Medical All You Need to Know about the New Frist College of Medicine [Episode 558]

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Show Summary​

Let’s learn about the newest medical school in the United States in this interview with Dr. Caleb Marsh, the Director of Recruitment and Pathway Programs of Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee. Not only that, but Frist is still accepting applications for its inaugural class matriculating this summer. In this conversation, Dr. Marsh details the program’s offerings and highlights the whole person approach at the core of the curriculum. He invites applicants to join on the exciting journey and play a part in shaping the program.

Show Notes​

Thanks for joining me for the 558th episode of Admissions Straight Talk. Are you ready to apply to your dream medical schools? Are you competitive at your target programs? Accepted’s Med School Admissions Calculator Quiz can give you a quick reality check. Complete the quiz and you’ll not only get an assessment, but tips on how to improve your chances of acceptance.

I’m delighted to be speaking to Dr. Caleb Marsh, Director of Pathway Programs and Recruitment at the Thomas F. Frist, Jr. College of Medicine at Belmont University. Dr. Marsh has over 20 years of health professions administrative experience, having served as a health professions advisor and/or director at Baylor University, the University of Texas at Austin, Temple University, Southern Methodist University, and Temple University’s CST post-baccalaureate pre-health program. He has a wealth of experience to share with us today.

In addition to his extensive professional advising experience, Dr. Marsh most recently held roles on the National Association of Advisors to the Health Professions Technology Committee and served in a variety of leadership roles in pre-health professions advising organizations of different stripes and I guess geographies. (This article was originally posted on

Dr. Marsh, thanks for joining me today. I’m delighted to speak with you. [2:11]​

Thanks, Linda. I’m happy to be here.

To start, can you give us an overview of the Frist College of Medicine’s program focusing on its more distinctive elements? [2:17]​

Sure. One of the most distinctive parts of the program is that we’re the newest medical school in the country. I think that’s pretty distinctive. We’re right here in Nashville, which gives us an opportunity to really quite literally build things from the ground up physically in the space of this brand new, beautiful building that we’re putting up here in Nashville, as well as building a brand new curriculum and building a brand new culture here. So I think those are all things that you’ll never hear from us here at the Frist College of Medicine. That’s the way we’ve always done it because we haven’t ever done it a way before. So it’s a really exciting opportunity.

That certainly is. In terms of taking advantage of this newness, what are some of the ways that Frist is cutting a different path? [3:00]​

You’ll hear us talk about the whole person approach to medicine a lot. It really shows itself in two ways. One of those ways is how we train our students to treat patients. To treat patients not just as a disease, not just as a symptom, but really as a whole person. Knowing that that sickness can cause other problems maybe in your family life or personally or you may be getting sick because of other reasons that may be something happening in your community or a number of things that could be going on in your life that aren’t just the sickness or the disease. So we really want to train our doctors, our future doctors, be leaders in that. We want them to be diverse physician leaders, and we want them to be trained in ways that can help treat the whole person, a whole person approach.

Also, that responsibility falls on us too in how we treat our students, knowing that our students are whole people and that they’re not just robots that take tests and spit out grades, and they are people and they also have personal lives and things going on. And especially, I’ve worked a lot with non-traditional students in the past through my work with post-bac programs. And so I know that sometimes students, yes, they’re adult learners, some of them are young, but some of them are going to have families and other things that they’re trying to juggle as far as being parents or just being pulled in a lot of different directions, which can distract them from being able to do really well in school. So we really want to look at our students as whole people, especially because we just know how much that can impact their academic performance in the classroom and their ability to be a future doctor down the road.

I know there’s a shortage of doctors obviously, and that’s why we need more medical schools. What niche or need is Frist trying to meet beyond the general need for physicians? [5:05]​

A few years ago, there was this charge, just a couple of years ago, a charge from the Association of American Medical Colleges that said… It’s just exactly what you described, we have a shortage of physicians. So that was the first charge. One is contributing to a diverse healthcare workforce. So you’ll notice as you go through our mission, vision and values that creating diverse physician leaders is part of this process too. And so not just having diversity for the sake of diversity and diversity in the broadest sense of definition. So we are looking at people that are from different backgrounds. People tend to think of race and ethnicity as a diversity category. Yes, that’s an important component, but also geographic diversity, age diversity, diversity in education, the types of schools where students might’ve attended, the types of majors that they might have and the backgrounds that they have. When you look at what creates a diverse physician leader, that’s some of those components.

And if you look at the namesake, Thomas F. Frist, Jr., he’s a former flight surgeon. So he’s a doctor by training, but he’s also an entrepreneur. He’s also been involved in politics, and so he has this background that lends itself to being involved in a lot of things. And by nature, he’s a leader in all of these areas. So we want to instill that in our class. So we think it fills that niche of helping people get out there and not just practice medicine, but also be leaders in the field and drive the field forward. We saw this happen a lot during COVID when people were having to make big decisions, public health leaders having to make big decisions, doctors having to make big policy decisions. And so training people to think of the greater community as a whole and how that’s going to impact other people is a big part of what we’re folding into the culture here at the Frist College of Medicine.

What does whole person approach mean practically? I have an elderly relative, and if I go with my relative to the doctor, she has I think 10 different doctors. And the primary care physician is like a traffic director, but I don’t think any one of them is taking a whole person approach to anything. [7:23]​

And I think that exactly, we’ll call it a problem, that you’re describing is what we want our physicians, once they leave, to be trained to think about that interconnectedness with their colleagues and with the families, not just the patient. But you brought up a great point that you’re treating a patient, and the whole family is involved, especially when there’s parents or children. So this idea that you mentioned and that we talk about too, which is this personalized medicine, it’s for lack of a better term, it doesn’t mean we’re going to customize our curriculum, for example, to fit our students. It’s not ”Come here and you can customize your curriculum the way you want,” but we want to think about this idea of medicine isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach. We want to turn that on its head.

Yes, people are similar, but people aren’t the same. And so we want to train our docs to be able to look at people as individuals to say, yes, here’s a treatment plan. Yes for people your gender or age bracket or with this disease have similar treatment plans, but every person is different in the way that that may be delivered, the way they’re going to react to it, and the way their family is going to react to it. So we’re building these in, and there’s parts of our curriculum that we’re calling threads. They’re threaded throughout. They touch on things like medical ethics, health systems, health literacy, health advocacy, health equity. Even things like anti-racism and spirituality, things that really are looking at not just the symptoms, again, not just the disease, but that community as a whole. And so I think that that’s where that personalized approach, that personalized medicine really comes into play.

When you’re talking about personalized medicine or personalized medical education, it’s more focused on the patient as opposed to customized medical education for the student? [9:36]​

Right, yeah. We don’t want to give the false impression that when they come here, they’ll be able to customize and personalize the curriculum in the way they want.

And once they get to the fourth year, then they can choose electives? [9:55]​

Exactly. So in the fourth year, built into our curriculum is the opportunity to choose electives, to do a deeper dive into some of the things that they’ve been exploring since year two, and then really get into the preparation to go into residency.

Frist is associated with Belmont University, which is a Christian university, and its teaching philosophy is, “To cultivate a collaborative spirit driven by faith, intellect, humility, curiosity, and calling.” What if one is of a different faith or calling or of no faith? [10:16]​

This is a great question, and you’re exactly right, Belmont University, our parent organization, is the largest ecumenical Christian university in the country. But I think you talk about that point, that word faith doesn’t say Christianity, right?

So I think that this is a great point and an important opportunity to let students know that if they’re interested in applying to the Frist College of Medicine, they don’t have to be a Christian. We want to be open to people of all faith backgrounds and potentially even those that have no faith background, but we want this to be a place for students to come. When we say create diverse physician leaders, we mean that in every sense of the word. We want students to be able to come here, feel safe, feel comfortable, and feel like they belong. Belonging is a big part of what we’re about at the Frist College of Medicine. In fact, looking at people as a whole, that also involves the things that they’re dealing with in their spiritual life as well.

So yes, we just want to make sure that’s very clear that that’s not a prerequisite, nor are students looked at in a different light. Nowhere on your application are you going to be asked, are you a Christian or not? And that in no way, shape or form will be. But we want you to feel like if you come, you can practice your faith in the way that you would like.

I’ve interviewed several admissions directors from both medical school, business school, law school where the school is a Jesuit school and they put front and center, I think I’m going to butcher the Latin, I think it’s cura personalis, a certain Jesuit tenant. Do you think the Christian affiliation is going to influence the medical education at Frist because they certainly felt that this Jesuit tenant was critical? [11:58]​

I think you talk about schools like Georgetown and Loyola. So you’re right. It does influence that. One of our tenants is servanthood. We see medicine as a service profession. I think whether a med school weaves that into their culture or not, you’re still in a service profession if you want to be a physician. You’re seeing folks at their most vulnerable, when they are at the lowest point in their life, and so I think you’re kidding yourself if you don’t think that medicine is a service profession because it is. And so I think we’re just embracing that a little more directly. That service component servanthood is one of the values listed in our mission, vision and values. And so I think that’s a tenant that we’re really grabbing onto much in the same way that a Georgetown or a Loyola or a Creighton would embrace that.

Let’s turn to the application. Since Frist recently received preliminary accreditation, it is accepting applications to its first class now, right? [13:36]​

Exactly. Yes.

The deadline for submitting this year’s AMCAS primary is February 29th, 2024, so it might be the newest medical school, but I think it has the latest AMCAS deadline. The deadline for this year’s secondary application is March 15th. Now, if I were to apply or somebody else were to apply between now and February 29th, would I be at a disadvantage since it’s so late in the cycle, or if I was thinking, if I don’t get in now, I want to reapply? [13:47]​

I would say to that, for Frist College of Medicine, you are not at a disadvantage because everyone is in the same situation that’s in our applicant pool. Now, if you’re applying to another school and you haven’t applied by now, then yes, you would be at a disadvantage for many of the other schools, given that most schools’ deadlines, they start sometimes like October 15th, November 1st, et cetera. So for us, no, and I guess this is a good point to bring up. We haven’t even begun interviewing applicants yet. I don’t know when this will go live and be published, but we will start sending out interview invitations around the middle of December, and then we will start interviewing in January and probably interview into late March, early April, depending on how long our assistant dean for admissions wants to continue interviewing applicants. And so that’s the window that we’re looking at.

And you’re right, it is after the fact, but again, it doesn’t put our applicants at any disadvantage in our pool. And then of course, as you stated, March 15th, we close out our cycle and then a matter of six weeks later, we will open it back up.

On May 1st to start it all over, and then on November 1st will be our deadline in cohorts moving forward. So also, I’ll mention this since we’re on this topic, our first cohort will have 50 students in it. That second cohort that I mentioned that starts May 1st, that cohort will also have 50 students in it. Then we’ll continue to increase the size of our class. Our third cohort, we’re estimating will probably be 75 maybe. And then what we hope to do by the time we get to our fourth class is have a class of about 100 students. And so we’ll work up to that and then we’ll probably stay at 100 students. That’s where we feel like we can really provide the most support to our student population, really get to know the students. If we’re going to preach whole person approach, we really need to have a class size that allows us to really tune into what our students are feeling and doing at the time.

You mentioned earlier that you recently received preliminary accreditation. First of all, congratulations. I know that’s an enormous amount of work. Can you explain what preliminary accreditation means? And do you think graduates of this first class or first couple of classes will have any problems getting residency placement? [16:25]​

So I’ll tell you what the first part, the preliminary accreditation, which we received on October 11th, at that point, it meant we can now recruit students and we can now start accepting applications. Of course, then you have to put the mechanics into place. Opening up AMCAS, we immediately tried to get our AMCAS application open. That’s the first step, preliminary. The second step would be provisional, which if you are part of our first class, you will be part of that process. That is part of what our first two cohorts will be a part of. And so around the second year, we will go through what’s called the provisional accreditation process, and there’s a whole literal giant process behind that too. And then we’ll go into the full accreditation when we graduate our first class. So this is not special to the Frist College of Medicine. This is every new medical school goes through these processes.

But to answer your question about residency, we don’t anticipate any issues with our students being able to apply and be accepted to residencies of their choice. That’s the goal. I think you’ve seen TCU, for example, I think is one of the more recent examples of a med school that just graduated their first class fairly recently. Maybe about a year ago, they graduated their first class, received full accreditation. We have University of Texas at Tyler who’s about a year ahead of us in this process. And so there’s new schools. And also a reminder that the process for accreditation is ongoing. Even after you’ve been fully accredited, you have to do things to maintain that accreditation. So it’s an ongoing process. So we don’t anticipate there being any problems, but we also understand and acknowledge that our students that are applying. May have some anxiety about that, they may be anxious about that. Completely normal to have those kinds of feelings, but again, I would encourage students.

This is also another reminder that we want to try to attract students who are a bit adventurous, who are trailblazers, who are okay with maybe a bit of uncertainty into how this is all going to play out. This whole process of you being able to apply as an applicant to residency, it involves us doing what we need to do, but it also involves our students working hard, performing well in their exams, and also performing well in their clinicals. So there’s a lot of components that go into this. Yes, angst-ridden, but I think applying to residency is angst-ridden, whether you’re at a new school or a well-established school.

Applying to medical school also. [19:13]​

Applying to medical school. Exactly.

Are there any tuition breaks for the inaugural class or classes? [19:18]​

That’s a great question. As a new school, this is something you’ll probably hear us say a lot, I don’t know or maybe. At this point we don’t have any news to announce about that. I would love to have come on here and be able to break some big news about a donor with tuition and scholarships, but there’s no news to break there. But that doesn’t mean it won’t happen. It just means that currently those announcements haven’t been made and haven’t been solidified. Again, we just received accreditation in October, and I can imagine if you’re a donor, you wanted to wait and see how that went down before you decided to pledge anything. But to this point, no big announcements or plans for large scholarships, like what you may see at many new medical schools. I will say though, all students, because we’re connected to Belmont, which is already a degree granting undergraduate and graduate institution, you’re already eligible for FAFSA and any of the financial aid that you would be eligible for as an undergrad or graduate student anywhere else.

Do you expect your medical students to have had prior clinical exposure? Most medical schools, if not all, do. Is there any kind of clinical exposure or experience that you prefer to see or that is not so valuable, for example, shadowing versus virtual shadowing? [20:27]​

Well, that’s an interesting question because we know that in this post-COVID world, people are just trying to get those opportunities where they can. To answer the first part of that question, yes, it is an important component. Having clinical experiences, it’s such a crucial part of a couple of things. One is it’s important to the student because it helps them understand is this the profession for them? So I think getting exposed to those clinical experiences sometimes is less to prove to us as admissions and recruitment folks as much as it is to prove to the student that this is the real career path for them. You’ll also see on our website, there’s a block of text that talks about what we’re looking for in applicants. And you’ll see that that last bullet point says, “Students that are committed to the fierce work of medicine.”

And I think this ties into that idea of clinical experiences, to know what the fierce work of medicine is, to understand the truth of medicine, to understand that medicine has its good days and its bad days. That’s an important thing to know, and I think the only way you can get that is if you immerse yourself in a clinical environment. It doesn’t mean you’re doing surgery and saving lives, but it means that you’re seeing that and you’re seeing how physicians interact with patients, how they interact, as you pointed out earlier, with other doctors, how they interact with other members of the healthcare team. And so I think, can you get that virtually? Maybe, but I think there’s no substitute for being in a clinic and seeing it firsthand. I think it also helps applicants in two other ways. One is it helps you with your personal statement. You’re going to be asked to write a personal statement. You’re going to be asked to tell what motivates you, and it’s much easier to do that when you have experiences backing that up.

And then the final way is at the interview. It’s where you really get to not just tell the story, but really start to tell examples and really start to flesh out what that experience looked like and be able to talk about that in person.

I couldn’t agree more with you. I don’t know how anybody can go into medicine or many other fields without at least some exposure to what the day-to-day is like. Every so often you hear about somebody who did that, not necessarily in medicine, but another field and it worked out and that’s great, but most of the time it’s kind of risky. Medicine is just a very demanding field, both in terms of the time investment, the money investment, and the emotional investment. [22:53]​

It is. And you bring up another good point, I think, when you’re talking about differentiators between medical schools. All medical schools are going to train you to be a doctor. Part of the accreditation process is to have the infrastructure in place to do that, but you bring up this point of physician burnout, physician stress. It’s an epidemic, it’s a huge problem, and so another component of what we’re doing here at the Frist College of Medicine that we think is really important is a wellness piece. And we have someone on staff dedicated to the wellness of our students, and this is just, again, that whole person idea of helping students learn ways to cope with these stressful environments, to stay balanced, to have friendships that extend just beyond the classroom. And so you’ll find wellness to be a major pillar of what we’re going to be asking of our students here at the Frist College of Medicine, and it plays exactly into what you’re talking about. It’s designed to address that idea of physician burnout and physician stress.

And just the stress that’s intrinsic to the profession. You’re dealing with life and death matters and people who are facing serious situations, so it makes sense to me. [24:26]​

It’s the only profession that is literally… Well, not the only, but it’s one of the few professions that literally is life and death. You don’t see that in too many jobs. I know in my job, I don’t see that.

No, I don’t either, and it suits me just fine. [24:49]​


It’s nice to know that you have people, whether it’s nurses or doctors or PAs or whatever, who are willing to make that emotional investment. One other component that pre-meds frequently think is required, but probably is not as much required as clinical exposure is research experience. Is research a nice to have or really important to the admissions committee at Frist? [24:55]​

For us, I would say that research is nice to have. It’s definitely one of those things that plays into an applicant’s curiosity. It can demonstrate their ability to solve problems, but I think there are other ways that applicants can demonstrate that as well. Just in maybe sometimes even student orgs that they’re a part of or jobs that they may have held or other things that they’ve been involved in in college. So research is nice, it’s great. It’s needed, it’s necessary, but if a student has had a research experience and they found that research wasn’t really for them, that’s okay. I think that idea of adventure and trying research as a possible career path. I think this is another good time to point out that we do just offer an MD. We don’t have a MD-PhD or an MD-MPH, any of those dual degree programs.

We might in the future, but right now part of getting accredited is you want your ship to sail first and then you can start doing other things. And so research is great, it’s wonderful. We want students to be involved in that, but it’s not a must have for the Frist College of Medicine.

AAMC’s PREview is a part of the application process. What do you hope to learn from it? [26:31]​

So I’ll just say this, this year the PREview will not be required as part of this year’s application. It’ll probably be used in next year’s cycle, but again, I think this falls under the category of we don’t know if it will be yet. I’m pretty certain it will be though, and I think this is because there are already a lot of schools using it. By definition, the PREview is a situational judgment test, and so I think what we’re trying to figure out is do students have the ability to take a situation, ascertain what’s going on, and then apply a real-world solution to that in a way that makes sense and in a way that is ethical and demonstrates character and demonstrates logic and all of those things? And so we’ll get a score back from PREview, and that will be one of the metrics that will be used to look at applicants to be admitted to the Frist College of Medicine, starting most likely next cycle.

One thing that bugs me is when medical schools don’t post their secondaries. They’re going to get shared all over the internet. Why don’t you just post them? But anyways, you have kindly posted the secondary questions for your application online. Do you have any tips for applicants preparing to respond to them?​

Question one: Belmont University is committed to five ways of being, hope, inspiring character, future shaping, community engaging, and bridge building. Choose one and detail how this way of being impacts your life and future practice.​

Question two: As a new medical school we believe in building a culture of diversity and inclusion along with dignity and worth of all people. What do you see as the opportunities and challenges of an increasingly diverse medical community?​

Question three: Our inaugural class will play a vital role in creating a culture and will be called to thrive in a dynamic and evolving educational environment. Describe a time when you dealt with an ambiguous problem or project, any feedback you received and what you learned about yourself.​

Each essay has a maximum of 2,000 characters. What tips would you give to somebody sitting down to write to respond to these three prompts? [27:35]​

Sure. And I am 100% in agreement with you, you’re right, there’s an entire website devoted to posting these secondary application questions, and we wanted to make it very transparent. We wanted this whole process to be as transparent as we could make it, and so you’re right, posting these on the website was an important thing for our assistant dean for admissions to do, and we thought it was the right thing and the fair thing to do. Plus, we have nothing to hide so I would say that on that same note, students shouldn’t have anything to hide on these secondary applications, these questions. Be truthful, be honest, be yourself. Show ways that you’ve demonstrated these things. If you want to demonstrate a way that you’ve shown diversity and inclusion, how you have demonstrated the dignity and worth of all people and how you hold that to be an important thing, make sure that you include that. But I think just be honest, be open. The thing is we’re going to get to know you, and I think we’ve seen this with things like ChatGPT and AI and worrying about how am I going to represent myself as an applicant? At the end of the day, if we really want you and we see you and you’ve put something disingenuous in your application, we’re going to get a chance to interview you.

It’s like saying, yeah, I’ve been going to the gym every day for the last two years, and then you show up to some sort of fitness competition and you’re not in shape and you’re not ready to go. We’re going to see it at the interview day, so if you’re disingenuous in your primary app, if you’re disingenuous in your supplemental app, if you’ve used AI to write an essay, when you’re actually pressed and asked to dive deeper in a question and you’re probed a little bit more, our admissions folks are well-seasoned and they can sniff that out immediately.

You may be asked about an example that you’ve shown in your secondary so just be upfront, be yourself, be honest. I had a dean of admissions at a medical school back in Texas – he was one of my mentors – he said, “If it’s a value to you, it’s a value to us.” So don’t try to pick what you think we want to hear. Pick what’s of value to you because we are looking for people from a vast array of backgrounds, and hopefully we’ll read something in your primary and supplemental application that’s interesting, that’s a little different, but is inherently you and who you are.

I also was looking at these questions and thinking, these would be pretty hard to get ChatGPT to write any kind of substantive answer to. I don’t know if that was part of your thinking when you drafted them. Wouldn’t surprise me if it was, but they’re not cookie-cutter kinds of questions. And of course, this leads to my next question. Are you concerned about applicants using ChatGPT or AI in the application process? I think you made it kind of difficult. [31:18]​

I wouldn’t say we’re concerned or worried about it as far as it being derailing the process for us at all. We actually have been playing around with, experimenting with AI a lot in our offices. We’ve tinkered with it to solve all kinds of problems in our office to see what it can and can’t do, and I think we’re pretty comfortable. As you mentioned, there are certainly limitations to it. You’re right, we were very intentional about our secondary questions and how we structured them. Very thoughtful and intentional about how they were put together and so I think you’re right, we’re not real concerned about that as a problem. No.

What can applicants expect if lucky enough to be invited to interview? [32:38]​

Like a lot of schools, we are sticking with virtual interviews. I think most schools are realizing that that has been a good thing, and there are a lot of reasons why we think it’s a good thing. One is it’s equitable. It’s cost-effective. It’s respectful of everyone’s time. Not everyone can just buy a plane ticket, and I think this is an important time to mention we’re recruiting across the country. Because we’re a private school, we have no preference whether you’re in state or out of state or whether you are from Tennessee or not. And so one of the things that we really want to make sure that we do is allow people to interview virtually, so we’re going to do interviews virtually. People can expect to interview with two people. People can expect their applications to be closed file most likely, and meaning that most of their information will be masked ahead of time. And so that way, again, this is to address equity and to make sure that everyone is on an equal playing field as far as interviewing with our admissions committee. And so that’s an important component.

You can also expect if you are accepted, we don’t want to not allow people to come to campus. Right now, our building is an active construction site, so literally we can’t have people on our building, but we will have a second look day. And for our first cohort, that second look day, of course, will be in person, have people who are already admitted to have a chance to come to Nashville, meet us, talk to us, get to know us, get to know our vibe, and see the building and see Nashville and experience that a little bit. So that will be part of it too. And for our inaugural class, this will coincide with our building’s grand opening. We really do want our students to be a part of this whole process, and we want our students to take part in the festivities with us.

Will Frist consider update letters at any point in the process beyond obviously submission of the secondary? Are you interested in update letters? Will you accept them? Consider them? [34:42]​

I think the best way to say this is we will accept them, but we don’t expect them or necessarily need them. If a student has something, this is something that I would encourage my students a lot as undergraduates when I was pre-health advising, make sure it’s some sort of substantial update. Make sure that it’s really something that is big news, something that you really are proud of and that you want to make sure… And try to summarize it. Don’t send a bunch of tiny updates. There’s nothing more annoying to, I guess, really anyone than just a bunch of tiny, small updates coming. So I would just say accepted, but not expected and definitely not necessary.

Could you give some examples of what would be a substantive update? [35:37]​

I think if somebody were to have something published, they’ve been working on a paper and they wanted that known, if they got a new job and maybe they are now working in a hospital and have had an opportunity to really expand as maybe they were scribing or working as a medical assistant, I think those could be. Maybe they did some sort of international trip, studied abroad, I think those could all be big things that might be really interesting to know about.

On a forward-looking note, what advice would you give to pre-meds thinking ahead and planning to apply in summer 2024 or even summer of 2025? [36:07]​

I guess general advice would be continue to add to your clinical experiences, but don’t let anything distract you from really the main goal, which is to stay strong in the classroom. Take your MCAT prep seriously, and as I mentioned before, go and look at our mission, vision, and values and ask yourself, am I doing things that support these? And I think what you’ll find is that a lot of those values that we post would actually be good in preparation for any medical school to be honest, but ask yourself, how are you doing those? Go back and look at the AAMC core competencies. Ask yourself, am I addressing these? What am I good at and how can I find ways to either expand upon those or maybe push myself a little bit and learn a new skill and the meantime? But I think these are all things that in general would help you. And then once we do have our building open, if you’re an applicant and you’re interested in coming to the Frist College of Medicine, keep an eye out on our website, keep an eye out on our Instagram page.

Fill out our interest form because at some point we will start a prospective student visit program, and those students that may not be in this first cohort and maybe down the road will have an opportunity if they want to come to Nashville, see the campus, talk to us, meet us, and learn more about the Frist College of Medicine in ways that could help them make an informed decision about applying in the future.

What role do non-clinical, non-medical, non-community service activities and interests play? We talked about diversity, we talked about the whole person, I assume that would also mean a well-rounded person. If somebody plays the cello, pickleball, is an actor or actress, is that a form of diversity? Is that something that is appealing? [38:01]​

Yes, yes, and yes. I think all the examples you used are great examples, but of course not limited to any of those things. We talk a lot about class shaping and what does that look like? And we’re really trying hard right now not to think about too terribly much what our first class will be comprised of, what those students will look like, where they will be from, what experiences, hobbies, interests, and other things in their background that they’ll have because we know from experiences in working with pre-med students and working at other medical schools that that’s what makes it fun. In fact, if you find out that you have, I don’t know, three or four students that all play different instruments, you now suddenly have a little chamber orchestra, a little band. You may have some people that can sing. You may have a talent show. I think these are all things that right now are undefined, but we will let the students define what they want this culture at the Frist College of Medicine to really be about. And so yes, all of those things are really fascinating.

Plus I always think of it this way, if you’re fun to be around at a party you’re going to be more fun to be around in medical school too. And so I think it’s just anything interesting we’re going to be interested by it. I think that’s a great point. So live a little, go experience. I had a student in the past who he came to me, he had been admitted to medical school and he said, “Caleb, my band that I’m a part of has been invited to participate in a national tour of bands. Should I do it?” And I said, “Do it. You’ll never get this opportunity again. Take a gap year, go tour with your band, have fun.” And then he, of course came back, applied to med school, brilliant student. Again, don’t let those things distract you from the task at hand academically, and he went on to med school and had a fine career. So yes, tons of examples of really fun things like that so I love that you asked that question because it’s something that makes me really excited and happy.

I’m going to have to ask it more frequently because I think that applicants focus so much on the many legitimate pre-med requirements and that part sometimes just gets lost. Maybe I’ve been a little negligent too, but if I think back on the interviews I’ve had or the clients I’ve talked to I remember one guy telling me, this was probably 30 years ago, he said he wrote about being a butterfly collector in his med school application. It was the one thing he was asked about in every single interview. Another guy told me he was asked about being a bartender in every single interview. It was those elements of color that added to diversity, gave some variety to the class. I guess medical schools don’t want pre-med nerds. [40:33]​

I think that’s a great point. We want people that are developed academically of course, but we also want people that are developed socially. In fact, I think there’s a paragraph on our website that says, what are we looking for? And it says just that, we want people that are both socially developed and academically developed for the reasons you just stated so yes. And I think also those kinds of people gel better in a med school class because they find those things to be interesting even internally with each other so that’s always fun too.

What would you have liked me to ask you? [42:12]​

Well, I think one of the things that I think plays off of what we talked about is this idea of students coming that are trailblazers, that are ready to embrace a new experience, that are tolerant, and this is straight from our assistant dean for admissions’ mouth, tolerant of ambiguity. And I think I’ll preface this by saying things that I said here in this session today may change. Things may be different in a year or two because we’re a new med school, and as a student who’s applying, as a trailblazer, as that Indiana Jones mentality of I’m going to try something new, I’m going to go on an adventure. If that sounds attractive to you, this might be the place for you. And if that makes you seem so nervous and anxious that it may not be something you want to be a part of, there are plenty of other well-established medical schools out there. So we do want to attract this adventurous person because we want an applicant to come here and be an active participant in the building of our culture.

When we say, come here and build something special with us, we mean it. We want them not just passively show up and be in med school, but we want students to come here. We don’t have a student-run clinic yet. Someone asked me in an info session the other night, are you going to have a student-run clinic? And I said, “I don’t know, that’s up to you. By definition, a student-run clinic is run by the folks that show up.” So I think that that’s the one thing I would like to impart is that we’re looking for people that see this as an adventure and see it as not a hurdle, but an opportunity.

Great answer. Thank you so much, Dr. Marsh for joining me and sharing your expertise today. [44:03]​

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