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Lives of Doctor Wives: Survivor Saturday--Applying For Residency Programs

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Survivor Saturday--Applying For Residency Programs

For our first Q&A "Survivor Saturday" post, we decided to answer the following question, asked by Tasha: "I'd like to know more about getting into residency. I think I understand how the match works, but what about the interviews and such? How important are boards/grades/connections in getting into a residency?"

Kathi's Response:

Residency placement has changed since we went through it, but since my husband has interviewed docs that are just starting out, I asked him what he looked for. He said that there is definitely a certain threshold that must be met, as far as scores and grades, but beyond that a good fit is most important. He looks for the physician who fits in with the existing docs and who seems like he would be a “good” doc – understanding the “art” of Medicine. I guess based on his answer, personality can take you some places and docs are more likely to be appreciated if they have a genuine desire to be there.
Jennifer's Response: -->Here’s the short explanation: around the end of MS3, he decides on a specialty. He submits one application for that specialty with a list of the programs he would like to consider. The programs look at grades, board scores, and recommendations--the more competitive programs will require higher scores and grades--then select the candidates they would like to interview. (Interviews happen around the middle of MS4.) He schedules his interviews (affectionately known as “the interview trail”), and interviews with various people at different programs, most likely including the resident interview committee: two or three residents in their last year of training. The program ranks their candidates, the candidates rank their top program choices, and all that information is fed into a computer, which then spits out The Match. Candidates and programs find out the results on Match Day, which is a huge deal and always very emotional.

Unless the program is close by or you are independently wealthy, you will most likely not be able to accompany your husband on all of his interviews, which stinks, but that’s just how it goes. So you are going to have to prep your husband to get the real scoop on each place. Our residency program (UIHC in Iowa City, Iowa) had an interview dinner with the candidates, the residents, and their spouses – no faculty allowed. This was a great chance for the candidates to find out not only about the program, but also about life in our community. I can’t speak for every program, but I would imagine most interviews would include some kind of opportunity for the candidates to ask questions about the community, any kind of spouses’ organization, demographics, etc. If he doesn’t have a chance to meet any of the wives, ask him to get email addresses or phone numbers so you can contact them directly. I’m sure any resident wife would be more than happy to talk with you.

My husband served on the resident interview committee during his 3rd year, and he came home with some great stories. So here’s what you should pass along to your husband as he prepares to interview: personality, personality, personality! Be engaging, but not obnoxious. Write thank-you letters. He can call the residents who interviewed him after the interview to let them know he’s very interested in their program (but be sure to do this weeks before Match Day – they make their rank list pretty soon after completing the interviews). There are stories after stories of candidates who didn’t get their first choice of program (Exhibit A, right here) that worked out beautifully, so have faith that you will end up exactly where you need to be.

Amanda's Response:

I spoke to my husband to get the specifics on applying for residency programs. Basically, those med students who want to apply use one website for everything. The candidates upload a letter from the dean of their medical school, fill in the blanks with information about their CV (curriculum vitae, or "resume"), post their board scores and med school grades, and submit letters of recommendation (or the writers of those letters submit them personally; he couldn't remember which was the case). Then, the candidates apply to specific residency programs through the same website, and all of their information is sent to those programs. The programs review the information from the candidates and send out letters to those people they'd like to interview. Once the interview process has taken place, the candidates rank the programs in order of their favorites, the programs do the same in regards to the candidates, all the information is plugged into a computer, and voila!, the candidates are (hopefully) matched. I'm not sure how much of the matching has to do with having connections in a program or whatever. I do know that my husband applied to six OB/Gyn programs in three states, and he was matched to his second choice. Compared to some of his colleagues who were trying to get into much more competitive fields, my husband did very well, even though he matched at the program farthest away from our families at the time. I know that grades and board scores have somewhat to do with matching and getting into a particular program, but like Kathi and Jennifer said, it's also about the candidate's personality and his/her fit within the program. I think most programs (like my husband's) have senior residents help with the interviewing process, since they know who would work best with them and their colleagues. My husband's first choice was the program at his med school, and that program took ten OB/Gyn residents a year. He thought he was a shoe-in, since the program was large and needed so many people. Imagine our surprise when he matched at a program in Columbus, Ohio, that only took four (now, five) residents a year! We discovered later that his first choice of programs matched a lot of students from out of state. We're not sure why he didn't rank on their list, but it doesn't matter now. In the long run, he found the right fit for him, and being in a smaller program meant he learned a lot more and did a lot more as a first year resident than some residents did in their second and third years in larger programs. As far as the interviewing process went, I didn't go with him to most of the interviewing cities, but I did travel with him once and was able to go to a party that was for candidates and their spouses. I don't remember much about it, except that I know it wasn't the place for us. I do encourage any wife of a med student to go to a candidate party if invited. You get a feel for the other residents (and their spouses) and maybe even some of the attendings, if they're invited. My husband's residency program always had parties for the candidates during the interview process, and resident spouses were invited to come along to meet the medical students. I really enjoyed it because it gave me the chance to meet the people who might be working with my husband. Also, I could give their spouses an idea of what life with a resident is like, and later, I could give my husband my own feelings about a particular candidate, if he didn't get a chance to speak with one of them. I encourage any med school spouse to get involved in the application/interview process as much as possible, because the spouse will (hopefully) be moving to wherever the medical student gets matched. It's a life changing experience, but in the end, it's worth it!

We hope our responses have answered your question, Tasha! If anyone has a more specific question related to residency placement or anything else pertaining to "the other side", just ask us in the comments section. I think we've all said at some point, "Gee, I wish I had had this sort of resource when my husband was going through medical school/residency!" It's really a joy to be able to help you all out by sharing our experiences with you. Next Saturday, we'll be responding to a question about financing during residency. Hope to see you, then!
Amanda, Jennifer, and Kathi--aka "The Survivors"

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Blogger Tasha said...

Thank you! That is really helpful to know how it all works and what we should be doing to leave the best impression possible.

May 3, 2009 at 9:42 AM  
Blogger Heather said...

Thanks for your words of wisdom.

May 6, 2009 at 12:55 PM  

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