For those medical students applying for residency, the student needs to provide a short list of “noteworthy characteristics” that are not listed elsewhere in their application.
The Association of American Colleges (AAMC) explains what the “noteworthy characteristics” are:
This section includes information intended to help a residency program selection committee review applicants holistically to achieve a residency class that brings a diverse set of background experiences, characteristics and perspectives.
• Provide a maximum of three characteristics highlighting the most salient noteworthy
characteristics of the student.
• This section should be presented as a bulleted list. Each characteristic should be described in 2 sentences or less. Information about any significant challenges or hardships encountered by the student during medical school may be included.
• Lengthy biographical descriptions are not recommended due to the time required for review and because these details can be found in other sections of the applicant’s portfolio (e.g., ERAS application, personal statement, letters of recommendation, interviews).
• The identification of the noteworthy characteristics can be done by each student in consultation with a designated mentor or advisor, or by the MSPE author.
So in essence, they are no more than 3 short entries highlighting a unique quality and why you possess that quality. Even though they say a “maximum of 3” do not just write one. I would suggest writing three. By the time the program director reads these three short sentences, they have a better picture of you as an individual.
Topics that you can draw your characteristics from include:
- Missions done
- Places traveled
- Raising a family while going to school
- Creating a charitable/community event
- Passion, hobby, talent
- Personal or family challenge
- Why you chose your research project
- Life experiences
- Honors and Awards
- Leadership positions that you held and what you impressive task you completed
These are usually written in third person.
Examples of these may be:
- As an avid traveler (or having completed a mission), Mary is fluent in Spanish, which has helped her communicate with many of her patients during training who were Spanish-speaking only.
- Having come to the United States as a small boy, Ti learned English and the American culture at a young age, making new friends and excelling in his school work.
- John served as Events Coordinator for the ACOFP and organized a water and sunscreen passout to homeless people at risk of dehydration, heat illness and skin cancer last summer.
- Ryan is an avid pianist and has performed at multiple venues including local adult day care centers and charity galas.
- Having seen her grandmother battle lung cancer, Jaime worked with other students to put up tobacco hotline numbers on university campuses.
- After Breana had a scare with an abnormal skin lesion, that fortunately was not skin cancer, she devoted additional patient education on how to screen for skin cancer with many of her patient interactions as a student.
- Lisa participated in multiple marathons, including the Boston Marathon, completing all of them.
- Mark lost over 50 lbs when he discovered a plant-based diet, and now educates patients on how inclusion of vegetables is paramount to a healthy diet.
- Scott’s academic strength was exemplified by making the Dean’s List during both years of Basic Science, and choosing to tutor other younger students when he moved on to his clinical years.
- Maya actively practices yoga and many times has held yoga and meditation workshops for students after school.
So as you see you can be as creative as you wish, and don’t be afraid to “brag.” This is your time to toot your horn and make yourself stand out! You are applying for the job of your life….prove to them you are exactly what they need for their residency program.
Daliah Wachs, MD, FAAFP is a nationally syndicated radio personality on GCN Network, KDWN, and iHeart Radio.