Complex societal issues affect medical education and thus require new approaches from medical school admission officers. One of these issues—the recognition that the attributes of good doctors include character qualities such as compassion, altruism, respect, and integrity—has resulted in the recent focus on the greater use of qualitative variables, such as those just stated, for selected candidates. In addition, more emphasis is now being placed on teaching and licensure testing of the attributes of the profession during the four-year curriculum. The second and more contentious issue concerns the system used to admit white and minority applicants. Emphasizing character qualities of physicians in the admission criteria and selection process involves a paradigm shift that could serve to resolve both issues.
To make this or any paradigm shift in admission policy, medical schools must think about all the elements of admission and their interrelationships. A model of medical school admission is proposed that can provide understanding of the admission system and serve as a heuristic guide. This model consists of (1) the applicant pool; (2) criteria for selection; (3) the admission committee; (4) selection processes and policies; and (5) outcomes. Each of these dimensions and the interrelationships among the dimensions are described. Finally, a hypothetical example is provided in which the model is used to help a medical school change its admission process to accommodate a new emphasis in the school's mission.