2.22 Medical Student Performance Evaluation (MSPE) - Dean's Letter

Medical Education

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2.22 Medical Student Performance Evaluation (MSPE) - Dean's Letter

The Medical Student Performance Evaluation (MSPE, or “Dean’s letter”) is one component of a student’s application to residency programs. The MSPE is an objective letter of evaluation that summarizes a student’s academic record at HMS in a narrative format. Guidelines to the entire process of applying to residency can be found on the HMS Career Advising: Roadmap to Residency website, and staff in the Office of Student Affairs and in the Academic Societies are available to discuss the residency application and MSPE process and to answer questions. Beginning in 2012, the national distribution date of the MSPE to residency programs is October 1.

The accreditation body for US medical schools, the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME), mandates that schools have a process for preparing the MSPE that provides assurance to students that the author of the MSPE not be a person in whom a student has confided personal or sensitive information. By extension, our process for preparing the MSPE should preclude any potential reluctance by any student to confide private, personal, or health information to his/her Academic Society. While we are confident that anything a student confides to the Advisory Dean/Director or Associate Director of his/her Academic Society would be kept confidential and not influence the MSPE, we want to be certain that students perceive no barriers to seeking advice and counsel from their Society faculty.

Therefore, by default, we will assign the preparation of each student’s Dean’s letter to a faculty member from an academic society other than his/her own. The letter will be compiled by a letter writer from another Society with input from the student and then reviewed for accuracy and consistency of tone by the Dean for Students. The HMS MSPE has a preset format, which is outlined below.

A student may feel, however, that faculty from the student’s own academic society know the student better than anyone else at HMS, and, hence, the student may prefer to have his/her MSPE compiled by a letter writer from the student’s own society. Students who prefer to opt out of having their MSPE written by a different academic society may request that their MSPE be compiled and written by faculty (Advisory Dean/Director or Associate Director) from their own Society.

Opportunity to “Opt Out”

In the spring preceding the graduation year, with an understanding of what appears in the HMS MSPE and the role of Academic Societies in preparing the letters, students will be asked by the Office of Student Affairs to indicate whether they prefer to retain the assignment of their MSPE to a different society or wish to opt out of this assignment and have their letter written by their own society. If a student does not opt out of the assignment to another society, the default will be to assign the writing of the MSPE to a society other than his/her own.

Format and Contents of the HMS MSPE /Dean’s Letter

Paragraph 1 (~½ page), Unique Characteristics:  your story before you came to HMS.

Paragraph 2 (~¼ - ⅓ page), Academic progress – preclerkship:  a collection of partial quotes from the course-evaluation narratives for class work during the preclerkship years.

Paragraph 3 (~¼ - ⅓ page), Academic progress – research, enrichment, extracurricular: very brief mention of extracurricular activities including research, community service, international experiences, volunteer work, student committees, second-year show, etc. (which you will help your letter writer select).

Paragraph 4 (~2 pages), Academic progress – clinical:  full quotes of the summative section of evaluations for all core clerkships in chronologic order, including the mandatory subinternship. Information about elective clerkships will not be included routinely, but, if, in discussion with the letter writer who prepares your MSPE, the reason to do so is compelling, an elective may be included.

Paragraph 5 (~¼ page), Summary:  a summary of the whole letter. We do not rank students or use any code words (e.g., outstanding, excellent, very good, good, etc.).

We are required to mention Academic Probation and leaves of absence in the MSPE, but, in complying with these requirements, we do everything possible to protect students’ privacy.

Some students may not have a full set of core clerkships, and many will not have completed the required subinternship by the time the MSPE is prepared. The material that is included with the MSPE when it is sent to residency programs will explain the vagaries of scheduling at HMS and that an incomplete set of core clerkship evaluations is not a sign of deficiency.

The MSPE does not include an overall evaluation from the PCE or the site locations of the student’s core clerkships, and references in the evaluations to the site of the clerkship or the author of the evaluation are excluded or redacted.

Beginning in academic year 2014-15, the HMS MSPE will include grade histograms for all of the core clerkships for the preceding PCE year.


Last updated on 3/3/16