Monday, July 24, 2017

Allopathic Residency Candidates, Check out this Super Useful AAMC Data

I recently found this AAMC website that provides USMLE Step 1 and Step 2 CK Scores of (2015-2016) first-year residents by specialty. You can look up your desired specialty and then cross check your Step 1 score with your Step 2 score. The chart tells you how many applicants (and what percentage) successfully matched with those Step numbers in your desired specialty - helpful for predicting application success in a chosen field. Check it out.

Monday, July 17, 2017

How to Draft a Strategic Residency Personal Statement

Each year residency applicants ask me if they need to showcase their accomplishments in their residency personal statements if they've already drafted strong ERAS activities sections. The simple answer is yes.

First, remember that you don't know at what part of your application the readers will be starting. If a residency director peruses your personal statement first and it's thin and boring, you'll have lost that reader from the beginning.

Also, note that the faculty members seeing your application are reading many more ERASes than just yours. If you only mention an important achievement once in your application, the program director might simply forget your accomplishment. After all, s/he is reading hundreds of similar applications. Your readers need to be reminded several times of your candidacy's strengths. (You'll mention those accomplishments again in your interviews.)

To a program director who hasn't yet met you, you are what you've done. You need to use substantive examples of your achievements to demonstrate your worthiness for a potential residency position. Evidence is persuasive; use it!

Monday, July 10, 2017

Looking for a Laugh?

Over a decade ago the American College of Emergency Physicians solicited its members to submit a true story to the television show "Untold Stories of the ER." Lo and behold, my story was chosen, and my husband and I were invited to act in a fictionalized rendition of my tale. If you're interested in seeing it, check out Netflix's "Untold Stories" episode 17.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Be an Adult: Don't Accept Helicopter Parenting

Check out this hilarious (and sad) piece in the New York Times about helicopter parenting and note that two of the anecdotes are physician related. (Can you imagine interviewing for an attending position with your dad present?)

My policy at Insider is to work exclusively with applicants (not parents or spouses) to maintain confidentiality, avoid redundancy, and ensure candidates assume primary responsibility for their work. It's a winning strategy.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Reading this Article Could Make You Wealthier than Working Long Hospital Shifts

Work smarter, not harder. Read this funny, informative Student Doctor Network article by Dr. David Presser on financial literacy for the newly minted physician. Have little idea what an "alternative asset class" really means? Don't know which is a bear- and which is a bull-market? This piece is for you. Learn that do-it-yourself investing is not that hard with the technological tools now at our finger tips and start saving so that you can gain financial independence early. Also, check out Dr. Presser's blog at

Monday, June 19, 2017

Inaccuracies in Medical Student Grades Translate into Residency Application Strategy

Here's an interesting article by Dr. Pauline Chen on medical student grades. In reading the article, residency applicants should reflect on how important the content of their letters of recommendation is, especially in the setting of medical school grades that may be inflated or simply inaccurate. The 2016 NRMP Program Director Survey supports the importance of letters, as well, with statistics. Make sure your letters are very strong; remember that mediocre letters should not be a part of your residency package.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Writing Your Own Residency or Medical School Letter of Recommendation: Is it Ethical?

It's not infrequent that an applicant tells me that a letter of recommendation (LOR) writer has asked the candidate to draft his/her own letter because the writer is "too busy." I notice that medical school and residency applicants are a bit sheepish as they tell me about this arrangement. Have no fear: You are not doing anything unethical. (Here is an old piece by the New York Times ethicist Ariel Kaminer regarding this exact topic.)

If a faculty member asks you to write your own letter, not only should you do it, but you should do it with zeal. Make sure you showcase the accomplishments that distinguish you from other candidates and highlight traits that are important for your future career path. Use honest - but bold - adjectives to describe your best qualities.

Remember that the letter writer has final say, so even a busy faculty member might modify the letter. Keeping this fact in mind might alleviate your (unnecessary) guilt and should encourage you to write the strongest letter you can. (It's harder to go from outstanding to mediocre than from outstanding to excellent.)

Monday, June 5, 2017

Medical School Help: What are the Next Steps Once the AMCAS is Submitted?

Once your AMCAS is in, what can you do next to best prepare for what's to come in the medical school admissions process?

Here are a few tips:

1. Start to draft secondary essays. Even if you haven't yet received the prompts, you can begin to craft responses to common themes like "how would you add diversity to our school?" and "describe an extracurricular activity that might be of interest to the committee." Good writing takes time, but if you wait for the onslaught of secondary applications, you won't be able to impart your essays with your highest quality effort.

2. Get a head start on preparing for the medical school interview. Practice, practice, practice. Start mocking up answers to interview questions so that you distinguish yourself.

3. Consider what you want. Do some soul searching to determine what you are really seeking geographically, philosophically, and educationally. You want to make considered decisions when the time comes.

Monday, May 29, 2017

A Book that Will Break your Heart and Renew your Commitment to Medicine

This is a stressful time for medical school applicants and residency candidates alike. I recently wrote a piece for Student Doctor Network with five suggested books for training doctors, reads that might relax you a bit while you learn something about your future career. I want to add another recommendation: Paul Kalanithi's When Breath Becomes Air. Get ready to cry your eyes out, while appreciating beautiful prose and insightful content. Paul Kalanithi was diagnosed with metastatic lung cancer when he was a senior neurosurgery resident at Stanford. He chronicles his short life in a book that's hard to put down. 

Monday, May 22, 2017

Insider Medical Admissions Searchable Blogs

Have a specific medical school or residency admissions question? Don't want to rifle through blog entries individually?

I've been writing my blog since 2008 and have a wealth of answers to your questions - all free.  But many folks do not know what I have two platforms on which my blog is published.

The first is on my website here. The entries are all tagged, so you can pick a topic and search using that tag.

The second is on Blogger here. This one allows you to search any phrase in the right margin (about a third of the way down the page).

Either way, feel free to use the blogs to get your questions answered easily and quickly.