In a welcome development for anyone who will ever be a patient, good grades and high test scores are no longer enough to guarantee admission into some medical schools.

At least eight such schools, including those at Stanford, the University of Cincinnati and the University of California at Los Angeles, are placing a new emphasis on people skills by changing their selection process to assess how well applicants communicate.

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On Long Island, the Hofstra North Shore-Long Island Jewish School of Medicine will also be embracing the holistic student -- one who can learn the science but also interact with people -- in a field that too often overlooks interpersonal skills. The school, whose first class begins this fall, weighs those skills along with a student's grades and test scores. And once admitted, students take courses on patient-doctor interaction.

For the rest of us, this overdue trend should mean fewer inconsiderate doctors. Unsurprisingly, according to one study, physicians who scored high in the interview process had lower odds of patient complaints later.

More important, however, this new emphasis on bedside manner will result in more effective treatment. For doctors, engaging patients will lead to a better understanding of their symptoms and complaints. And improving physician rapport means a higher chance that patients will follow doctor's orders. Now that's an easy pill to swallow. hN