All Saints' Day

The Dean's Letter goes out to residency programs tomorrow, November 1st. Our applications are complete at that time, and there's nothing left to do but sit and wait for more interview offers.

The Dean's letter, also called the Medical Student Performance Evaluation, is an overview of all our clerkship grades and evals. Most of the comments doctors and residents gave us in the past year find their way into this document. At our school, students are given a chance to correct grammatical mistakes and errors. It's a good thing, too -- I spotted one evaluator's comment that read:

Clearly, Nick was one of the students this past year.

I really hope an adjective was missing.

But in talking with my peers, many who are usually well-balanced and easy-going, we have discussions that George Orwell and Garrison Keillor could both enjoy. It's because we've become adept at reading between the lines of evaluations.

"Outstanding" is the best adjective to describe your candidacy for residency. It's nice to have it mentioned as often as possible, in fact: next to your people skills, your initiative, your knowledge base. "Excellent", by contrast, is really a let-down. It's the second-best adjective. Only in medical school can someone dread being called "excellent," but it happens. And don't get me started on "Very Strong" or "Very Good". That's damning by faint praise, as far as I'm concerned.

Maybe it's different at other schools, but I thought this was the code all program directors used. Actually, it's discouraging to think some of my graders might employ real English, and some are using eval-speak.