Linda Berardi-Demo, EdD, joined the College of Medicine in September 2015 as associate dean for admissions and enrollment. With extensive experience in medical school admissions at The Commonwealth Medical College and the University of Pittsburgh, she is already transforming the College's admissions processes. Berardi-Demo obtained her master's degree in public administration and her doctorate in administrative and policy studies from the University of Pittsburgh.
WHAT ATTRACTED YOU TO Drexel University College of Medicine?
I was attracted by the school's collaborative environment and progressive leadership. Dean Schidlow, Dr. [Valerie] Weber and their colleagues are a dynamic group of people who understand what medical schools must do to meet the needs of health care in the coming years. I was equally impressed with the school's long history of commitment to diversity, community interaction and putting students first.
WHAT PLANS DO YOU HAVE to improve the admissions experience?
Drexel receives an overwhelming number of applications. Our current first-year class of 262 began with 15,281 applicants, which is almost one-third of those who applied to all medical schools nationwide. Each year, we interview about 1,100 applicants. Despite these large numbers, we want to personalize the process more for each applicant.
We have a student advisory group of first- and second-year students who are helping us to make the applicant experience much better. The group made suggestions about the interview day — easy fixes like offering a catered lunch and meeting with applicants in a smaller room. Our students talk with the applicants and participate in the interview evaluation. They also conduct tours and host prospective students.
Last fall, we started making personal phone calls to students when they were accepted as well as emailing their acceptance letters. In addition, we produced a welcome video with Dean Schidlow that we send to each accepted student. I received very positive messages from the accepted students about that. In the coming year, we'll send personalized emails to accepted students that will mention the things the admissions committee really liked about their application.
A few years ago, the College served as a pilot school in an initiative of the Association of American Medical Colleges to integrate holistic review in the admissions process. We've asked them to come back this year to discuss how we can continue to align our admissions policies with our mission and values.
HOW DO YOU WHITTLE DOWN the applicant pool to 1,100 for interviews?
Certainly we look at academic thresholds. But what we're really looking for is a student who has some connection to the work we do. We're looking for students who can show us evidence of their commitment to service. We're also looking to increase our diversity — diversity of thought, socioeconomic background and ethnicity — so that we can educate physicians who can take care of a diverse patient population.
WHAT SCREENING PROCESSES do you use?
Our Admissions Committee is composed of faculty from around the College. Faculty members read each application, looking at all the academic metrics as well as non-academic information, such as service record, letters of recommendation, experience in clinical work, and personal characteristics and background. Then they decide who would be best to bring to campus for an interview. It's a purposefully labor-intensive process. We feel it's important for someone to look at every single application. We're bringing in new software tools to help faculty members do this work more easily.
IS THERE ANOTHER INITIATIVE you would highlight?
In January 2016, we hosted the annual meeting of a local network of pre-health advisers. The 80 advisers who attended were impressed with our facilities and the welcoming feeling at Queen Lane. We'll continue to do that type of outreach.
This spring, we are hosting accepted student events on campus and at our clinical campus at Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh. The excitement and warmth of the DUCoM community is something we want students and their families to experience firsthand. We plan to do more of that.