Tucson Admissions Implements New Interview Technique

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

After years of finishing the admissions application process with traditional interviews at the College of Medicine – Tucson, the standard will be changed in the fall, by using the Multiple Mini Interview (MMI) system. The College of Medicine – Phoenix implemented the MMI process last fall.

Students interviewing at both campuses of the UA College of Medicine will now undergo an interview format known as the MMI. This method was created and first used to evaluate medical school candidates in Ontario, Canada at McMaster University.

Tara Cunningham, executive director for the Office of Admissions and Recruitment at the College of Medicine – Phoenix says that the MMI system allows students to shine and demonstrate strengths in multiple areas.

“MMIs are a series of 7-minute stations that ‘test’ attributes and/or traits sought in a medical student: interpersonal communication, teamwork, ethical and moral judgment, etc.,” she says. “Each station is guided by a ‘rater’ who interacts with the applicant by asking a series of follow-up questions, building on the initial prompt or situation that the student spent 2-minutes preparing a response. MMIs are not a debate or oratory contest, rather a structured interview occurring 10 times around different questions.”

While she addressed the benefits of this format, she said that students may want more time because, “the conversation ends just after seven minutes.”

Tanisha Price-Johnson, director of admissions for the College of Medicine – Tucson, says that this year’s admission process will benefit from using the MMI because it will address two widely recognized problems.

“One, traditional interviews do not accurately predict performance in medical school. Two, the MMI helps to address concerns about non-cognitive skills such as interpersonal skills, professionalism, and ethical/moral judgment,” Price-Johnson explains. “We decided to implement the program this year because we spent time benchmarking peer institutions this past year to fully understand the benefits of the process.”

She also explained that it helps the interviewers assess other information, in addition to what’s collected in their American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS).

“It allows the collection of data points that will monitor an applicant’s skills, aside from GPA/MCAT scores, that are necessary when interacting with the patient population,” she says.

Students generally have two minutes to prepare and seven minutes to respond to the medical scenarios that are proposed.

Casey Solem, MD, a graduate of Phoenix’s inaugural medicine class, who sat on the admissions committee for the Phoenix campus, said he thinks the “role play” interview is beneficial.

He offers advice to future and current applicants and said students should look up information for the MMI online.

“There’s a ton of preparation information out there,” he explains.

Price-Johnson encouraged applicants in the same manner.

“I would encourage them to read the literature on the MMI as well as attend interview preparation workshops,” she says. 

Cunningham also said that this process should not make applicants feel any more nervous than they have during the entire application period.

“Each interview process should be daunting in that you cannot fully anticipate what kinds of questions you will be asked, nor should you try to have a response ready. MMIs are not designed to test ‘medical knowledge’ or any other discipline, for that matter. MMIs are designed to elicit new information or ‘data’ about an applicant,” she explains.

Kyle Edmonds, MD, a 2009 graduate of the UA COM, was an interviewer for the Phoenix MMI process last year. He said that although he was skeptical of this new process in the beginning, his mind was quickly changed.

“After going through my first set of interviews, I was a convert. The short conversations allow you to dig deep into a topic with the student without worrying about making sure you talk about the other 10 topics on the list,”

Edmonds says, “It also allowed for, mercifully, short conversations with those with whom I did not have good conversational chemistry.”
Edmonds said he would encourage other alumni to get involved with the process at both campuses.

“I found it invigorating to revisit the process and get back in touch with the spirit of medical school candidates. It doesn't take that much time and provides for some interesting and, at times, thought provoking conversations,” he says.
Alumni who are interested in getting involved in the process as raters, please contact:


Office of Admissions at or call (520) 626-6214


Office of Admissions and Recruitment at or call (602) 827-2005.