My reverse interview experience paled next to that of a student who was one class ahead of me at Tufts.
John M. , who wanted to be a surgeon, also aspired to get into to the Massachusetts General Hospital, or MGH training program. At that time, it was well known that Harvard never took anyone from Tufts into their Internal Medicine programs and that even attempting to Intern match at the MGH would be a waste of time. To be accepted in surgery might afford a little more flexibility or lenience but once again would almost be an impossible feat. Harvard simply did not like, and more to the point, did not at all respect Tufts. They were so picky in general that their applicants were even subjected to two rounds of interviews in order to sift out potential riffraff.
John had already stacked the deck by electing several surgical rotations in the Harvard system and by so doing was already somewhat known as a personal entity. He passed his first interview after a grueling set of questions, the last of which was:
- And so, Mr. M., if you were to be accepted at this prestigious hallowed institution, and then go on to a greater career as a Harvard trained surgeon, tell me then―what would be your greatest ambition and your legacy as a physician?
- That’s easy. To cure Death
He passed and got a second round interview.
At the second interview, he faced the Chief of Surgery at the hallowed MGH, a person of great talent and reputation and a person not to be trifled with. This doctor occupied a seat at the very pinnacle of the medical food chain. He also occupied a large antique oak desk.
- Mr. M. I heard from my colleague of your last interview. Very impressive, even to the point of your quick witted and amusing statement of ambition. However, I am looking for something a little less facetious and sarcastic. So in the same vein I will ask you again, if accepted to train in this highly sought after competitive position, what indeed would be the noble ambition that would lead me to believe you are better in every way than anyone else I have interviewed to date.
Facing down the icy stare, John hesitated for only a moment before he replied:
- I thought that curing death was every physician’s penultimate goal; weather real or in the total realm of the abstract. So, if that answer does not stand pat, my greatest ambition then, if accepted into this elite and privileged program, would one day soon, to be sitting on the opposite side of this desk.
He passed interview 2 and was accepted as an MGH Surgical Intern.
The reason that most of us remain healthy is because 10% of the people get 90% of the diseases.
(John M: Tufts Med 1972)