A large group of students, colleagues, faculty, and alumni from three Yale Schools gathered on Friday, February 9, in the ballroom in Harkness Hall to thank Yale School of Medicine Director of Admissions Richard Silverman for his 40 years of service to Yale University and its students.
Prior to his tenure at the School of Medicine, Silverman was associate director of admissions at Yale College (1977 – 1983) and director of admissions at the Yale School of Management (1983-1999).
Since coming to the School of Medicine in 1999 as director of admissions, Silverman has reinvented the admissions process for hopeful Yale medical students, driving major efforts to digitize and streamline the application process. In 2000, Silverman collaborated with Yale Information Technology Services and the American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS) to enable prospective Yale students to apply online. AMCAS, part of the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), coordinates the national medical school admission process and administers a common application used by most medical schools nationally. Yale was one of the last of the major American medical schools to abandon the traditional paper application, and thanks in large part to Silverman’s efforts, go online.
Following the successful implementation of the AMCAS application, Silverman worked to develop an online secondary application specific to Yale. He is also the longtime Yale liaison to AMCAS and AAMC.
“We've been in excellent hands under Richard’s able leadership in admissions over the past 19 years,” says Ensign Professor of Medicine (Nephrology) and Dean of the School of Medicine Robert Alpern, M.D. “His influence in helping to shape our outstanding classes of medical students will have a lasting impact.”
Silverman began his tenure as director under Thomas Lentz, M.D., professor emeritus of cell biology. When Laura Ment, MD, professor of pediatrics (neurology), stepped into the role of associate dean for admissions and financial aid in 2007, she and Silverman collaborated to reinvent the admission process further, taking on the challenge of modernizing the Admissions Committee. Together, Silverman says, they “built the committee into a large, diverse, and very hard-working institution that has brought strong classes to the school year after year.” They oversaw changes to how the more than 90-person committee reviews the more than 5,000 applications they receive each year, and how the 700 students that are selected for interviews are evaluated and ranked.
“Richard Silverman has been the heart and soul of admissions for over two decades,” says Ment. “Applicants love him, students love him, and he has been a major contributor to the effort.”
Over the course of his career, Silverman has overseen School of Medicine applications from 73,627 hopefuls, 15,009 of whom were interviewed and greeted personally by Silverman on their interview day, and 1,927 of these were accepted and enrolled. Silverman has gotten to know the School of Medicine inside and out, and developed an intuitive knowledge about what kind of student will succeed at Yale. Because of the Yale System, a unique approach to medical education that eschews grades and class ranking, the School of Medicine looks for students who are highly self-motivated. “The Yale System enables our students to contribute to the school and to each other in ways that are really special,” Silverman says. “If you were an applicant, I would tell you that, if you come to Yale, the school that you graduate from will be a different school from the school you entered. And it’s going to be different because of you.”
Silverman himself set Yale apart in the eyes of the students who interviewed with him, and eventually matriculated. “He was the most positive person I met on my interview day,” said first year medical student Fouad Chouairi. “I felt like he knew more about me than I knew about myself. He clearly went through my application so thoroughly, and that really showed me he took the time and effort to see me as a person. And any question I asked, he knew the answer.” Chouairi recalled asking Silverman if he knew of a room on campus with a piano, in case he wanted to practice. “He told me about six places.”
“Every student, when he talks about them, they were his favorite student,” says Barbara Watts, who was hired by Silverman in 2005, and took over as interim director of admissions beginning in February. “I learned from Richard how to really care for each of the students. That’s going to be hard to duplicate, because it’s so special how he makes everybody feel so special.”
Going into his retirement, which takes place of at the end of February, Silverman will continue to employ his vast knowledge as a senior advisor to the Office of Admissions. “Nobody says that their career goal is to do university admissions,” he says. “But it’s enormously rewarding and exciting to work with young people as they are inventing themselves, and moving forward through their lives, and learning how to think about who they should be.”