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  • Professional Service

Holistic Review

Holistic Review considers the “whole” applicant.

Holistic Review refers to mission-aligned admissions or selection processes that take into consideration applicants’ experiences, attributes, and academic metrics as well as the value an applicant would contribute to learning, practice, and teaching. Holistic Review allows admissions committees to consider the “whole” applicant, rather than disproportionately focusing on any one factor. The core principles of holistic review are outlined below.

Core Principles

  1. Applicant selection criteria are broad, clearly linked to school mission and goals, and promote numerous aspects of diversity as essential to excellence.

  2. Selection criteria include experiences and attributes as well as academic performance. These criteria are:​​​​​
    1. Used to assess applicants in light of their unique backgrounds and with the intent of creating a richly diverse interview and selection pool and student body,
    2. Applied equitably across the entire candidate pool, and
    3. Supported by student performance data that show that certain experiences or characteristics are linked to that individual’s likelihood of success as a student and/or physician.
  3. Schools consider each applicant’s potential contribution to both the school and the field of medicine, allowing them the flexibility to weigh and balance the range of criteria needed in a class to achieve their institutional mission and goals. 
  4. Race and ethnicity may be considered as factors when making admission-related decisions only when aligned with mission-related educational interests and goals associated with student diversity; and when considered as a broader mix of factors, which may include personal attributes, experiential factors, demographics, or other considerations.*

*Under federal law (and permitted by state law)

Tools and Resources

The AAMC has compiled tools and resources to assist admissions officers and program directors in applying holistic review to their selection processes.

Socially Accountable Admissions: Using a different lens to evaluate medical school applicants and promote workforce diversity

This webinar highlights effective strategies UC-Davis School of Medicine has used to increase enrollment of historically underrepresented and excluded students and to achieve institutional community health goals. Admissions tools, recruitment policies and practices, community partnerships, innovative pathways programs, mission-focused school tracks, and the use of a socio-economic disadvantage score in a race-neutral admissions process are all described. 

This webinar highlights effective strategies UC-Davis School of Medicine has used to increase enrollment of historically underrepresented and excluded students and to achieve institutional community health goals. (82 minutes)

Mitigating Bias in the Admissions Process

This presentation is an excerpt from the 2022 AMCAS Cycle Opening and Mitigating Bias in the Admissions Process webinar held on June 10, 2021. The purpose of this segment is to raise awareness of how bias can influence the admissions process as well as steps individuals, their committees, and reviewers can take to mitigate bias. The presentation featured 3 speakers who focused on different aspects of bias in admissions. Below you will find information about each speaker, as well as their area of focus for the presentation.

This presentation is an excerpt from the 2022 AMCAS Cycle Opening and Mitigating Bias in the Admissions Process webinar held on June 10, 2021. (24 minutes)

Tiffani St. Cloud
Director of Educational Initiatives, Equity, Diversity, & Inclusion, AAMC
Topics:

  • Defining Implicit and Explicit Bias (Start-2:11)
  • Bias Research (2:11-5:00)
  • Common Rating Biases and Rating Errors (5:00-11:16)

Quinn Capers, IV, MD, FACC
Associate Dean for Faculty Diversity, Vice Chair for Diversity, and Inclusion
U of Texas- Southwestern Medical Center
Topics:

  • Developing an Evidenced Based Standardized Test Score Cut-Off (11:16-15:24)
  • Implicit Bias Reduction Strategies (15:24-17:30)

Sunny Nakae, MSW, PhD
Senior Associate Dean for Equity, Inclusion, Diversity and Community Partnerships
California University of Science and Medicine
Topics:

  • Defining Elements of Bias (17:30-22:40)
  • Conducting Equity Impact Assessments (22:40-End)

Bias Breakers: Continuous Practice for Admissions and Selection Committees

This training goes beyond onetime awareness of unconscious bias and focuses on bias recognition and mitigation strategies for admissions committees. Through active learning, the curriculum incorporates committee comments and highlights admissions structures to illustrate what bias can look like and sound like. Each bias type is illustrated with original graphics designed by medical students and is accompanied by concrete strategies for illuminating and mitigating the bias. There is also a review deck that can be incorporated into committee meetings, briefings, and trainings to encouraged space repetition and continuous practice.

2023 AMCAS Cycle Opening and Mitigating Structural Bias in the Admissions Process

These two recordings are excerpts from the 2023 AMCAS Cycle Opening and Mitigating Structural Bias in the Admissions Process webinar that took place on June 14th, 2022.

Dr. Sunny Nakae discusses what structural bias is and provides tools and strategies for mitigating structural bias within the admissions process. (18 minutes)
Antonia Brathwaite and Dr. Leila Harrison explore how the AMCAS Integrated Admissions Reports can be used to address structural bias within the admissions process. (32 minutes)

Holistic Considerations in Light of the Intersections of Covid-19, Racism, and Inequality

These tools and resources encourage admissions officers to consider and discuss changes to applicants’ life and academic circumstances in order to promote consistency, equity, and fairness for all applicants.

This presentation outlines some of the important ways that applicants’ personal lives and academic preparation have been impacted by the pandemic and provides considerations for discussion at your school. (9 minutes)

Holistic Review Primer for Admissions Officers

These tools and resources provide an overview of holistic review in admissions. This primer is designed to quickly help you 1) review the criteria you are prioritizing and 2) define and assess if your materials and processes reflect your priorities.

This presentation introduces you to the conceptual underpinnings of Holistic Review as applied to medical school admissions. (8 minutes)
This presentation helps you to think through the elements of the medical school admissions process you can influence and control and how Holistic Review can be applied to your admissions process. (4 minutes)

Holistic Review Primer for Program Directors

These tools and resources provide an overview of holistic review in residency selection. This primer is designed to quickly help you 1) review the criteria you are prioritizing and 2) define and assess if your materials and processes reflect your priorities.

This webinar was a partnership between the AAMC and the Organization of Program Directors Associations (OPDA). It features Jennifer Swails, MD, the program director of the Internal Medicine Residency Program at McGovern Medical School at the University of Texas Houston. In this presentation you will learn:

  • What holistic principles are and why they are important
  • How holistic principles can help program directors screen in mission-aligned applicants
  • Ideas for incorporating holistic principles into screening and selection processes 
  • Ways to apply holistic principles in ERAS and the supplemental ERAS application to find the applicants you 
     
This presentation introduces you to the conceptual underpinnings of holistic review as applied to graduate medical education. (8 minutes)
This presentation helps you to think through the elements of the resident selection process you can control and those you can influence and how Holistic Review can be applied to resident selection. (4 minutes)

Scholarly Publications About Holistic Review

The following publications provide information about the effectiveness of holistic review as well as promising practices in the field.

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Who we are

Advancing Holistic Principles Advisory Committee

  • Mark N. Beard, MD (MESL Liaison), Dean of Medical Education, The University of South Dakota Sanford School of Medicine
  • Joanna R. Fair, MD, PhD, Senior Associate Dean of Graduate Medical Education and Designated Institutional Official, Professor and Vice Chair of Academic Medicine, University of New Mexico School of Medicine
  • Jorge A. Girotti, PhD, MA, Research Assistant Professor, Department of Medical Education, University of Illinois College of Medicine (Retired)
  • Charna Kinard (OSR Liaison), Class of 2023, TCU and UNTHSC School of Medicine
  • O’Rese J. Knight, MD, Assistant Professor, Department of Ophthalmology, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • Jennifer M. Lucero, MD, MA, Associate Dean of Admissions; Vice Chair, Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, David Geffen School of Medicine UCLA 
  • Sunny Nakae, MSW, PhD, Senior Associate Dean, Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Partnership; Associate Professor of Medical Education at California University of Science and Medicine
  • Dimple Patel, MS, (GSA Liaison), Associate Dean, Medical School Admissions, University of Minnesota Medical School, University of Minnesota
  • Erik Porfeli, PhD, (Vice Chair), Professor and Chair of Human Sciences, Human Sciences Administration, The Ohio State University
  • Tanisha N. Price-Johnson, PhD, Associate Dean for Student Affairs, Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California
  • Will Ray Ross, MD, MPH, (Chair), Associate Dean for Diversity, Principal Officer for Community Partnerships, Alumni Endowed Professor of Medicine, Division of Nephrology, Washington University School of Medicine
  • Colin E. Stewart, MD, Program Director, Child and Adolescent Psychiatry; MS3 Psychiatry Clerkship Director; Associate Professor of Clinical Psychiatry, Georgetown University Medical Center
  • Monica Vela, MD, FACP (GDI Liaison), Professor of Medicine, Department of Medicine, Director, Hispanic Center of Excellence, University of Illinois College of Medicine
  • Mark B. Woodland, MS, MD, FACOG, Chair and Clinical Professor OBGYN, Reading Hospital/Tower Health; Interim Academic Chair, OBGYN Drexel University College of Medicine

Call for New Advisory Committee Members

Learn how to become a member of the advisory committee. Submissions due by Monday, February 6, 2023

AAMC Staff

  • Amy Addams: Director, Student Affairs Alignment and Holistic Review, AAMC
  • Benita Kornegay-Henry: Holistic Review Specialist, AAMC
  • Michelle Shader: Director, Holistic Initiatives and Learning, AAMC
  • Raechel Timbers: Manager, Holistic Initiatives and Learning, AAMC

Contact us for more information.

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