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What Is Medical Student Performance Evaluation (MSPE) And Why Does It Matter?

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As soon as you cross over to the fourth year of your st.kitts medical school, you enter a new phase of your medical journey: choosing a specialty and applying to medical residency programs. But after you have applied to desirable residency programs, aced your medical residency interviews, and paired with your chosen residency programs, it is time for residency directors to access your medical school performance. This is where residency directors will need something called the ‘MSPE’ to scrutinize you objectively. Let’s see what the MSPE entails and why is it so important to medical students?

What is MSPE?

The Medical Student Performance Evaluation (MSPE), also known as the dean’s letter, is a letter that provides a comprehensive evaluation of a medical student’s salient experiences and performance in medical school and is an important piece of the ERAS residency application. The MSPE plays a crucial role in residency program selection, since it gives your medical residency directors an honest and objective cumulative snapshot of how well you’ve done in your Doctor of Medicine (MD) program, as evaluated by your medical school, and helps them gauge your potential as a resident. Therefore, it is essential for medical students to work closely with their medical school’s administration to ensure that their MSPE accurately reflects their accomplishments and strengths. However, keep in mind that this transcript is in no way a letter of recommendation or your current medical school’s prediction of your future performance in a residency program.

The Association of American Medical Colleges has set some guidelines to help medical schools evaluate and summarize a student’s entire medical school career. The MSPE should include the succinct chronology of a student’s entry and progress through medical school, including their academic performance, clinical rotations, involvement in extracurricular activities or hobbies that reflect their interests or skills, compliance with behavioral policies such as dress code and attendance, and personal qualities as assessed by faculty and administrators. Remember that the more detailed this information, the more your MSPE will help you make an impression during the residency application cycle.

What Goes in to the MSPE?

The AAMC has highlighted five key sections that most medical schools include when evaluating students:

  • Identifying information: Includes basic information like your name, ear in school, and your school’s name and location.
  • Noteworthy characteristics: The information included in this section helps the residency program selection committees to review applicants holistically in terms of their qualities, achievements, or experiences. Include no more than three characteristics that are vital to understanding who you are, such as life experiences, community services, research/publications/honors/awards, leadership and volunteering opportunities, explanations of adversities and obstacles you have overcome, etc.
  • Academic history: Includes information like when you started your program, when you’ll complete it, any extensions or gaps in your MD journey, whether you were required to repeat any coursework, or whether you were the recipient of any adverse action by the institution.
  • Academic progress: This section provides a summary of the student’s academic performance throughout medical school, including preclinical and clinical coursework. It may include information about grades, class rank, and any special academic honors or awards.
  • Professionalism: This section assesses the student’s professionalism, ethics, and overall behavior as observed by faculty, staff, and peers. It may include comments on punctuality, reliability, communication skills, and adherence to ethical standards.

How To Get an MSPE?

A well-thought out MSPE shows your school’s confidence in your knowledge, skills, and abilities to fulfill all the responsibilities during your residency training. Given the importance of the MSPE in helping you secure a residency, you need to make sure this letter reflects your personality, academic acumen and proficiency as a professional, as accurately as possible. While some schools draft the MSPE without the student input, other schools invite students to not only meet with their evaluators but also participate and give their two cents, especially offer suggestions for sections like MSPE Noteworthy Characteristics. Depending on your medical school, you may be called in for a meeting with the dean or the faculty members who will write the letter, and asked to answer some questions about yourself. Make the best of this opportunity to straighten out any ambiguities in your performance, or offer ways to make your strengths shine out.

Don’t forget to ask your medical school for a copy of your MSPE in advance so that you can look it over and make sure the information is accurate and does you justice. During the review, check the Noteworthy Characteristics and clinical rotations sections to ascertain that the dean has added substantial details. Discuss any concerns you have; offer any edits you feel are necessary; and even submit your own revisions.

Is the MSPE important?

The simple answer is: an absolute, resounding YES! Most medical students fail to realize that residency directors care more about a strong medical school performance than where you graduated from. This makes the MSPE document they key to a successful residency application. This letter is a chance for the residency directors to rewind and experience your time in medical school, from when you started to the clinical rotations you completed, to the attributes that make you a great future physician. A good MSPE report instills faith in program directors that you have the necessary skills and abilities and that you have displayed a stellar performance throughout your time in medical school. An MSPE also verifies whatever you have written in your Personal Statement and shows the residency directors that you haven’t written anything that isn’t true. Before you treat MSPE as an after-thought, remember that MSPE is rated as the top #5 residency application component cited by Program Directors in the 2021 NRMP® Program Director Survey!

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