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Writing the MSPE


In spring of the third year, all students will be asked to schedule a meeting with one of the Deans in OSA to review the residency application process. These meetings take place in May, June, and July. The person you meet with will write your MSPE. However, Dr. Thom reads all MSPEs and signs off on all of them before they are uploaded to ERAS.

If you have not decided on a specialty, the meeting may serve to facilitate the decision-making process. We can explore with you some of the things that may be important to you in a specialty and recommend resources (people, websites, readings) to help with the decision-making process. We will also review your fourth-year plans, discuss the process of obtaining letters of recommendation, and explain the function of the Medical Student Performance Evaluation (MSPE). You may also discuss the content and style of your personal statement and ask the MSPE writer to read a draft. We suggest asking a faculty member in your chosen specialty to review your personal statement as well. You will also receive instruction from OSA staff about the Electronic Residency Application Service (ERAS) at the ERAS Tutorial and through emails, you will receive throughout the year.

Curriculum Vitae (CV)

You will be asked to submit a draft curriculum vitae (CV) and your noteworthy characteristics bio bullets to student affairs. If you have questions about the format and/or content of your CV, please see our CV Preparation Tips.

Noteworthy Characteristics Bio Bullets

You will create your noteworthy characteristics bio bullets in a WORD document and submit it to OSA. Student affairs will send out a note when directed to do so.

  • This section includes information intended to help a residency program selection committee to review applicants holistically to achieve a residency class that brings a diverse set of background experiences, characteristics and perspectives.
  • This is NOT a re-write of your CV.
  • Provide a maximum of three characteristics highlighting the most salient noteworthy characteristics of the student.
    • This section should be presented as a dot bulleted list (DO NOT NUMBER).
    • Each characteristic should be described in 2 sentences or less.
    • Information about any significant challenges or hardships encountered by the student during medical school may be included.
    • This section is written in third person.
    • The word count is 35-40 per bullet.
    • MedScope will not be able to interpret special characters.
  • Lengthy biographical descriptions ARE NOT recommended due to the time required for review and because these details can be found in other sections of the applicant’s portfolio (e.g., ERAS application, personal statement, letters of recommendation, interviews).
  • The identification of the noteworthy characteristics can be done by each student in consultation with a designated mentor or advisor, or by the MSPE author.
  • Consider different areas to highlight that may not be aspects of your transcript, CV or personal statement.
    • Hobbies (that may or may not align with your medical interests)
    • Prior work experience which may have influenced your career
    • Challenges overcome
    • Leadership or mentoring roles
    • Institutional leadership roles
    • Research achievements (grant/award or scholarship distinction)
    • Some examples of Noteworthy Characteristics Bio Bullets are shown below:

 Example 1:

  • Kelsey worked with Healthy Choices Baltimore, a program to educate Baltimore City elementary students on anatomy, physiology, and healthy eating. Kelsey was instrumental in designing a new curriculum and expanding the program to additional Baltimore City schools.
  • Kelsey conducted research on the effectiveness of the pulse oximetry newborn screen for critical congenital heart disease in an underserved population. This original research project resulted in presentations at two separate national conferences, one publication, and two additional manuscript submissions.
  • Kelsey is a soprano in the Hippocratic Notes, the student run a-Capella group. She has performed in the hospital for patients and staff, at Match Day, White Coat and Graduation ceremonies.

Example 2:

  • Henry was raised by a single father. Despite financial hardships, he distinguished himself in academics and athletics, was the first in his family to go to college and received a full scholarship.
  • Henry was the Treasurer and then President of the Emergency Medicine Interest Group. He facilitated a collaboration with local EMTs which led to a new interdisciplinary educational opportunity.
  • Henry earned an MPH prior to medical school publishing a thesis on the link between obesity and reading levels in inner city students. This education and experience informed and enriched many of his clinical experiences in medical school.

Example 3:

  • Silpa enjoys National Public Radio, especially programs such as Morning Edition and Hidden Brain. She has participated in a local radio podcast on WYPR on medical student life.
  • Silpa was the class representative for the Student National Medical Association. She spearheaded a youth enrichment project in a local Baltimore City high school STEM camp.
  • As part of the education committee for the Eva Dodge House Advisory system, Silpa arranged, promoted and coordinated faculty-to-student round table and panel opportunities over her two-year tenure.

Example 4:

  • Sam was a student teacher in the Prematriculation Summer Program where Sam mentored and supported selected students through a predefined curriculum. Sam received the student teacher award two years in a row.
  • Sam is an avid reader. As part of the Humanism elective, Sam introduced multiple short stories and essays focusing on social justice and patient advocacy for group discussion.
  • Sam received the Certificate of Outstanding Achievement in Research for Sam’s research accomplishments studying the use of peri-operative glucocorticoids on transsphenoidal surgery outcomes.


Significant Hardships

We have an opportunity to explain any significant hardships or extenuating circumstances which may have had a negative effect on your academic performance. This language is meant to be an explanation and not an excuse. During your MSPE meeting, we will ask if there is anything to be included in this section. Examples of situations students have elected to write about in the past are:

  • Jane passed her USMLE Step 1 examination two months after the death of her mother in a motor vehicle accident.
  • John had an acute medical problem during the last few weeks of Functional Systems, and this likely affected his ability to perform at his best on the last exam.

MSPE Meeting

Available meeting dates are posted on MedScope for students to select. MSPE writers may be reached at 410-706-7476. The MSPE writers are:

The Medical Student Performance Evaluation (MSPE) was formerly known as the "Dean's Letter" and is a summary and evaluation of your performance while in medical school. It is neither a letter of recommendation nor a self-evaluation. Every medical school writes an MSPE for each graduating student. It is a required part of every residency application. The MSPE has a standardized format which allows us to describe your character as a person, summarize your academic career and highlight your best qualities. It includes in full the summative comments as they appear in clerkship evaluations. If there have been serious academic difficulties or disciplinary problems, we must explain them in the MSPE. The letter attempts to present an honest evaluation of your performance in medical school and your assets for residency application. Information directed toward your choice in a specialty is not incorporated in the MSPE, but rather in Letters of Recommendation from the clinical faculty of that specialty. MSPE’s follow a basic format, but every attempt is made to personalize them as much as possible.

Every student will be permitted to read the MSPE before it goes out. Students may submit changes to correct factual errors, punctuation, etc. If you have questions or concerns about the narrative sections, these should be addressed directly with your MSPE writer. Any changes in the content of the third and fourth-year evaluations must come directly from the clerkship directors and preceptors. We suggest that you read your clerkship evaluations as they come in and contact directors as soon as possible (and certainly within six weeks of receiving grades) to discuss issues with evaluation content. School policy states that evaluation revisions will not be considered beyond 3 months of your receipt of the evaluation. The national release date for the MSPE is October 1. Our timetable has all drafts available for student review during the first week of September, with final versions prepared by mid-September. With these time constraints, we will attempt to include evaluations from July through August rotations. Any crucial evaluations from September and/or October that do not make it into the MSPE may be added later and your MSPE may be re-uploaded to ERAS. Students elected into AOA and/or the Gold Humanism Honor Society will automatically have this notation in their MSPE.  

Getting Advice

For those of you who signed up for a mentor, he/she is a good place to start. Hopefully, they will be able to answer questions themselves and/or refer you to colleagues in your specialty of choice for more information. Any member of the faculty can help you to think about your career plans. Try to talk to as many people as possible to learn as much as possible about specialties of interest to you. You should talk to any and all faculty, residents and consultants during clerkships to learn as much as possible from them. Most specialties encourage you to meet with the Program Director in that residency for advice as well. This faculty member can be very helpful in reviewing your scholastic record and personal characteristics to assess your competitiveness for the chosen specialty and for specific programs. They can also give guidance on strategies to improve your application and recommend numbers and locations of programs for application based upon their assessment. They usually like to have a copy of your personal statement, CV, and transcript for review.

It may be beneficial to attend Brown Bag Lunches presented by various specialty interest groups. You'll get the chance to hear informal talks from physicians from a variety of disciplines, practice settings, and backgrounds. You'll also learn what their branch of medicine does, what the training for that field involves, and what a typical day in their life is like. You are also encouraged to shadow a physician in your fields of interest to better understand the field.

Sample MSPE