MedEdits | Medical School Admissions Consulting

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Letters of Intent

This is the season for both residency and medical school applicants to consider writing letters of intent. The best letters of intent are individualized. Don't write a general letter that could have been written by another applicant. Use your letter to distinguish yourself and express your unique interest in the medical school or program.

So, what topics should be included in your letter?

1) Introduce yourself. Tell the dean of admissions or the program director who you are and when you interviewed.

2) Provide an update of any recent accomplishments.

3) Indicate your specific interest in the school or program. Try to relate these specifics to your background and interests.

4) Tell the school or program that they are your #1 choice (only write this if it is true!)

I have blogged about letters of intent in the past so be sure to read these posts.

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Monday, January 18, 2010

The Medical School Interview

Read Dr. Freedman's article on the Student Doctor Network: Not So Common Interview Pitfalls.

If you need help preparing for your medical school interviews, contact us!

Friday, January 8, 2010

The Residency Scramble: Do You Stand A Chance?

As I was browsing the web today, I came upon one of those services that claims to help applicants attain residency positions in the scramble. This inspired me to write a post about the scramble so readers can better understand the odds of obtaining a position.

Representatives from the National Residency Matching Program presented some interesting data this year at the Association of American Medical Colleges Meeting. In 2009, the number of unmatched US seniors was nearly equal to the number of unfilled positions. Why is this significant? First of all, US students typically have support from their medical schools to "land" these open spots. Most program directors would rather take a US student who has a reputable advocate at their side with whom they can speak. Independent applicants, most of whom are international medical graduates (IMGs), on the other hand, are often alone in this process. Therefore, the independent applicant has an extremely slim chance of earning one of these open positions.

What are some other important facts? In 2009, the majority of unfilled positions were preliminary and not categorical positions and 2/3 of these positions were filled by 4 PM on scramble day. More than 13,000 individuals, most of whom are IMGs, enter the match just to obtain a list of unfilled positions. As you can see from the numbers, entering the match to obtain the list of unfilled spots is not a great strategy if you want a residency position.

One of the formal definitions of scramble is "to struggle or contend frantically in order to get something." With more than 14,000 people competing for roughly 1000 open positions, you can see that the word "scramble" accurately describes the process in its current form. I wrote an article about the scramble on the Student Doctor Network in 2009, which discusses the scramble in greater detail and, as mentioned in the article, scramble reform is on the way. The proposed "managed" scramble, which may be implemented as early as 2011, will prevent applicants from entering the match just to obtain the list of unfilled positions and will make the process more controlled.

If, after reading this blog entry, you still plan or need to find a residency position via the scramble, you can find the list of important dates and times that pertain to scramble 2010 here.

Please note that MedEdits does not offer any scramble services but we are already working with residency applicants who want to improve their candidacy to apply for residency in 2010/2011.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Doctor Shortage: The Need For More Residency Positions

Dr. Darrell Kirch, president of the Association of American Colleges (AAMC), whom I heard speak at the annual AAMC meeting in November 2009, wrote an op ed piece in the Wall Street Journal this past weekend about the need to increase the number of residency positions in the United States to alleviate the looming doctor shortage.

He mentions that US medical schools aim to increase class sizes by 30% to ease this shortage. Something else to consider is the growing number of both Caribbean medical school graduates, most of whom are US citizens, and the traditional international medical graduates who are not US citizens.The potential ramifications of increases in US medical school class sizes as well as of these two other groups of applicants are twofold:

1) The competition to obtain a residency position will become fierce. And in this more competitive environment, programs may not necessarily show a preference for US students. Indeed, with many excellent students now going to Caribbean medical schools, some programs prefer to take international medical graduates.

2) If the increase in the number of US medical school graduates is not accompanied by a parallel increase in the number or residency training positions, many able people, both US citizens and non-US citizens, will be unable to obtain residency positions and therefore can not practice medicine in the US.

The AAMC must collaborate with the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) to ensure that we don't create a bottleneck of residency applicants.

The AAMC also has a great physician workforce resource page. When asked about the problems in health care today on your medical school interview, why not give an answer that is a little different than the rest?

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Narrative Medicine: What is it?

As a doctor, you listen to stories all day long. Knowing how to listen to these patient stories, or histories, takes practice and a unique skills set. I am sure you have all been to doctors who are not good listeners; they pepper you with questions to obtain a detailed history in an order with which they are comfortable. But, so much great information can be obtained by allowing patients to speak without interrupting them. There is now a discipline in medicine focused on listening called narrative medicine. An article this past weekend in the New York Times discussed a new Master of Science program in narrative medicine at Columbia run by Dr. Rita Charon. I think this program would be a great option for the individual who would like to take a gap year, has a special interest in literature or story telling or who wants to develop a niche in their career. This program could also be an alternative to a Special Master's program and provide applicants a hook to get into medical school.

Happy New Year!

I would like to wish all MedEdits blog readers a happy new year. To all of our clients, congratulations on your success and thank you for allowing us to be a part of your medical educations and careers. MedEdits looks forward to 2010 as we continue to improve our services and broaden our offerings.