Darrell Kirch, MD, president and CEO of the AAMC, said the motivation for the changes is the acknowledgement that good patient care involves more than diagnosing, prescribing and operating. It’s about how doctors talk to patients. It’s understanding them and their personal situations and cultural backgrounds, and it’s understanding how social and behavioral factors affect individual health.
Understanding social barriers and helping patients overcome them might mean avoiding a hospital readmission, he said. “We have finally realized there are some very powerful determinants of health that have been underemphasized in the test historically,” Dr. Kirch said. “We’ve known for a long time that social and behavioral factors can be every bit as influential in determining a person’s health as their genetic makeup. The new test attempts to include social and behavioral sciences in the same way that we’ve included natural and physical sciences historically…. We’ve realized the breadth of knowledge that’s required to be a capable physician.”
In a letter to pre-med students in which he talked about the MCAT changes, Dr. Kirch wrote, “It is about understanding people—how they think, interact, and make decisions…. After nearly 60 years, I still remember my pediatrician, Dr. Bramley—not for his class rank or MCAT exam score, but for his kindness, compassion, and how much he truly cared.”