Part 8: MMI Interview Questions and Answers
Sample Scenario #1
During your first semester of medical school, your anatomy team (5 students to 1 cadaver) is holding a review session on Thursday evening for the big midterm on Friday. Your cousin’s wedding is that weekend (out of town) and you had planned to attend – leaving Thursday and returning Sunday. What will you do?
First, you will summarize the prompt:
As I understand it, I am a member of an anatomy team and we have a huge exam on Friday. Yet I had already planned to go away for my cousin’s wedding, which would result in my missing a review session on Thursday as well as the midterm on Friday. Is this correct?
Here the applicant does two things. First, she summarizes the prompt quite well to make sure she fully understands what is going on. Then, at the end of her summary, she “checks in” with her interviewer to make sure she is on track. Doing this type of check in satisfies two objectives. The interviewee makes sure she is on track and also sets the stage for possible dialogue with her rater, which can break the ice and make for a more comfortable and less stressful interview experience.
Next, Identify the issues.
It seems to me that several issues are at play here. First of all, I have an obligation to my team to contribute to the review session. As a team member, I would like to contribute to our work towards the midterm preparation. I also have an obligation to myself and the medical school. Making up an anatomy final would be a major headache (I would think). More important, as a medical student I am serious about my education and wouldn’t want to miss such an important exam.
Here our applicant identifies the issues, acknowledges her responsibility to her teammates, and illustrates that she is serious about her studies and wants to do well.
In this next step, our student seeks out more information that will help her decide how to proceed.
I would like to know how far it is to my cousin’s wedding from my medical school. Would it be possible to go to the review session and the exam and travel to the wedding on Friday night? I’d also like to know if I have committed to anything at the wedding. Am I a bridesmaid? Did I offer to help her with something on Thursday? If so, is there someone else who can help with those tasks?
Our student asks more questions and lets the rater know that she can think through this scenario and ask the questions that will help her make an informed decision about what to do. The rater may or may not offer answers to these questions but, by recognizing she doesn’t have all of the information, the student shows she’s able to see all sides of the situation.
Who are the Stakeholders?
If I left school on Thursday, I’d be letting my teammates down and I’d also be creating more work for my anatomy professor, who would need to help me make up the test. I would also be potentially compromising my own academic success and reputation. If I go to the wedding later than I had originally planned, I am potentially hurting my cousin, perhaps creating more work for someone else if I have committed to helping with the wedding.
Here our student clearly identifies everyone who might be affected by her decisions, including people not named in the scenario. She shows she can see the impact of her decision on many people and, in doing so, demonstrates her selflessness and empathy.
I actually had a similar experience recently. My good friend was having an engagement party that just happened to fall on the night I had to travel to New Orleans to present my research poster at a national meeting. This was a very important meeting that was the culmination of a year of work. I felt badly about hurting my friend; the party was really important to her. But then I told her I’d take her out for a nice lunch in the city on my own to celebrate.
By demonstrating she has been in a similar situation in her own life, our student demonstrates her commitment to her work and career. She also shows she’s able to reach compromises and that friendships are important to her.
My responsibility to my classmates and my education must come first. I would do everything in my power to explain this situation empathetically to my cousin and that I would hope to travel to the wedding on Friday after the final. If I had any responsibilities related to the wedding, I would find out who could take them over to avoid stressing my cousin.
Our student gives a clear and unwavering response to the question that was asked of her (always pay attention to what is actually being asked of you). Her rater might challenge her on this response but she knows not to waver.
I think my decision would satisfy all involved parties and would not compromise my own success or that of my classmates or my cousin’s wedding.
A quick concluding phrase to wrap it all up is a great way to end a response!
Sample Scenario #2
Your 36-year-old cousin, who is positive for the BRCA (breast cancer) gene, has just been diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer, meaning the cancer is still contained within the breast. Your cousin tells you she does not believe in traditional medicine and is refusing the treatment her doctor advises. Instead, she plans to drink “anti-angiogenic” organic green juices hourly and walk barefoot in the grass to absorb the earth’s vibrations and stimulate her immune system. What do you do? Would you try to convince her to choose traditional or alternative therapies?
As I understand the prompt, my cousin has a recent diagnosis of breast cancer and would rather use alternative medicine than more traditional medical therapies. Is this correct?
Our applicant quickly summarizes the prompt and asks the rater to verify that she is on target.
There are several concerning issues here. First of all, I want the best for my cousin. As someone who believes in traditional therapy, and because it seems she is a high risk patient, I would encourage her to follow her doctor’s orders. Assuming my cousin understands the risks of refusing therapy, however, neither I nor her doctor can force her to accept the recommended traditional therapies. At the same time, the “treatment” plan she has decided to follow is unlikely to be therapeutic.
Here the interviewee clearly states the issues, recognizing that her cousin has the right to refuse treatment and cannot be forced to engage in treatments to which she has not consented.
Missing or much needed information
I would want to know if my cousin has been told about the benefits and risks of treatment. Has she read the literature and does she know about her chances of survival with traditional therapies? Does she know which of an array of traditional therapies are options for her type of disease? Has she looked into the alternative therapies in which she’s interested ? Are there any data to support what she wants to do? I would also want to know if the alternative therapies might be harmful in any way.
By asking the right questions, our student targets the missing information that might allow her cousin to make an informed decision. Perhaps her cousin hasn’t actually reviewed any data and has a doctor who doesn’t supply the information that would answer these questions. In asking the right questions, the interviewee shows that her cousin may be making a decision without all of the information she needs.
As a relative, I have the best interests of my cousin in the forefront of my mind. Her doctor does as well. I would also want my cousin to consider her loved ones and children, if she has any. For whom else is she responsible? Her decision about how to treat her breast cancer will impact many people besides herself.
Bringing up the obvious stakeholders, herself, the cousin, and her doctor, are great and our applicant goes beyond this to recognize that every decision a patient makes influences many others.
The student has no life experiences that relate to this prompt and so skips this part of the analysis.
When talking to my cousin, I would explain my concern that she might be rejecting the therapy that would lead to the best outcome. I would encourage her to speak with her doctor to get the information and data she needs to make an informed decision. I would also offer to help her gather that data. We could do literature searches or even get a second opinion. After we collected all of the information I would then sit down with her and try to reason through everything in an intelligent and logical way. Assuming the traditional therapies showed better outcomes, I would advise her to choose the traditional route. Or, assuming the alternative therapy wasn’t dangerous according to her doctor, I’d suggest she pursue the nontraditional therapies in conjunction with the traditional.
This response shows that our student is smart, a great critical thinker, and someone who is empathetic and understanding. He doesn’t judge his cousin for wanting to choose an alternative therapy, but instead seeks out the information he will need so his cousin can make an educated decision. He becomes his cousin’s advocate and ally in this process.
In conclusion, I would suggest my cousin follow her doctor’s orders, but I would also allow her to come to that decision on her own by collecting the available evidence to support that choice.
Short, sweet, and smart conclusion!
Sample Scenario #3
A mother brings in her 6-year-old daughter, who is having a severe asthma attack and comes to the hospital for “a few breathing treatments.” You explain to the mother that the child is so sick that she needs to be admitted to the hospital for treatment. The mother refuses to let her child stay, however, saying that this has happened before, and she can treat her daughter at home with the medications she has from her home country in Mexico, from where they recently came. What would you do in this situation?
Sample Scenario #4
Premature babies, fewer than 24 weeks gestation, have low survival rates, and those that do survive often have poor outcomes. Yet most of these babies receive extensive medical care and have prolonged stays in the intensive care unit. What are the issues involved?
Sample Scenario #5
You are driving and, even though you know you shouldn’t be doing this, you respond to a text you receive while stopped at a red light. You mistakenly take your foot off the brake and rear end the car in front of you. The driver, visibly irate, emerges from the car and is walking to your car while yelling that he is calling the police. What do you say to this man?