while also showcasing your prior experience in the health system, from volunteering to work to research. You may also receive different types of questions, like “why do you want to become a doctor?” For policy questions, you can’t refer to your medical school personal statement or other materials to help you prepare. In addition to facing policy interview questions in the form of a prompt, you can also expect to see them as a MMI follow up question. And although you might find medical schools that don’t require the MCAT, you won’t find any that don’t use interviews as a major selection factor.
In Sherwin B. Nuland's Doctors: The Biography of Medicine, he describes the most essential criteria for answering a technical question in the life sciences: clear, concise, complete, correct and consecutive. I would like to posit that while these criteria don't make for the most interesting answers, they make for very doctor-like answers. These criteria will make you look prepared and systematic. Use them, because unlike medical school GPA requirements, interview questions don’t use the same scoring metrics, so you will need to refer to a more stringent rubric to prepare. But before you start, you should have these two questions answered: "how long does it take to prepare for the MMI?” and “when do you hear back from medical schools for interviews?” Having a timeline prepared will allow you to create a more efficient and effective review schedule to increase your chances of success in the interview.
What are Policy Questions?
Policy interview questions are questions that assess your awareness and understanding of current events, laws, policies, and standards of practice in your chosen profession. Answering these questions requires a level of technical knowledge, as you will need to be able to discuss the issues presented in the question from each relevant perspective. Medical school applicants often think that these types of questions will always be relevant to medicine, and they often are, but that isn’t always the case. You may be asked about current events in other fields, perhaps distantly related ones, or about politics and ethical situations involving controversy that affect the medical field.
What makes these questions distinct is that your personal opinion or perspective is just a fraction of your total answer, or at least it should be. Medical schools are looking for nuance and the ability to understand different perspectives and to come to a reasonable conclusion based on facts. Compared with scenario questions or medical school MMI acting stations, these questions are more knowledge-based and integrative than most.
Policy Question Examples for Top Schools
- What do other countries do better than we do?
- Would you ever perform euthanasia or an abortion?
- Do you think that asking people to donate their tissue to a lab is coercive?
- Would you tell a terminally ill patient that they are dying or remain optimistic?
- Why is there so much inequality in health care?
University of Toronto Medical School
- What are the ethical issues surrounding carrying out AIDS vaccine trials in Africa?
- How do you rationalize concerns about animal rights with an interest in research?.
- What is wrong with the health care system in Canada today? If you were the minister of health, what would you do to fix one of them?
- What challenges do we face over the next 30 years in terms of health care policy?
- What is something that prevents US health care from delivering optimally for underserved communities?
- Tell me how you would fix the health care system.
- What are your thoughts on animal research and animal testing in the medical field?
- How do health care systems in other countries compare to ours?
- How would you solve the 45-million no access to health care problem?
- What are some important issues affecting health care nowadays?
- How do you think the health care system in the United States compares to that in Sweden?
- What is your opinion on gene therapy?
- Is it ethical for medical students to be allowed to treat patients in public hospitals?
Watch this video to learn the HARDEST MMI questions you need to know!
Common Policy Interview Question: "What is the Greatest Challenge Facing the Health Care System?"
What is this question asking?
This question is asking you to communicate competently around a major issue relevant to the health care system in your country, state, province, town, or even neighborhood. Even the easiest medical schools to get into will ask you challenging questions like this. You might’ve even read a similar question in medical school secondary essay examples.
The goal is not to pick the correct issue, there is no correct single issue, but you should know something about three or four 'pillar issues'. Pillar issues include: health human resources, integrating technology into health systems, patient confidentiality, access to primary care, health equity, appropriate use of emergency medical services, cost containment, managing inefficiencies, adequate provision of mental health services, antibiotic stewardship and the social determinants of health. Remember, some of these questions are regional. So, if you’re applying to medical schools in Canada, for example, your answer will depend on Canadian policies. The same can be said for DO vs MD – if you’ve submitted a DO school application, you need to be aware of the unique challenges facing the health care system with osteopathic principles in mind.
What should you know about each of these? Enough to articulate a few sides of the issue, future directions, core ethical tensions implicit in the issue and relevant legislation and policy. You should also have your own position, rooted in reasoned deliberation and evidence. The best way to start your answer is with a story from your lived experience. If you've been an ER patient care volunteer, then you should talk about how insufficient access to primary care after hours in Canada leads to inappropriate use of ER services during evenings and weekends. This is a significant inefficiency that you could discuss using a particular story of a patient you met or saw. Please ensure that you always respect patient confidentiality. Talk about how the ethical tension of the issue played out for that patient or their family.
How do you structure your answer to policy questions?
For any MMI question, you will need to have a well-structured answer. Additionally, having a formula prepared for these types of questions will allow you to answer any question that comes your way. Remaining calm is of course, very important – but staying calm is typically a product of good preparation. Take a look at the structure you must use for policy-type questions:
How Should You Talk About Your Accomplishments While Also Answering Policy Questions?
In addition to using real narratives from patient stories you've witnessed through your medical school requirements like research or volunteer work, you can lend credence to your perspective on the most important issue by talking about relevant experiences. For example, if you volunteered in a food bank, you can discuss food security as a threat to reducing the burden of cardiovascular disease and obesity in your area. If you did research on lung cancer or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), you can talk about smoking as a core driver of morbidity and health care expenditures. If you're from a rural area, you can talk about differential access to specialized care for people in rural and remote settings. Your objective should be to connect the story of the most important issue to the reason you want to become a doctor and why you would be an excellent doctor. As we have discussed on this blog, knowing why you want to be a doctor is among the most significant hurdles in the application cycle. I don't mean that you should have a vague notion in your mind about why you want to be in medicine, I mean you should have a cohesive and compelling written paragraph about why you want to be a doctor and it should ring remarkably true for you.
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Where Do I Learn About Core Issues Facing the Health System in Canada & the United States?
First off, you should get to know the Canadian and/or American Health Acts. This is the core legislation enshrining the principles of health care systems in the US and Canada. Second, you should understand how hospital and physician services are paid for and regulated in your jurisdiction. Check out your state/provincial sites. Also, consider combing your local and national papers in the months before your interview so that you can absorb a variety of voices on important matters. Of course, if you've got time in your schedule, it makes sense to take a health policy or health studies course. Learning the language from someone with an advanced degree in the topic can make understanding the vast challenges facing doctors and the health care system more straightforward. It is your responsibility to develop a point of view on the system you aim to work in and you do patients a great service by becoming a reasoned advocate.
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Sample Questions and Expert Answers for Common Policy MMI Questions
Check out the following expert sample answers to policy MMI questions:
1. The nursing workload is a significant problem that needs to be addressed. Often nurses find they do not have adequate time to complete the tasks that are required of them in the time given each shift. How does this impact patient care? What are the implications for the nurses and the work culture and environment? What are the potential policy changes that can help alleviate some of this workload pressure?
MMI Policy Question Expert Answer #1
2. What is your stance on universal basic income?
MMI Policy Question Expert Answer #2
3. What role do the social determinants of health play in the practice of medicine?
MMI Policy Question Expert Answer #3
4. What is the difference between Medicare and Medicaid?
MMI Policy Question Expert Answer #4
5. Discuss any topical health care issue that is unique to the region for the medical school you are applying to.
MMI Policy Question Expert Answer #5
Want to know how to prep for an MMI without memorizing questions and answers? Check out this video:
1. What are medical school policy-type questions?
Policy-type questions are interview questions assess your awareness and knowledge of policies, politics, or current events in healthcare. The admissions committee may also ask you about a specific policy or topic that isn’t necessarily related to health care.
2. How do I structure my answer to policy questions?
Your answer should have the following components: restatement of the issue, the pros and cons (or sides of the argument), and statement of your opinion. You should use facts to support your position, which means you should do some research on current events and policies related to medical field.
3. Why are policy questions asked?
1. Why are policy questions asked?
Admissions committees ask policy questions because they can show how informed and interested the candidate is in health care. Doctors need to keep up with current events in the world and in their fields in order to adapt to certain technologies or information that can help them treat patients more effectively.
4. How many policy questions will be asked in the interview?
This depends on the school and the admissions committee. Not every question will be a policy one, but you should anticipate at least a few. You will most likely face a variety of different questions, including personal or quirky or weird ones.
5. How long should I spend preparing for the interview?
Ideally, you should give yourself eight weeks. However, keep in mind that every is different, and you should personalize your schedule to fit your strengths and weaknesses.
6. What is the best way to prepare for the interview?
The best way you can prepare for your medical school interview is to do realistic mock interviews. These are most effective because you can pretend as if you’re in the actual interview to practice things like posture, cadence, and answering questions using the proper structure.
7. What are some examples of topics I should be aware of?
You should know about the health care system in your country. For example, if you’re in the US, you should be able to differentiate Medicare and Medicaid. You should also have some general knowledge of other health care systems so you can explain how the US system can improve.
8. How do I talk about my accomplishments while answering policy questions?
To talk about your accomplishments while simultaneously adhering to the policy-type question structure, you can support your points with relevant experience. For example, you can talk about relevant research or clinical experiences.
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