Barrett Bolton, M.D., served on admissions committee for nearly 30 years

Vital Signs » Spring 2020

Dr. Barrett Bolton had a view of the history of the medical school at Wright State University. He remembers when the Dayton campus of Wright State University was just a corn field.

Around the time that the medical school was founded, he was working at Miami Valley Hospital as director of residency training for internal medicine. Before that, Dr. Bolton served in the U.S. Army. He was stationed in Puerto Rico. He completed residency training in Iowa City, Iowa, and completed a fellowship in cancer chemotherapy.

Bolton was the founding chair of the Department of Internal Medicine at Wright State University, among many other important roles, and helped to train countless medical students as they became competent physicians focused on the care of their patients and communities.

It was one of the values he looked for as a member of the school’s admissions committee, which is in charge of reviewing applications, interviewing applicants, and offering prospective students seats at the medical school. In his mind, that was one of the hallmarks of a medical education at Wright State University.

“To me, you know, if they were interested in research, that's OK. But it's more that they're interested in patient care,” Bolton said. “A focus on patient care, that really is favorable. No matter who interviews, you want to be sure that they can relate to patients.”

He served on the admissions committee for decades, and helped interview applicants each week for eight to nine months out of the year. It was one of the busiest committees he served on. An applicant’s interview was very significant to whether or not they were offered a seat at the medical school, he said. Bolton welcomed the responsibility.

“It was fun because you got to talk to prospective students. And it was like having a new patient,” Bolton said. “We had a full hour to schmooze with them and find out what their interests were, what their qualities were.”

He remembers an applicant who went through the process many years ago. The applicant was impressive and gave a good interview, but didn’t accept a seat that year. The applicant’s wife was interviewed the following year, and got in.

“I wondered what happened to that guy. I looked at his application again and he and his wife both wound up coming to Wright State. They both graduated very high in their class,” Bolton said. “Last I knew, they were off in Alaska working in a public health-hospital arrangement out in the wilderness.”

Since he served in the position for so long, he interviewed the children of medical students who had graduated in the past. He met applicants who were involved in the Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) like he was in his youth. It was the prelude to his time in the U.S. Army and his service at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

“I had excellent ROTC instruction in the first two years of my college and it was an excellent experience,” Bolton said. “I learned about military jurisprudence and all kinds of useful stuff that left me in good stead.”

The interview process is a little different at Wright State University. At the Boonshoft School of Medicine, the interview lasts at least an hour. At other schools, it might only take 15 minutes. That is just too little time to adequately assess an applicant, he said.

Bolton worked at the Dayton Veterans Affairs Medical Center for many years, where he was chief of staff for research and education. Bolton also served patients at the Yellow Springs clinic for a year. He ultimately went back to work at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center, while serving as vice chair of the Department of Internal Medicine, before his retirement.

He was a voluntary faculty member in the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology for 10 years, where he assisted about 20 percent of the courses offered by the department. Today, he is a professor emeritus of internal medicine and pharmacology and toxicology.

Dr. Bolton decided to retire from the admissions committee because he felt that the practice of medicine had changed quite a bit. He didn’t know if he was still in a position to know which applicants would be best suited for medical practice. While specialties such as surgery and obstetrics-gynecology have changed little over the years, primary care and internal medicine have changed drastically. Many practitioners see patients in outpatient environments only, and many work as hospitalists.

“I always used to give a little talk to the applicants about how they should start introducing themselves to patients if they got into medical school and they are seeing patients. Find out their name and be polite and that you cannot be too polite,” Bolton said. “Find out something about them that you like because, when you do that, it means that you like them and they will like you too. You wind up getting better patient histories and eventually the patients become your friends.”


—Daniel Kelly

Last edited on 04/23/2020.