Monday, July 9, 2018

ERAS Tips for Your Residency Application

I've been starting to edit ERASes already, so I thought I'd create a list of tips for those embarking on their descriptors:

1. Include relevant pre-professional accomplishments from college. If you conducted research, for example, list and describe it. Do not include high school achievements unless they were truly unique (worked at the White House, sang on Broadway ;)).

2. While you want to include many strong achievements, you do not want your ERAS to be so long that your reader is tempted to skim it. Be selective.

3. Keep your descriptors to approximately three to seven sentences. Fewer can look lazy and more can look self-indulgent.

4. Use full sentences. It’s a formal application, and you want to make your written materials as readable as possible.

5. Avoid abbreviations. Again, you want to be formal, and abbreviations you think are common might not be familiar to the reader.

6. Make sure you spell out your accomplishments clearly. If your reader doesn’t understand an activity, you will not get “full credit” for what you’ve done. Make no assumptions.

7. Write about yourself and your role – not an organization. For example, don’t use the space to discuss Physicians without Borders. Use it to discuss the specifics of your role at Physicians without Borders.

8. Use numbers to be persuasive. Saying that the conference you organized had 300 participants says it all.

9. Unless your PI won the Nobel, avoid using supervisors' and/or doctors' names in your descriptors as they will be meaningless to the majority of your readers.

10. Get help. Do not submit your residency application without having it reviewed. Don’t submit suboptimal materials for a process that is this important and competitive.

Monday, July 2, 2018

ERAS: How Important is it to Submit on the Early Side?

On July 5, DO applicants can start applying to AOA-accredited residency programs, so I've had a lot of clients ask me about the importance of getting their ERASes in now. This topic is relevant for MD candidates whose submission date is in early September. These are my thoughts:

1. Yes, getting your ERAS in early helps. At the beginning of the season there aren't as many ERASes to review so, as a former Assistant Residency Director, I recall giving more time and attention to the early applications. I was also impressed by students who could get their materials in promptly.

2. On the other hand, if your application is not in its best shape then submitting early is a mistake. Waiting a week or two is absolutely preferable to submitting a suboptimal ERAS that will be tossed into the "do not invite" pile. Importantly, all osteopathic residency applicants who apply between July 6 and the 14th will display with a July 15 applied date anyway! 

Monday, June 25, 2018

Don't Let ERAS Kick Y'ERAS

Just a reminder to residency applicants: MyERAS is open and available for you. Even if you aren't ready to start working on your application (and if you know what field you are applying in, there's no reason that you can't be ready right now), I'd recommend registering and taking a look at what will be required of you on the ERAS. Many applicants have never seen an ERAS and don't know much about what extras are required (like "other awards" and additional unexpected sections).

Don't be surprised by what's required of you later in the season... You really cannot start too soon.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Can a Medical School See the Names of the Other Medical Schools You Apply to?

Medical school applicants sometimes worry about adversely affecting their chances of admission because they might "offend" one school by applying to others. Good news: Schools will not know which other institutions or how many other institutions you applied to through AMCAS.

However, later in the season, medical schools at which you are accepted will be able to see at which other schools you are holding acceptances. But, of course, at that point, it's too late for that information to harm you.

So, rest assured, applying broadly will not adversely affect your chances at an individual school.

Monday, June 11, 2018

AMCAS is in the House

The AMCAS submission date came and went, and the question I'm getting now is: Should I be panicking if I haven't submitted my AMCAS yet?

The answer is no... and, depending on where you are in the process, yes. Submitting on Day 1 precisely is not worth losing your mind over, so if you didn't do so, please do not kick yourself. On the other hand, submitting very soon is to your advantage because of rolling admissions.

So, if you are wrapping up your work and have your written materials in a superior state, just keep moving and get your application submitted promptly. If you are behind the eight ball and don't feel that you can craft outstanding written materials speedily, consider waiting a year to apply. Every season I encounter re-applicants who submitted their AMCASes in August or September.

So... on your mark. Get set. Go!

Monday, June 4, 2018

Personal Statement Russian Roulette #2

Last week I showcased a personal statement mistake to avoid. Here's another common one simplified in a stop-motion Guru on the Go© video. This advice applies to residency applicants as well.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Personal Statement Russian Roulette

It's time (okay - not to freak you out - but actually late) to start working on your medical school personal statement. Check out this under-one-minute Guru on the Go© video on an important misstep to avoid when crafting your essay.

Monday, May 21, 2018

The AMCAS Most Meaningful Paragraphs: Three Mistakes to Avoid

In 2012, seemingly out of blue, a significant, new addition appeared on the AMCAS. Applicants were being asked to identify their most significant extracurricular experiences (up to three) and support their choices with more writing:

This is your opportunity to summarize why you have selected this experience as one of your most meaningful. In your remarks, you might consider the transformative nature of the experience, the impact you made while engaging in the experience and the personal growth you experienced as a result of your participation. 1325 max characters.

Now the "Most Meaningful" paragraphs are par for the course, but applicants routinely make a few avoidable errors in crafting them:

1) Don't merge the descriptors with the Most Meaningful paragraphs because they are separate sections: You can complete descriptors for up to 15 activities with up to 700 characters each, plus up to three most meaningful paragraphs of up to 1325 characters each. The fact that these are two different tasks might seem obvious, but every year, I get AMCAS drafts to edit that include this error.

2) Do not use patient anecdotes in your Most Meaningful paragraphs: Most medical school applicants have patient vignettes to share, which means that a patient story does not distinguish an applicant from the masses of other candidates. Also, these patient stories can sound trite or even condescending.

3) Don't repeat what you have written in your descriptor. The Most Meaningful is an opportunity to delve deeper into your achievement. Let's say you are showcasing your experience as a biochemistry teaching assistant. In the Most Meaningful paragraph, give concrete examples of what you taught, to whom, how often, using what techniques. If you were promoted to head TA or asked to come back the next semester, showcase teaching achievements that propelled you to get the position. Did you get excellent teaching reviews from students? Did you offer an unconventional way of learning the difficult material? If so, what was it? By delving deeper, you can truly demonstrate the "transformative nature of the experience, the impact you made while engaging in the experience and the personal growth you experienced as a result of your participation."

The Most Meaningful paragraphs are an opportunity for you to demonstrate your distinctiveness and worthiness for medical school. Don't waste this chance to further your candidacy.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Physician Burnout Report 2018

Medscape has published its 2018 Physician Burnout Report. (You may have to sign in to view.) Congratulations to my field of emergency medicine for moving down from #1 on the list of burnout specialties a few years back to #6 this year. (The rate of burnout was a scary 45% for emergency physicians. To find out why, check out this piece.) Among all physician respondents, 42% reported burnout.

The lowest rates of burnout were found in plastic surgeons (23%), dermatologists (32%) and pathologists (32%). Medscape attributes this fact to these specialists' decreased likelihood of working under emergent conditions. (The highest burnout was among critical care doctors at 48%.)

A higher level of burnout was reported in female physicians (48%) compared to male (38%). 

In a different approach to the question, those specialists who reported they were very to extremely happy at work were ophthalmologists (37%), orthopedists (35%), and plastic surgeons (35%). 

Monday, May 7, 2018

Paralympic-Medalist Physician Asks to be Recognized for her Tremendous Abilities, Not her Wheelchair

Check out this well-written New York Times piece by Dr. Cheri Blauwet, an American wheelchair racer (Paralympic and Olympic medal winner) and physician in PM&R. I'm sure Dr. Blauwet's assertions are true about bias among patients, colleagues, and admissions officers: In my career, I've met very few doctor colleagues with overt physical disabilities.