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Writing the MSPE

Overview

In spring of your third year, all rising fourth years will be asked to schedule a meeting with one of the academic deans in OSA to review the residency application process. These meetings take place in May, June and July. The person you meet with will write your MSPE. However, Dr. Parker reads all MSPE’s and signs off on all of them before they are uploaded to ERAS.

If you have not decided on a specialty, the meeting may serve to facilitate the decision making process. We can explore with you some of the things that may be important to you in a specialty and recommend resources (people, websites, readings) to help with the decision-making process. We will also review your fourth year plans, discuss the process of obtaining letters of recommendation, and explain the function of the Medical Student Performance Evaluation (MSPE). You may also discuss the content and style of your personal statement and ask the MSPE writer to read a draft. We suggest asking a faculty member in your chosen specialty to review your personal statement as well. You will also receive instruction from OSA staff about the Electronic Residency Application Service (ERAS) at the ERAS Tutorial and through emails you will receive throughout the year.

Curriculum Vitae (CV) and Unique Characteristics Paragraph

You will be asked to submit a draft curriculum vitae (CV) and your unique characteristics paragraph before scheduling an MSPE meeting. If you have questions about the format and/or content of your CV, please schedule an appointment with Dawn Roberts at 410-706-7689 or droberts@som.umaryland.edu  and she will assist you. 

Your unique characteristics paragraph must be submitted through myMedScope. For a sample unique characteristics paragraph, click here. We suggest that you create your unique characteristics paragraph in a text file by clicking on the 'start' menu, 'all programs', 'accessories' and then click 'notepad'. MedScope will not be able to interpret special characters. Students who complete pre-clinical courses, such as CAPP, Primary Care Track or Medical Spanish, should note this under medical education or in the unique characteristics section.

MSPE Meeting

Available meeting dates are posted on MedScope for students to select. The MSPE writers are:

  • Dr. Donna Parker: (410) 706-7476
  • Dr. Joseph Martinez: (410) 706-7476
  • Dr. George Fantry: (410) 706-7476
  • Dr. Neda Frayha: (410) 706-7476

The Medical Student Performance Evaluation (MSPE) was formerly known as the "Dean's Letter" and is a summary and evaluation of your performance while in medical school. It is neither a letter of recommendation nor a self-evaluation. Every medical school writes an MSPE for each graduating student. It is a required part of every residency application. The MSPE has a standardized format which allows us to describe your character as a person, summarize your academic career and highlight your best qualities. It includes in full the summative comments as they appear in clerkship evaluations. If there have been serious academic difficulties or disciplinary problems, we must explain them in the MSPE. The letter attempts to present an honest evaluation of your performance in medical school and your assets for residency application. Information directed toward your choice in a specialty is not incorporated in the MSPE, but rather in Letters of Recommendation from the clinical faculty of that specialty. MSPE’s follow a basic format, but every attempt is made to personalize them as much as possible.

Every student will be permitted to read the MSPE before it goes out. Students may submit changes to correct factual errors, punctuation, etc. If you have questions or concerns about the narrative sections, these should be addressed directly with your MSPE writer. Any changes in content of the third and fourth year evaluations must come directly from the clerkship directors and preceptors. We suggest that you read your clerkship evaluations as they come in and contact directors as soon as possible (and certainly within six weeks of receiving grades) to discuss issues with evaluation content. School policy states that evaluation revisions will not be considered beyond 3 months of your receipt of the evaluation. The national release date for the MSPE is October 1. Our timetable has all drafts available for student review during the first week of September, with final versions prepared by mid-September. With these time constraints, we will attempt to include evaluations from July through August rotations. Any crucial evaluations from September and/or October that do not make it into the MSPE may be added later and your MSPE may be re-uploaded to ERAS. Students elected into AOA and/or the Gold Humanism Honor Society will automatically have this notation in their MSPE.  
 

Getting Advice

For those of you who signed up for a mentor, he/she is a good place to start. Hopefully they will be able to answer questions themselves and/or refer you to colleagues in your specialty of choice for more information. Any member of the faculty can help you to think about your career plans. Try to talk to as many people as possible to learn as much as possible about specialties of interest to you. You should talk to any and all faculty, residents and consultants during clerkships to learn as much as possible from them. Most specialties encourage you to meet with the Program Director in that residency for advice as well. This faculty member can be very helpful in reviewing your scholastic record and personal characteristics to assess your competitiveness for the chosen specialty and for specific programs. They can also give guidance on strategies to improve your application and recommend numbers and locations of programs for application based upon their assessment. They usually like to have a copy of your personal statement, CV and transcript for review.

It may be beneficial to attend Brown Bag Lunches presented by various specialty interest groups. You'll get the chance to hear informal talks from physicians from a variety of disciplines, practice settings and backgrounds. You'll also learn what their branch of medicine does, what the training for that field involves, and what a typical day in their life is like. You are also encouraged to shadow a physician in your fields of interest to better understand the field.