One of my closest friends has known she wants to be a doctor since middle school. And for seven years, she’s done everything by the book in order to make that happen.

She spent two and a half years as a clinical researcher for the University of Michigan Health System, scored in the 95th percentile on the MCAT and compiled a GPA that, even after an extended illness that affected her ability to go to class for almost 12 weeks, is still a 3.73. She received her first acceptance letter to a medical school on Oct. 21, well before most of her pre-med peers. It’s safe to say her resume looks like any medical school’s dream.

Well, almost any medical school — but apparently, not Michigan’s.

Her parents have paid taxes in the state of Michigan her whole life. She has gone to school in Ann Arbor since 2006 and has contributed to multiple University research papers in national journals. But the University of Michigan Medical School somehow said “thanks, but no thanks” a few weeks ago without even granting her an interview.

Understandably, she’s upset she won’t have the chance to attend medical school at the place in which she’s invested so much for the past four years. But she’s more upset with the fact that in the last round of interview offers — right before her file was closed — the University didn’t give more interviews to in-state students. And after learning a little more about the school’s claim that it “actively pursues Michigan residents,” I can’t help but agree that the Medical School’s admissions process falls disappointingly short.

It’s true that the University of Michigan Medical School has a nationally renowned reputation that’s much better than Wayne State University and Michigan State University, the state’s two other medical schools. That prestige is largely due to the fact the University admits students from all over the country. It’s the same reason why the University’s Ross School of Business is ranked so high — it, too, attracts students from all over the country.

But even though that’s true, the University often seems to forget it’s still a public school. And a public school that’s partially supported by the state — even if that funding covers a very small percentage of the University’s annual budget — should be primarily concerned with educating the residents of that state.

The University isn’t living up to that. Its in-state interview percentages are simply embarrassing. According to the Medical School Admission Requirements from the Association of American Medical Colleges, the University interviewed just 181 Michigan residents, compared to 620 non-residents, in 2008. On the other hand, Michigan State interviewed 323 in-state applicants and 167 out-of-state applicants, and Wayne State interviewed 505 residents and 161 non-residents.

And the final admissions numbers follow the same pattern. Only about 46 percent of University students who matriculated in the Medical School in 2008 were actually from Michigan, far short of the 74 percent of in-state Michigan State medical students and 85 percent of in-state Wayne State medical students.

Medical School Director of Admissions Robert Ruiz explained the difference by telling me Michigan has a “different philosophy” than schools like Michigan State.

“Our mission is simply different — we educate for the state of Michigan and beyond,” Ruiz said. “It’s a philosophical difference. We really do try to be the leaders and best in terms of applicants from all over the country.”

Ruiz told me that Michigan tries to aim for a 50-percent in-state medical student rate each year. That goal seems to be backed up by the official Michigan Medical School Admissions Twitter account, which medical student hopefuls can use to track Michigan’s progress during the admissions season.

On Jan. 13, eight days before Michigan’s last interview date of the season, the admissions office Tweeted, “Crunching numbers as we determine our next and final steps in this year’s file review process. MI residents a huge part of our current talk.”

Four days later, they again said, “Admission team will meet today at 6:00 p.m. to continue deliberations on final interview offers with MI residents top priority.”

But even though the University claims that’s a priority, the numbers don’t lie. A friend who will be attending the University’s Medical School next year told me that on Jan. 22, that final interview date, 12 people were in-state applicants and 25 were from outside the state of Michigan. That doesn’t sound like “prioritizing” in-state applicants to me — and for a public school, that’s inexcusable.

Especially as the University’s available interview spots continued to decrease this year — Ruiz said the school offered 661 interviews, down from 801 in 2008, according to the AAMC — Michigan residents had even less of a chance to attend the public school that’s the best in their state. And even though Michigan says it wants the “leaders and best” from across the country, maybe it should consider supporting its crumbling state by educating more of its own.

— Courtney Ratkowiak can be reached at cratkowi@umich.edu.

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