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The 15 Core Competencies - A Guide for Every Pre-Med

What are Core Competencies?

With the overcompetitiveness for applying to medical school and the reduced number of spots, with an average of fewer than 200 students being accepted per medical school, the applications the medical committees look at are numerous. These committees often have a more holistic view, or looking at the full picture of an applicant to determine who is well-rounded and has the skills to become a successful physician. Understanding the 15 Core Competencies for Entering Medical Students, endorsed by the Association of American Colleges (AAMC) Group on Student Affairs (GSA) Committee on Admissions (COA), allows the applicants to see the expectations for medical school and beyond. This competency list was created after a thorough search of medical education and employment literature with many advisory panels. Even if you feel that you do not have one of the competencies or it needs development, there are ways to develop the competencies demonstrated through an applicant’s experiences in preparation for medical school. The 15 core competencies can be broken up into pre-professional, thinking and reasoning, and science competencies.

Pre-Professional Competencies

  • Service Orientation: Shows a desire to aid others and has a sensitivity to others’ needs and feelings; also shows a desire to relieve others’ distress; identifies and acts on their responsibilities to society on various levels.

  • Social Skills: Demonstrates an awareness of others’ needs, goals, feelings, and how social and behavioral cues affect peoples’ interactions and behaviors; adapts to behaviors properly in response to these cues; treats others with kindness.

  • Cultural Competence: Portrays knowledge of sociocultural factors that impact interactions and behaviors; shows an appreciation and respect for diversity; realizes and acts on the obligation to educate oneself; engages and learns about diverse and competing perspectives as a resource; recognizes and properly acknowledges bias in oneself and others; interacts effectively and respectfully with people from different backgrounds.

  • Teamwork: Works in collaboration with others to achieve shared goals; shares information with others and gives feedback; is a team player.

  • Oral Communication: Effectively conveys information to others through speech; listens effectively; recognizes communication obstacles and modifies approach to clarify information.

  • Ethical Responsibility to Self and Others: Behaves honestly and ethically; cultivates personal and academic integrity; listens to ethical principles and follows rules; resists peer pressure to partake in unethical behavior and encourages others to behave in honest and ethical ways; develops and demonstrates ethical and moral reasoning.

  • Reliability and Dependability: Consistently finishes obligations promptly and satisfactorily; is accountable for personal actions.

  • Resilience and Adaptability: Can withstand stressful and changing environments or situations and adapts efficiently to them; is persistent under difficult situations; recovers from challenges.

  • Capacity for Improvement: Sets goals for improvement all the time and for learning new concepts and skills; engages in reflection and improvement; solicits and responds appropriately to feedback, even if negative.

Thinking and Reasoning Competencies

  • Critical Thinking: Utilizes logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of different solutions and approaches to problems.

  • Quantitative Reasoning: Applies quantitative reasoning and proper mathematics to explain concepts in the natural world.

  • Scientific Inquiry: Applies knowledge of the scientific process to integrate and organize information, solve problems, and produce research questions and hypotheses; is familiar with the language of the sciences and uses it to participate in the discussions of science and explain how scientific knowledge is discovered and proved.

  • Written Communication: Can convey information to others through written words and sentences.

Science Competencies

  • Living Systems: Applies knowledge and skill in the natural sciences to determine solutions connected to molecular and macro systems, which consist of biomolecules, molecules, cells, and organs.

  • Human Behavior: Applies knowledge of the self, others, and social systems to figure out solutions to issues connected to the psychological, sociocultural, and biological factors that impact health and well-being.

How to Develop the Core Competencies

If you’re worried about not having some of these competencies or feeling confident, that is normal! The best way the AAMC says to improve these competencies is to continue your pre-med journey and participate in various experiences. For instance, if you struggle with thinking and research competencies, engaging in research is a very effective way to develop and improve the core competencies. Learning how to communicate orally can be done through presenting research to various audiences and working as a team with other students and mentors will help with collaboration. Another example is taking pre-med classes like anatomy and biochemistry; this can help with increasing the knowledge of science competencies. Working with different populations in a clinic is a way to learn more about people of different backgrounds and learn how to interact with them. As you can see, there are many ways to develop competencies but some of them are not developed by just being willing to do many different types of experiences related to pre-med such as internships, research, volunteering, shadowing, and more! These competencies are a framework for pre-meds to help guide the skills and knowledge pre-meds should start gaining as they go on their journey.

Thank you for reading!

Siri Nikku




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