I fully intend to write about cows after the comment on my previous post, but need to make sure, for practical reasons, I write this first.
So I interviewed at Yale and UC Irvine on Friday and Monday and here are my thoughts on the two schools and some in general.
Firstly, the campus is gorgeous. The faculty seems extremely supportive of the students, with a large amount of involvement in the programs. The anatomy and the facilities looked really good (negative airflow under the cadavers, new covers, lecture halls were cool). The thing that stood out was the level of maturity they treated the students. The Yale System essentially means their students are free to study as they like. All the lectures are recorded and posted online. They don't have exams (or they have 2 exams per semester and one is optional; the other you take online independently from wherever you like). If you don't get enough points on the one exam, you talk to the professor about why and take it again. The grading is directly pass/no pass for the first two years, and the students say it make for a very collaborative environment.
The students seem brilliant. They were really impressive. Student research is incredible. They've required their students do research since forever ago. They have a wide variety of research projects in a wide variety of fields (including international health, work with TB, etc.).
They have a really international focus, with many students choosing to go abroad over the summer. They have grants that can be applied to that pay for everything. They even said that sometime international medicine and techniques from other countries are taught. 20% of the class are international students. The doctors there do lots of work abroad; the chair of the OB/GYN department goes to Jamaica annually to run a week of a birthing clinic. The guy who interviewed me knew Paul Farmer from college.
By way of service, there are student run clinics and a poor community that the students do reach out to in New Haven. Also, many of the people I talked to before the interview were very interested in service. One of them came from Africa to Yale. Another was a Christian who had done intense medical missions throughout her college career.
The food looked amazing. They had mini roach coaches with every kind of food you could imagine (tacos, asian soups, pastrami). Also, you could eat in any of the 46 dining halls on campus.
New Haven was very cold. I know I'll be inside almost all of my life, but still.
US News put Yale's research at 10th, their primary care unranked, their business school at 14, but with nonprofits, #1.
The thing that seems to make UCI unique is community. This kept coming up again and again. They spend time together, they party together, they play sports together. They really seem to get along and trust each other. Especially within PRIME, the classes are only 12 people, but they really bond on a 5-week trip to Mexico. The student body seemed very laid back. They were stressed about their test, but even still, half a dozen came out to have dinner with applicants the night before.
The PRIME-LC program really impressed me. They actually work with Paul Farmer's PIH in Chiapas. Their leader, Dr. Vega has a very exciting vision and the leadership of the organization that makes it a reality. He is a man I would like to follow.
Community service seems to be a big thing at Irvine. The students have just pushed to open their free clinic; it will be less than a year old when I start. They have a chapter of Flying Samaritans who work in Mexico, and LMSA which does counseling for high schoolers. The students have worked in the Palestine studying the impact of the conflict on the health of the refugees, in Chiapas studying promotor model, and in Chiapas deploying better stoves (for indoor air pollution). They do seem to have a very international focus.
I'm starting not to see differences in the medical schools themselves. They have pass, no pass, honors grading but say its not competitive. They claim they are more laid back than other medical schools, and have competitive IM sports, so it seems enough time to practice to win Basketball. They seem very social and have the time to be thus. They are also very politically active in supporting universal healthcare and "equality" (more Mexicans) in medical education.
The quality of applicants were rather lower than at Yale (not surprisingly). The kinds of schools that people went to, the things that they had accomplished were much less. Nevertheless, they were much more conversational than the Yale applicants. Perhaps because the faculty was better at encouraging it.
The facilities seem to be older. The only new one is a new simulation center that has three dummies to poke and prod. The faculty (besides PRIME) did not seem especially supportive. The administration is amazingly flexible like in other medical schools. The school has a mediocre external reputation (50 in research, 41 in primary care, 53 in business).
Last night, I was high on UCI. Today, after going over my notes about Yale, I think that would be my choice if I had to decide right now. I was talking with a friend and realized that the service work in Medical school is only a shadow. I should get as well equipped as I can through medical school; the purpose is training. Service is an element, but I'll be doing plenty of service the next 50 years of my life. I can stand to be better trained. The connections I'd make in PRIME-LC would be better if I knew I'd be working in Latino health care in California. I do not know that. It's certainly a possibility, but it is less than likely. Yale's connections would be more general. They have a higher percentage of students who have done community service, and those doctors will have far more power in the world than UCI's will, both at home and abroad.
UCSF was quite underwhelming to be honest. Nobody I met really cared about service. Everyone was doing research. They were happy, had no grades and had a great education like everyone else. Their students were smart, but the applicants were the most asleep that I've yet seen. I was not impressed by UCSF.
Vanderbilt deserves another look. I had nothing to compare to when I went there. Their faculty have a huge commitment to serving abroad (I'm still on the email list). Their rankings are good (top 20 in research), with a very high number of students with experience abroad. The applicants were awake and the students were happy. Maybe I'm favoring Yale simply because it is fresher in my mind; Vanderbilt seems better regarding international service, though lacking in rankings and business school.
I think Yale's strength of students/applicants, international work, and rankings make it a better choice than any other medical school I've been to. UCI is more exciting because it'd be easier, closer to home and more able to work in Mexico, but frankly would not equip me as well as the others. UCSF was asleep. I should go back over my notes on Vanderbilt, but right now feel Yale is better.
The leader board: