Core Competencies

This is an exciting time to be entering the health professions. Changes in society create a need for health professions with a strong background in natural, behavioral, and social sciences as well as in the humanities.

Over the past few years, the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) have been reviewing the framework needed for premedical training and for the lifelong training needed for medical school and practice. They issued a report, “Scientific Foundations for Future Physicians,” outlining the scientific and quantitative competencies that premedical students should master as well as a companion report, "Behavioral and Social Science Foundations for Future Physicians," indicating that the conceptual framework in these disciplines that premedical and medical students need in order to understand socioeconomic and cultural determinates of health and to address health care disparities.

Drawing upon this extensive research by several advisory panels, AAMC’s Group on Student Affairs and Committee on Admissions endorsed 15 core competencies for entering medical schools.  As AAMC defines a competency, it is an “observable behavior that combines knowledge, skills, values, and attitudes related to a specific activity.” Although this list of fifteen competencies was developed by medical educators, it is relevant for all health professions. 

We recommend that all those considering health professions: 

  • Visit the AAMC website to review the list of competencies.
  • Review AAMC’s Self-Assessment Guide, “Anatomy of an Applicant: Competency Resources and Self-Assessment Guide for Medical School Applicants.   
  • We urge students to consider these competencies when making decisions about courses, potential experiential learning experiences, community service, health-related service in research and clinical care.  Students can meet with the Health Professions Advisor to reflect on the competencies they are developing through these activities.  
  • The Health Professions Advisor can help students prepare a portfolio to keep track of and to reflect on their progress and to begin to frame this information in ways that would be useful when applying to health professions schools.   

The 15 Core Competencies for Entering Medical Students have been endorsed by the AAMC Group on Student Affairs (GSA) Committee on Admissions (COA) are listed here:

Pre-Professional Competencies (combining interpersonal and intrapersonal competencies):

  • Service Orientation: Demonstrates a desire to help others and sensitivity to others’ needs and feelings; demonstrates a desire to alleviate others’ distress; recognizes and acts on his/her responsibilities to society; locally, nationally, and globally.
  • Social Skills: Demonstrates an awareness of others’ needs, goals, feelings, and the ways that social and behavioral cues affect peoples’ interactions and behaviors; adjusts behaviors appropriately in response to these cues; treats others with respect.
  • Cultural Competence: Demonstrates knowledge of socio-cultural factors that affect interactions and behaviors; shows an appreciation and respect for multiple dimensions of diversity; recognizes and acts on the obligation to inform one’s own judgment; engages diverse and competing perspectives as a resource for learning, citizenship, and work; recognizes and appropriately addresses bias in themselves and others; interacts effectively with people from diverse backgrounds.
  • Teamwork: Works collaboratively with others to achieve shared goals; shares information and knowledge with others and provides feedback; puts team goals ahead of individual goals.
  • Oral Communication: Effectively conveys information to others using spoken words and sentences; listens effectively; recognizes potential communication barriers and adjusts approach or clarifies information as needed.
  • Ethical Responsibility to Self and Others: Behaves in an honest and ethical manner; cultivates personal and academic integrity; adheres to ethical principles and follows rules and procedures; resists peer pressure to engage in unethical behavior and encourages others to behave in honest and ethical ways; develops and demonstrates ethical and moral reasoning.
  • Reliability and Dependability: Consistently fulfills obligations in a timely and satisfactory manner; takes responsibility for personal actions and performance.
  • Resilience and Adaptability: Demonstrates tolerance of stressful or changing environments or situations and adapts effectively to them; is persistent, even under difficult situations; recovers from setbacks.
  • Capacity for Improvement: Sets goals for continuous improvement and for learning new concepts and skills; engages in reflective practice for improvement; solicits and responds appropriately to feedback.

Thinking and Reasoning Competencies

  • Critical Thinking: Uses logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions, or approaches to problems.
  • Quantitative Reasoning: Applies quantitative reasoning and appropriate mathematics to describe or explain phenomena in the natural world.
  • Scientific Inquiry: Applies knowledge of the scientific process to integrate and synthesize information, solve problems and formulate research questions and hypotheses; is facile in the language of the sciences and uses it to participate in the discourse of science and explain how scientific knowledge is discovered and validated.
  • Written Communication: Effectively conveys information to others using written words and sentences.

Science Competencies

  • Living Systems: Applies knowledge and skill in the natural sciences to solve problems related to molecular and macro systems including biomolecules, molecules, cells, and organs.
  • Human Behavior: Applies knowledge of the self, others, and social systems to solve problems related to the psychological, socio-cultural, and biological factors that influence health and well-being.

Contact Us

Health Professions Advising Office

Canwyll House East
Open year-round, Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.