The deans of University of California Health's six medical schools announced today (June 30) that all medical school, residency and fellowship interviews for the 2020-2021 academic year will be held in a virtual format. The decision creates a consistent approach of no in-person interviews so that all applicants who advance to the interview stage have the same setting for presenting their skills and are not encumbered by COVID-19 related travel concerns.

"We want to create an equitable process for all," said Dr. Cathryn Nation, vice president of health sciences for University of California Health. "Applicants to UC medical schools and residency programs rigorously prepare academically and usually travel for in-person panel interviews. We don't want these individuals to feel their chance for success is influenced by their ability to appear in-person at this time when the risk of coronavirus transmission remains a very real concern."

The announcement comes at the start of summer so that prospective students, residents and fellows can plan and prepare appropriately. Prospective medical school students typically submit their applications through the American Medical College Application Service in the summer with some applicants starting interviews in the fall. Those who apply for residencies submit applications by October. Students typically apply for fellowships, a phase of subspecialty training immediately after completion of residency, throughout the year depending on the area of specialization.

The shift to all remote interviewing was driven by a variety of factors including:

  • Limitations in commercial air travel, particularly for those who do not live near major hubs; 
  • Resurgence of COVID-19, potentially complicated by seasonal influenza, which may occur as shelter in place orders are lifted and will then require reinstitution of those orders;
  • Disrupted required clinical rotations from the spring, which may need to be scheduled well into the usual interview season for senior students, making scheduling of cross-country trips very challenging; and,
  • The recession and growing unemployment, which may cause students and their families significant financial hardships. 

"We are adapting in real-time to unprecedented circumstances that disrupt typical practices," said Dr. Carrie L. Byington, executive vice president of University of California Health. "The shift to online interviews is consistent with our public health response to reduce the risk of viral transmission. Our goal is to support all applicants in pursuing their dreams without the additional stress related to the cost, logistics and transmission risk associated with interview travels."  

This spring, UC medical schools also adapted 2020 Match Day ceremonies by moving to an online format. Match Day is when graduating medical students learn where they will serve their residencies, a critical step to become a licensed physician.  

University of California Health's six medical schools - UC Davis Health, UC Riverside Health, UC San Diego Health, UCI Health, UCLA Health and UCSF Health - are all nationally ranked. UC's schools of medicine have approximately 3,500 medical students enrolled. Approximately 5,600 residents and fellows are advancing their post-graduation training in UC and affiliated hospitals.

Screenshot from University of California Health virtual Match Day 2020 event showing medical school students learning of their residency matches.
University of California Health schools of medicine used virtual formats for Match Day 2020. Now, the medical schools will hold all medical student, residency and fellowship interviews on a virtual basis for the 2020-2021 academic year.
Credit: University of California Health

About University of California Health
University of California Health comprises five academic health centers, a community-based health system in Riverside and 19 health professional schools. All of UC’s hospitals are ranked among the top ten in California and its medical schools and health professional schools are also ranked among the best in their respective areas. More information and news from University of California Health is available here.