Monday, November 13, 2017

So Easy for You to Do: Medical School and Residency Interview Thank You Notes

A few years ago a medical school applicant wrote me to say that the dean of the school at which she had recently interviewed called her to tell her that he was impressed with her candidacy and the hand-written thank you note she had sent. The client thanked me for my help and the thank you note tip I had given her. As you might have guessed, she was admitted to that medical school.

Writing a thank you note after a medical school or residency interview is so easy for you to do, and it can go a long way. 

Now, I get asked by clients what the best way to send post-interview thank you notes is - email or snail mail. I strongly advise sending your thank you note by good old USPS. The reasons are:

1) Email may be viewed as lazy. Handwritten notes demonstrate you've put some time into being appreciative.
2) Email can be deleted without much thought. Emotionally, it's harder to throw someone's handwritten note in the trash.

Get your handwritten thank you notes in quickly. The night after you've completed your interview or the next day is a good time to write and send.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Emergency Medicine: Queen, Rodney Dangerfield, and George Clooney All Rolled into One

Check out the below, a great post called "We Are the Champions?!" written by Crispydoc (Dr. David Presser) on burnout in emergency medicine, a field that towers over the others in burnout statistics:

It’s official: a study published in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings showed that as of 2014, Emergency Medicine (EM) took the top slot for physician burnout (59%).  Suck it, critical care (50%). In your face, OB/GYN (56%).  We’re #1, we’re # ...huh?

How did my beloved field of EM win the race to nowhere?  When I was in medical school, the pioneering faculty insisted that EM’s reputation for early burnout was based on the fact that those docs who’d burnt out had trained in another field, couldn’t hack it in their chosen specialties, and ended up woefully underprepared to spend their careers in EM.  As a medical student, I saw EM transform from Rodney Dangerfield disrespected to George Clooney sexy.  A full 13% of my class at UCSF matched in EM.  We smugly believed we knew what we were getting into, and we took for granted our ability to work as lifers.

Read more of this article (and see an awesome Queen video to boot)...

Monday, October 30, 2017

Your Residency Application: What Do Program Directors Really Want?

Imagine that you're a program director (PD) going through scores of ERASes and interviews. What questions would you ask yourself as you assessed each residency candidate to avoid big headaches?

1) Can this person do the job? Is s/he competent?

2) Will this person "play well with others" and not create complaints from patients, faculty, or other services.

3) Will this person stick with the program and not leave prematurely? A PD does not want to scurry around to fill an open call schedule/ residency slot.

As you approach your interviews, consider how you can demonstrate your competence and collegiality, as well as your commitment to the field and the residency program. For the former, ensure you showcase academic successes, extra curricular activities that demonstrate teamwork, and - if asked - hobbies and reading materials that demonstrate your personality. For the latter, highlight research projects in the specialty, sub-internships, and knowledge about the program and city.

Making sure the PD knows you are not going to cause him/her trouble is at least half the battle.

Monday, October 23, 2017

White Coat Investor Scholarship Winners Announced

For the past few years, the White Coat Investor has funded a scholarship for full-time professional students, including those in medical, osteopathic, dental, law, pharmacy, nurse practitioner, physician assistant, optometry, and podiatry schools. The goal is to both reduce the winning students' debt burden and spread "an important message of financial literacy throughout medical, dental, and other professional schools."

This year's first place winner's essay is here. It's great and worth a read. Second through fifth places can be found here. Keep your eye out for next year's contest. The financial support is significant. 

Monday, October 16, 2017

I Believe

I was recently speaking to a friend who is a law professor at a prominent institution. He teaches first-year law courses and thus, meets students when they are just entering their careers and not yet polished. He was telling me that he is taken aback by how many of his students use "I believe" before their statements in class. The preface "I believe" diminishes the student's point; my friend is looking for persuasive pronouncements, not thin opinions. 

Consider this issue when interviewing. Note the difference between "I'll make a strong medical student" and "I believe I'll make a strong medical student." The latter introduces that inkling of doubt you don't want to impart.

I have advisees who worry about saying "um" or "uh" during interviews. (I advised a pre-med who, in preparing for interviews, asked his girlfriend to gently slap his hand every time he said "um" so he'd experience negative consequences. Yikes!) As I tell my mentees, I'm not worried about an "um" or an "uh." (Note President Obama, well-known to be an excellent orator; he inadvertently uses vocal pauses when he speaks.) 

Instead, the key to a persuasive interview is to have confident responses that are bolstered by persuasive evidence. 

Monday, October 9, 2017

What Is the One Thing You've Learned...?

I was with my children at a four year-old's birthday party a few years ago when I met the grandfather of the birthday-boy. As it turned out, before retiring, the man had been on the admissions committee of a prestigious medical school for decades.

So, I asked him, "Looking back at all of those years of experience, what is the one thing you learned from interviewing medical students?"

The man chuckled and said, "They have no idea what they're getting themselves into."

In life, we never have any idea what we're getting ourselves into, but I think of this man every time I practice the question "What will you like least about being a doctor" or "...least about being a [insert your medical specialty here]" with my medical school and residency mentees, respectively. Saying you'll love everything about being a physician or psychiatrist or pediatrician or internist sounds disingenuous and naive. You need to show that you have some idea what you're getting yourself into.

Having said that, I would avoid tacky topics like money. And talking about how horrible night shifts are is not going to win you many points. But a sophisticated applicant can infer what the challenges will be in medicine or in her specialty and can express them with aplomb.

...As with everything, practice your answer in advance.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Accomplished, Not Lovely

Last week I went to hear the author Nicole Krauss speak about her recently-released novel Forest Dark. I am a big fan of Krauss' writing. The day I heard the author speak, she had published an opinion piece in the NYT Sunday Magazine called "Do Women Get to Write with Authority?" In the article, Krauss speaks about the lack of authority that women writers have compared to men, and specifically, how female artists' work is often characterized as "lovely," a word she describes as lacking in "independent power."

I must admit that I sometimes use the word "lovely" (both for women and men) when I like someone. But Krauss made me think about the word in the context of achievement - not personality - and her point is well-taken.

What does this have to do with medical school and residency admissions? When you interview, you want the faculty member to leave the table saying you were "accomplished," not "lovely." Many applicants miss this point: You don't want to simply be liked; you want to be seen as worthy. It's important that you focus on that important goal as you practice for interviews. 

As an aside, I have not gotten a hold of Forest Dark yet, but I would strongly recommend Krauss' Great House and History of Love.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Four Ways to Save $ in the Medical School and Residency Interview Processes

1. If you are ambivalent about an institution, schedule your interview later. By late-season you may decide not to interview there at all, saving you some money.

2. Group your interviews geographically. If you think this is impossible, consider this: There is nothing wrong with calling an institution you are waiting to hear from and politely letting the assistant know you have been invited to interview at a nearby school/program. Let him/her know you can only afford to fly out to the area once and ask if the admissions committee/ residency might be willing to let you know now if the institution will be offering you an interview. Believe it or not, this technique sometimes works.

3. Check out travel web sites daily or better yet, set an alert on Kayak or Google flights. Occasionally, a low price is available only if you catch it quickly.

4. Consider staying with students/residents if the institution offers. Hotels can be expensive, and sometimes you can gather useful information about the school/program this way. Just beware that anything you do or say may be repeated to the admissions committee/residency. (Make sure to write a thank you note.) 

Monday, September 18, 2017

Don't Let Other People Freak You Out

I started Insider Medical Admissions over a decade ago, so I've been in admissions consulting for a while. I'm pretty good at spotting trends. Every year about now I start getting emails from clients saying they're worried about their lack of (or minimal number of) interview invitations. Yes, even as early as mid-September folks are concerned. They say they have a classmate who says he's gotten an interview invitation or they read online that others are being contacted with invites.

Sure, it's possible some people are getting very, very early interview invitations. But, it's rare and should not affect your confidence. After all, according to Amy Cuddy, whom I've referenced before, confidence is the name of the game when it comes to interviews. 

So, simply stop checking online and minimize conversations about interviews with others. If you are in the thick of the season and you still haven't gotten any interviews, then you'll need to reassess and act. But for now, put in ear plugs. This process is so very stressful; you certainly don't need to seek out more anxiety-provoking information (and who even knows if it's accurate anyway!). 

Monday, September 11, 2017

ERAS 2018 Timeline: Don't Lose the Forest for the Trees

As many of you well know, September 6 was the date that candidates could start applying to ACGME-accredited residency programs (and September 15 will be the date that ACGME-accredited residency programs start receiving applications). I am a big fan of getting your ERAS in on the early side: It demonstrates commitment, and when I was reviewing applications as an Assistant Residency Director, I found my workload was lighter earlier, allowing me more time to spend on those initial applications.

Having said that, do not over focus on an early application such that your written materials are suboptimal. Every year I encounter panicked candidates who want to submit their poorly written documents simply to get them in, shooting themselves in the proverbial foot. 

Find a balance. Yes, submitting early is wise, but not at the expense of your candidacy's success.