Alumni Help Assemble Student Body
Want input on what makes a great physician? Ask another physician.
The admissions committee for the VCU School of Medicine includes many alumni who have decades of experience and insight into what makes an extraordinary doctor. About 10 of the 80 or so members of the committee are retired alumni and each year, they volunteer to help select the next generation of physicians.
Class of 2019
972 Total Interviews
9006 Total Applications
Last year the medical school received more than 9,000 applications for 216 spots, an increase of more than 1,000 over the previous year. Those applications are culled down to about 3,500 for the admissions committee to review. Nearly 1,000 students were interviewed by committee members.
“Working on the admissions committee can be a huge commitment,” said Michelle Whitehurst-Cook,
M’79, H’82, associate dean for admissions and an associate professor of family medicine. “But it is also very rewarding.” “It was very worthwhile experience,” said J. Latane Ware, M’59, a retired plastic surgeon who just rotated off the committee after four years. “Although it was a lot of hard work, I think I gained a lot out of it.
“One of the greatest things is that you get to see these great young people, smart and very accomplished, who want to go into medicine. “It makes you realize that we will have some good doctors to take care of us in the future.”
His classmate, Gilbert Bryson, M’59, H’66, a retired general surgeon who served three years, agrees. And not only does the committee try to identify the brightest prospects, “we try to persuade the truly outstanding ones to come to school here.”
Admission is very competitive. “We use a holistic review process,” said Whitehurst-Cook. “Grades and
MCATs are very important, but not the only thing we consider. Community service and clinical experience are important to let us know that the applicants know what they’re getting into. Not every smart person should be a physician. You have to be smart and nice to be an MCV student. And they are – and a lot of that goes back to who interviews them.”
The hours spent reviewing applications and interviewing students were gratifying, said Ware and
Bryson. Is there a downside? “Sometimes you interview someone you know would make a good physician, but, sadly, they don’t get accepted,” said Ware.
The intergenerational admission committee, which meets weekly, includes a variety of voices, from retired to practicing physicians, administrators and also current medical students.
“It’s wonderful to have retired physicians on the committee,” said Whitehurst-Cook. “The students look up to them and love to interact with them and talk about what life was like when they were in school.
And then we all get to celebrate in the spring when the fourth-year medical students find out where they’re going to match for residency.”
Bryson and Ware said the interviews were a great way to keep up with current trends in medical schools even long after being students themselves. “We always say that we don’t think we – or most people in our class – would get in today,” said Ware, who recalls that tuition was about $750 per year when he attended.
Today’s admission committee most likely wouldn’t look favorably on a candidate like Bryson, who walked away from undergraduate studies to begin medical school. Bryson was finally awarded an honorary bachelor’s degree from Hampden-Sydney College in 2013.
Did you know?
This story first appeared in the Fall 2015 issue of the medical school’s alumni magazine, 12th & Marshall. You can flip through the whole issue online.
Both classmates credit their education on the MCV Campus for allowing them to have fulfilling careers.
“The world changes, and medicine is different than when I began, but I would do it again,” said Ware.
Whitehurst-Cook is grateful that Ware, Bryson and other retired alumni choose to help the school this way. “They’ve been awesome and their input is invaluable,” she said.
It’s an experience that Ware and Bryson highly recommend.
“I felt very strongly about this opportunity to give back to the school,” said Bryson.
Ware sees it the same way. “This medical school allowed us to do lots of things in life because of what we gained here.”
By Lisa Crutchfield