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Yale School of Medicine Welcomes First-year MD and MD-PhD Students

August 06, 2020
by Abigail Roth

The students comprising the incoming Yale School of Medicine (YSM) MD class of 2024 experienced an unconventional recruitment process due to COVID-19, but YSM Director of Admissions Ayaska Fernando is thrilled with the exceptional group who have chosen to attend the school. “Their curiosity, passion, intellect, empathy, and diversity will enrich YSM and the broader community. We look forward to them becoming a part of the YSM community and advancing as thoughtful and impactful leaders in medicine.”

Nancy Brown, MD, Jean and David W. Wallace Dean of the Yale School of Medicine and C.N.H. Long Professor of Internal Medicine, expressed similar excitement about the incoming class. “The COVID-19 pandemic has reminded us once again that caring for patients is a unique honor and responsibility, that we are obligated to promote the health of all communities, and that we can transform health through discovery. The class of 2024 is an extraordinary group of diverse and talented individuals who have chosen to join the profession of medicine at an extraordinary time. We are committed to their success in this endeavor.”

While the full class will begin the academic year on August 10, 20 students already have matriculated, as part of START@Yale, YSM’s “Summer to Advance Research Training” program, which this year took place virtually.

The incoming class of 51 men and 49 women includes 21 individuals born outside the United States, from 16 different countries. (Belarus, Brazil, China, Egypt, France, Great Britain/UK, Ghana, India, Iran, Israel, Korea, Lebanon, Nigeria, Peru, Philippines, and Syria.) Twenty-seven students are proficient in a non-English language.

Over one-quarter of the students— 27%— identify as being part of a group traditionally underrepresented in medicine. And the class has graduates from 55 different undergraduate colleges, while 11 students are the first in their family to attend college. The 100 students represent 26 different states and US territories and Canada.

Ten of the students already have an advanced degree, and 19 are entering YSM’s MD-PhD program. Just under half of the class, 49 members, have been out of college for two or more years, with 27 students coming straight from college.

The 100 students comprising the class, selected from 4709 applicants, represent 2.1% of applicants. Their median GPA is 3.85, with their median science GPA an almost identical 3.84. And their median MCAT score is 519.

Interviews were completed in February, before COVID-19 impacted life in New Haven, so the most significant change in the recruitment process involved Second Look (SL), on March 26-27. When COVID-19 suddenly prevented large in-person events and travel from occurring in mid-March, this annual tradition quickly was converted into a highly-interactive virtual experience.

Brown and Professor of Pediatrics and Neurology and Associate Dean for Admissions and Financial Aid Laura Ment, MD, reached out to the YSM community in advance of SL, stating, “these extraordinary circumstances also present us with a unique opportunity to come together as a community of faculty and students to actively participate in recruiting these admitted students to the Class of 2024 and to give them a first-hand look at the strength of our community.”

The deans’ outreach garnered an enthusiastic response, with more than 180 faculty and students signing up to participate in a variety of creative opportunities for engaging with prospects that the YSM Office of Admissions developed and coordinated. For example, prospective students could participate in a lunchtime “Talk and Q&A with Dean Nancy Brown,” “Speed Meetings with Faculty,” a “Virtual Meet and Greet with New Haven Community Leaders,” and a “Virtual Meet and Greet with Affinity Groups.”

In advance of SL, prospective students received a booklet stating, “on the following pages, you will find information from more than 180 faculty and students who are not only willing but are also enthusiastically looking forward to engaging you and helping answer any questions you have about Yale School of Medicine.” The prospects were encouraged to reach out to those listed via email, phone, or video chat.

The widespread engagement of the YSM community made a positive impression on the SL attendees, as reflected in their responses to the post-event survey. One attendee noted, “the kindness and eagerness to engage with students of all panelists and faculty who participated in the meet and greet is what struck me the most,” while another commented, “I liked the faculty meetings! They felt very intimate although being held virtually!” Additionally, the engagement enabled prospective students to gain a wide range of in-depth perspectives on life at YSM.

A day before SL, Professor and Chair of Neurology David Hafler, MD, who was scheduled to give the Distinguished Faculty Talk on the topic of “Your Brain is on Fire,” asked if he could change his topic to discuss an NIH grant application he was working on related to COVID-19. The next day, Hafler told the prospective students about the application, and sought their input, resulting, Fernando states, in a highly interactive session that was a highlight of SL. As one attendee commented, “Dr. Hafler's talk was especially stellar and testified to YSM's capacity for rapid adaptation to a changing world and flexible thinking.”

Fernando says the conversation with the New Haven community leaders was an important part of the weekend because community engagement is a strong reason that many students choose YSM. Students had the opportunity to engage with leaders from local health organizations including Cornell Scott - Hill Health Center, Anatomy Teaching Program, Fair Haven Community Health Care, New Haven Healthy Start, and HAVEN Free Clinic.

Recognizing that students want to learn about the physical space where they would be spending the next several years, prospective students could go on three different virtual tours: the Yale campus; New Haven; and housing options on and near campus.

More prospective students participated in SL than in the past—154 registered— probably because it was virtual. One attendee expressed, “thank you so much for all of your hard work in making the virtual second look possible! It was a great way to learn about the school and to convince me of what I already know: Yale is the place to go if you are interested in becoming both a physician and a scholar.”

Looking back at the recruitment process, Fernando emphasizes, “bringing in this class was a team effort. I am deeply grateful to the Office of Admissions staff and Laura Ment’s leadership, the student planning committee, the admissions committee, and all the other faculty, staff, and students at YSM who stepped up during difficult times and were crucial to SL and continued recruitment this past admissions cycle. The strong incoming class is a testament to this teamwork.”

Submitted by Abigail Roth on August 06, 2020