1. Dismiss Notice
  2. Download free Tapatalk for iPhone or Tapatalk for Android for your phone and follow the SDN forums with push notifications.
    Dismiss Notice
Dismiss Notice
Visit Interview Feedback to view and submit interview information.

Autistic Medical Student

Discussion in 'Pre-Medical - MD' started by psypiral, Sep 6, 2014.

  1. psypiral

    Joined:
    Sep 6, 2014
    Messages:
    8
    Likes Received:
    3
    Recently, I met a student who made me curious about the interview process. I am an MD/PhD student and was doing a lab rotation over the summer (before MS1). A medical student from another school was doing summer research in the same lab. He very visibly had mild autism (noted by a few of the postdocs/residents/fellows in the lab, not just myself). Some of the symptoms included rocking back and forth, lack of any eye contact, unusual posture, a speech impediment, trouble conversing, etc.

    He was very intelligent, though, and currently goes to a top 25 med school. (Multiple publications, including first author IF 5- 10 and a second author Nature as a traditional student before applying). I wasn't about to ask him his GPA/MCAT, but I presume they were quite high.

    I'm sure he would have gotten into a top 10 med school, if he could interview reasonably well. I'm happy for him, but I'm surprised he was able to get accepted at all. Maybe he prepped incredibly hard for the interview and came off okay, but based on my limited interaction with him, the mannerisms/speech impediment alone may have hurt him.

    Have any of the adcoms ever interviewed someone like this? At some (pretty high) critical point of intelligence, does the interview become irrelevant at some schools, or was someone in the admissions office willing to take a stand for him?
     
    #1 psypiral, Sep 6, 2014
    Last edited: Sep 6, 2014
  2. Note: SDN Members do not see this ad.

  3. womanofscience

    2+ Year Member

    Joined:
    Aug 4, 2014
    Messages:
    537
    Likes Received:
    592
    MDApps:
    Status:
    Medical Student
    I'm curious about this as well. Maybe medicine and research are in his realm of focused interest so he could carry on an informed conversation. I imagine his applications were probably spot on since many autists can articulate well in writing (Loud Hands is a really good compilation of writing).

    I know that I was initially diagnosed with selective mutism, but I'm now curious if it was actually true since I still struggle with social norms and such. Hopefully someone on an adcom can give some insight since I'm particularly passionate about mental health/neuroscience/ASD.
     
    sat0ri likes this.
  4. psypiral

    Joined:
    Sep 6, 2014
    Messages:
    8
    Likes Received:
    3
    The only time I remember him initiating a conversation was when discussing research, and it seemed like he really loved medical science. Maybe that came through during his interviews.
     
  5. hoihaie

    hoihaie Membership Revoked
    Removed

    Joined:
    Mar 6, 2014
    Messages:
    1,818
    Likes Received:
    1,782
    Status:
    Medical Student
    it was probably an exception or something since he obviously has amazing talents for research and medical science.
     
  6. PreciousHamburgers

    2+ Year Member

    Joined:
    Dec 18, 2013
    Messages:
    904
    Likes Received:
    1,243
    Status:
    Non-Student
    My experience with the Autism spectrum has led me to believe that a lot more of us may fall on the less severe side of it than we think. The diagnosis seems to have a degree of subjectivity when it comes to 'mild' cases. Not really answering your question exactly, but something I have been thinking about...
     
    DermViser, JPA178, mvenus929 and 2 others like this.
  7. claduva94

    2+ Year Member

    Joined:
    Apr 21, 2014
    Messages:
    2,487
    Likes Received:
    2,831
    MDApps:
    Status:
    Medical Student
    Wow. Good for him. From the way you describe it he is definitely focusing more on the research side though? I wonder if anyone applying solely MD has been successful...
     
  8. LizzyM

    LizzyM the evil queen of numbers
    Faculty SDN Advisor 10+ Year Member

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2005
    Messages:
    21,385
    Likes Received:
    26,354
    Status:
    Academic Administration
    The goal of the MD/PhD program, as you well know, OP, is for the applicant to be 90% time in lab and 10% time in clinic as an attending. Those docs are often super-subspecialists who see referrals for complex medical conditions related to their area of research and not primary care providers. So, personality might not be as highly valued as intellectual horsepower and "good hands". I could see a Medical Science Training Program (MSTP) taking someone with a 4.0/40 and a strong research portfolio despite some deficits in interpersonal skills.
     
    DermViser and Goro like this.
  9. psypiral

    Joined:
    Sep 6, 2014
    Messages:
    8
    Likes Received:
    3
    Sorry, my initial post was unclear. I was doing a rotation in a lab at my school. He was a summer student (summer after MS1) from another school. He was MD only, which was surprising to me. He was still pursuing academic medicine - just not MD/PhD, so the same probably holds true.
     
    #8 psypiral, Sep 7, 2014
    Last edited: Sep 7, 2014
    sss1219 likes this.
  10. LizzyM

    LizzyM the evil queen of numbers
    Faculty SDN Advisor 10+ Year Member

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2005
    Messages:
    21,385
    Likes Received:
    26,354
    Status:
    Academic Administration
    That doesn't surprise me @psypiral . Some schools put a big emphasis on numbers (scores & grades) and research and less on interpersonal skills. Other schools will take a pass after meeting the applicant on interview day.
     
    DermViser and Goro like this.
  11. sobored

    5+ Year Member

    Joined:
    Feb 18, 2013
    Messages:
    334
    Likes Received:
    259
    Status:
    Resident [Any Field]
    How can you have "very visible mild autism"? Seems somewhat contradictory. And how do you know he falls in the autism spectrum and not just social anxiety? Seems kind of arrogant and inappropriate for you and your lab colleagues to label him like that.
     
    LeenoRocks and cthorburn like this.
  12. Dr. Retractor

    2+ Year Member

    Joined:
    Jul 11, 2014
    Messages:
    448
    Likes Received:
    486
    Status:
    Medical Student
    A. Mild autism is still visible because the individual's behavior deviates from social norms. It sticks out like a sore thumb, albiet not as much as a thumb snapped in half. You notice when someone has blatant disregard for what others think, or when someone is extremely arrogant or self-confident because it deviates from what you consider normal. And those are likely not involved with a mental disorder.


    B. OP listed the symptoms he observed. Have you met someone with social anxiety that has a speech impediment? With unusual posture?


    C. He wasn't "labelled" as autistic because that has a negative connotation that suggests he was ostracized because of his condition. That was clearly not the case. Based on observed behaviors, OP and his/her lab colleagues drew the conclusion that the person has a mild form of autism, and OP clearly respects him and had at least a conversation with him, showing they didn't just "label" him as autistic.
     
    #11 Dr. Retractor, Sep 7, 2014
    Last edited: Sep 7, 2014
    Goro, psypiral, Aerus and 3 others like this.
  13. mik30102

    Pharmacist 5+ Year Member

    Joined:
    Oct 25, 2011
    Messages:
    726
    Likes Received:
    536
    MDApps:
    Status:
    Medical Student
    There is a DO near me who has aspergers who actually advertises his self as such. I believe he is a family medicine physician.
     
  14. sobored

    5+ Year Member

    Joined:
    Feb 18, 2013
    Messages:
    334
    Likes Received:
    259
    Status:
    Resident [Any Field]
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11195567?
    http://apt.rcpsych.org/content/12/1/63.full.
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21337214
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3915144/

    I didn't realize we had so many arm chair psychiatrists here. What exactly makes you qualified to diagnose autism? There's more nuance to developmental disorders than you appreciate. Also, what else would you call labeling then? If you don't know someone has a disorder, yet you paint a picture of that person for us to perceive in a certain way, I'd go out on a limb and call that labeling.
     
    Charlie2 likes this.
  15. Perrotfish

    Perrotfish Has an MD in Horribleness
    Physician 10+ Year Member

    Joined:
    May 26, 2007
    Messages:
    7,948
    Likes Received:
    3,655
    Status:
    Attending Physician
    +1. Autism is really about patterns of speech and brain development, its not a symptomatic diagnosis you make without a childhood history. Most kinds of awkward people aren't actually autistic. Other possibilities on my differential:

    1) He has a cluster C disorder: he's shy and awkward, though he craves human contact

    2) He has a cluster A disorder: he's odd and doesn't particularly crave human contact

    3) He has poorly controlled depression

    4) He's overmedicated for bipolar disorder

    5) He's a well controlled but heavily medicated schizophrenic

    6) He has a primary speech impediment and has learned to avoid casual social situations because of it.

    7) He does not have a medical disorder and you just don't care for his personality.

    8) He is suffering from PTSD, insomnia, pain, or stress and it is carrying over into his social skills

    9) He is drunk or high.

    10) He hates the members of his lab group but doesn't want to abandon the group itself because he likes the research and his overall career trajectory. You are mistaking good conflict avoidance skills for a medical disorder.
     
    #14 Perrotfish, Sep 7, 2014
    Last edited: Sep 7, 2014
  16. Dr. Retractor

    2+ Year Member

    Joined:
    Jul 11, 2014
    Messages:
    448
    Likes Received:
    486
    Status:
    Medical Student
    Based on the OP, he doesn't seem to crave human contact. That would have probably been noted.

    People with Cluster A disorders usually have distorted thinking (source: DSM V, I'm sure you have a copy). Good luck finding someone with distorted thinking in a top 25 MD program.

    Would someone with poorly managed depression seek out research opportunities over the summer, and presumably travel to them (I'm assuming the student goes to a medical school far enough away from OPs school to require temporary relocation)?

    I don't know that much about this, so I can't comment.

    So heavy medication of schizophrenia can cause speech impediments? Ha.

    Doesn't explain his unusual physical manifestations like rocking back and forth and having unusual posture.

    A group of people (grad students, residents, and fellows, no less) coming to the same conclusion mediates the mistakes of any individual member of the group.

    Again, doesn't explain the physical manifestations or speech impediment.

    Lol.

    Good conflict avoidance causes speech impediments, rocking back and forth, and the unusual posture?

    He wasn't just "awkward" or "weird", he exhibited symptoms that point pretty clearly to a mild form of autism (based on OP's statements).

    Cue the "pre-med vs. Resident, resident must always be right because pre-meds don't know jack ish" BS.
     
    #15 Dr. Retractor, Sep 7, 2014
    Last edited: Sep 7, 2014
    Aerus likes this.
  17. psypiral

    Joined:
    Sep 6, 2014
    Messages:
    8
    Likes Received:
    3
    Later on in the summer, he did mention he had autism. However, whether or not he had autism wasn't the purpose of my question. I'm sure many forms go practically unnoticed. The purpose of my post was to illustrate that this particular individual had a very apparent social disorder -- one that could be observed immediately after speaking or even just seeing him. In spite of this, I was wondering how he overcame the interview process.
     
    NonTradJp and Dr. Retractor like this.
  18. JPA178

    5+ Year Member

    Joined:
    Feb 28, 2013
    Messages:
    486
    Likes Received:
    496
    Status:
    Medical Student
    I agree with this. My younger brother is very severely autistic, to the point where he basically does not communicate even by writing. Considering a number of aspects of my personality, I've often wondered if I might fall somewhere on the very mild end of the spectrum, and my dad as well.
     
    PreciousHamburgers likes this.
  19. PreciousHamburgers

    2+ Year Member

    Joined:
    Dec 18, 2013
    Messages:
    904
    Likes Received:
    1,243
    Status:
    Non-Student
    Me too! Except my younger brother is very high functioning (enough so to be an Afghanistan vet!) I notice quirks about my personality and that of my father and siblings...
     
  20. womanofscience

    2+ Year Member

    Joined:
    Aug 4, 2014
    Messages:
    537
    Likes Received:
    592
    MDApps:
    Status:
    Medical Student
    Broad autism spectrum disorder is a thing. Often, relatives of a person with an ASD will exhibit certain tendencies or traits.

    As for this particular student, he could be a systematizer. For myself, I went through a stringent period of training by my custodial guardians where I was taught the "correct" responses and how to control my facial expressions during conversations since it was either respond correctly or face physical punishment.

    (I am particularly passionate about ASD and neurodiversity in general)
     
    PreciousHamburgers likes this.
  21. NonTradJp

    2+ Year Member

    Joined:
    Jan 1, 2013
    Messages:
    259
    Likes Received:
    96
    Status:
    Medical Student
    That guys is amazing. He is clearly intelligent and capable. And probably had the passion and self-knowledge to answer any questions that may have come up regarding his social interactions to get through the interviews.
     
  22. Hospitalized

    2+ Year Member

    Joined:
    Sep 8, 2014
    Messages:
    1,942
    Likes Received:
    2,604
    Status:
    Medical Student (Accepted)
    He is probably extremely brilliant. Usually the most brilliant people do have difficulty with social situations. That doesn't mean he can't treat and take care of people, but he probably is not in medicine to become a family physician. But, research and brilliant minds are needed in medicine. Said school saw this and snapped him up because he undoubtedly has great potential.
     

Share This Page