MedEdits | Medical School Admissions Consulting

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Baylor College of Medicine: NEW Emergency Medicine Residency

The Baylor College of Medicine Section of Emergency Medicine has just announced the start of a NEW emergency medicine residency and is currently recruiting residents to start in July 2010. Since this is a brand new residency, these positions will be filled outside the match.

Shkelzen Hoxhaj, MD, MPH, MBA, who is a friend and former colleague of mine, is the chair of this progressive department. Bobby Kapur, MD, MPH, who completed his residency training at Yale and received his medical degree from Baylor, is the residency director. The department's outstanding leadership together with the diverse and busy clinical environments will undoubtedly make this a top-notch program in which to train. I encourage interested applicants to apply; it is a phenomenal opportunity to be on the ground floor of what will be a premier residency training program in emergency medicine.

Email Dr. Kapur to submit your application:

Here is the link for the Baylor Section of Emergency Medicine website.

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Friday, February 26, 2010

Medical School, Residency and Social Media

Do admissions officers look at Facebook? Are they on Twitter? Do they google applicants? Do they read the Student Doctor Network forums? Yes.

I find that many applicants are paranoid about what might be discovered about them on line. Take control. Why not make your virtual persona someone of whom you would be proud? Follow respectable people and organizations on Twitter. Create a blog where you showcase your writing, ideas or advocate for good causes. Create a public Facebook profile that any admissions officer would love. Leverage your on line presence to your advantage so that when someone "finds you," they will be impressed.

Social media is so new that many medical schools and hospitals are forming committees to discuss how to manage this technology. For example, a group of residents at a major medical center recently published a video on Facebook that was obviously created while "on the job." This was discovered by the hospital leadership and caused a cascade of events causing the hospital to examine their "policies" regarding social media. So, be careful. Seemingly innocent postings can sometimes lead to unforeseen consequences.

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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Registering for the MCAT

Be sure to sign up for your MCAT spring exam date now! Here is where you can register: MCAT registration link.

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Sunday, February 21, 2010

Financing Your Medical Education

The Association of American Medical Colleges has a great resource where applicants, students and residents can become financially literate. The site allows individuals to learn about how to finance their education, pay back loans and transition to medical practice. The program is called FIRST (Financial Information, Resources, Services and Tools).

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Monday, February 15, 2010

New Medical Schools

An article published in the New York Times yesterday is a must read for medical school applicants, current medical students and international medical graduates. The article discusses the planned opening of new medical schools and the impact this will have on medical school admissions and health care in this country. While reading this article, keep in mind that it takes years to open a new medical school. Refer to the Liaison Committee on Medical Education website to check the application status of new schools. With the planned opening of many new schools and increased enrollments at existing schools, there is a need for more residency training positions. If this does not happen, the competition to obtain residency training will increase.

Read: Expecting a Surge in U.S. Medical Schools in the New York Times.

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Sunday, February 14, 2010

Residency Rank Order List: What Factors Should You Consider?

Rank order lists must be certified by February 24th, 2010. My residency clients are asking me how to rank programs so I decided to blog on this topic. What are some important factors to consider?

1) Geography
Not only should you be happy in the city where you train, but a large percentage of residency graduates ultimately take jobs or fellowships in the same geographic area where they complete residency. This is not to say that if you train in New York, for example, that you can't obtain an excellent job in California. However, you will make contacts throughout residency so it is often easier to obtain a job or fellowship in the city where you complete your training. Many programs also hire their own graduates.

2) The Residents
Ask yourself if you would enjoy working and socializing with the residents whom you met on your interview day. Did residents seem happy?

3) The Faculty
The attendings under whom you train will be your role models and educators. If you want to pursue a career in academic medicine and research, for example, going to a program where none of the faculty have research funding might not be your best choice. Also, did you like the faculty whom you met? Do you envision working well with them?

4) Patients and Clinical Settings
To become the best clinician, you must see a diverse group of patients in a variety of settings. Where do residents rotate? Do they see a variety of patients with a wide range of diseases? If you are entering a surgical or procedure-based specialty, do residents obtain enough exposure to become skilled?

5) Teaching, Didactics and Curriculum
Evaluate the quality of the teaching that residents receive at the bedside and during formal didactic sessions such as morning report and conferences. Do residents have flexibility to pursue electives?

6) Overall Fit
I have a vivid memory of my interview day at the program where I matched. I had spent some time in the emergency department the evening before my interview, felt immediate rapport with the residents and faculty whom I met and had a great "gut feeling" about the program. I ranked the program #1 and matched there. Listen to your "gut feeling" seriously.

7) Your Personal Preference
Every year applicants are swayed by the positive feedback and communications they receive from programs and consider changing their rank order list in light of this feedback. Applicants cannot manipulate the match algorithm and there is a common misconception that how you rank the programs from which you received positive feedback will somehow improve your odds of matching. Rank your programs based on where you believe you will be happy and receive the best training. Also, never rank a program that you do not want to attend; your match is binding!

Good luck in the residency match this year!

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Saturday, February 13, 2010

Announcement: MedEdits Offers Video Conferencing

MedEdits now offers video conferencing and screen sharing via Skype® and iChat® for consulting and mock interview sessions.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

No Medical School Acceptances? What Should You Be Doing Now?

Around this time of year, I receive calls from medical school applicants who are nervous; they have only received waitlist decisions or have not received any interviews. So, if you are in this position what should you do?

If you are on a wait list, try and gain acceptance to that school. Consider writing a letter of intent that also summarizes your recent accomplishments. Some schools encourage applicants to send updates while others do not. Follow the directions provided by each school regarding their policies on sending updates. At the same time, you must also consider what you will do if that waitlist doesn't turn in to an acceptance (see below).

If you have not received any interviews yet, consider what you will do to improve your candidacy in the event that you must repply. Some common themes that may limit an applicant's success are the following:

1) Submitting a late application.

I see this all the time. Do not submit an application in late August! Applicants also underestimate the endurance it takes to apply to medical school. After submitting the primary application, students must complete secondary essays. If these are also late (regardless of when the primary was submitted) you undermine your success.

2) Submitting a weak application.

Your written documents (personal statement, application, letters of reference) are your "ticket" to the interview. Poorly composed documents that inadequately highlight your strengths can hinder your success. Ask your premed advisor or someone whom you trust what is most impressive about your background and accomplishments. An objective opinion will help to see your candidacy in a different light.

2) Poor academics.

Critically evaluate your academics and decide if you need to improve your GPA or MCAT. If your MCAT is low, estimate how long you must study to significantly raise your score. If you need to improve your GPA, consider your options. In general, students can take courses or enroll in programs that are "undergraduate" or "graduate" level. Undergraduate courses will improve your undergraduate GPA while graduate level courses will be listed in the "graduate" category on your application. The AAMC has a useful listing of these programs and identifies which programs are specifically designed for academic record enhancement and if they are undergraduate or graduate level.

3) Lack of clinical experience.

Many applicants are "dinged" because they don't have enough clinical exposure. This one is easy; find a doctor to shadow or seek out clinically related employment or volunteer work.

4) Poor interview skills.

Some applicants underestimate the importance of the medical school interview and figure that if they got a great MCAT score and have a high GPA that they will succeed. Your interview performance is the key to success and you must prepare accordingly.

Most admissions offices are willing to speak with applicants. As students prepare for a reapplication, I encourage them to call schools from which they were rejected or waitlisted to ask, specifically, what the school would like to see to improve their candidacy. At times you may receive a concrete answer to such queries that will help. However, I find that many schools provide vague and wishy washy feedback that isn't too useful. This stems from the fact that giving negative feedback is never easy which is a prevalent issue in medical training.

Finally, it is important to evaluate your candidacy objectively. Reapplying to medical school (with success!) is quite common.

If you want an honest evaluation of your candidacy, contact MedEdits.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Residency Rank Day

Most residency programs are having their rank day meetings by the end of this week. Why is this significant? Applicants want to send letters of intent before these meetings occur. While the 2008 NRMP program director survey indicates that follow up does not influence rankings, letters of intent stating that you will be ranking a program #1 can influence your position on a rank list. Residency programs, especially those that are affiliated with prestigious medical schools, don't like to "go too far down on a list" because this looks bad in the eyes of medical school deans and administrators. The need to scramble is especially harmful not only to a program's reputation but also to the medical school of which that program is a part. Therefore, to stay on the good side of medical school deans and administrators, programs like to report that they did well in the match, matched with outstanding candidates and "did not have to go too far down on the list."

By the same token, this is why programs may send "love letters" or make phone calls to applicants they will be ranking highly. Remember that persuasion is a violation of the match participation agreement and you are not obligated to tell programs where you are ranking them. Respond to these communications respectfully and gratefully and say something like, "I would be honored to train with you." Do not allow these phone calls and letters to influence the order in which you will rank programs.

Read my previous entries on letters of intent.

Now is the time to start working with me on your residency candidacy for 2010/2011!

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Wednesday, February 3, 2010

New Tool For Admissions Officers

A company called Turnitin for Admissions now provides plagiarism and content verification software specifically designed for admissions offices. I am not sure if any one in the medical admissions arena is using this resource yet but, as applicants write their essays, personal statements and applications, be aware that this exists! I always discourage applicants from using companies or individuals that offer to write your documents, and this "authenticity" tool should serve as a further disincentive.

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Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Residency Scramble Day Interview: What Not To Ask

Last night I attended a medical dinner meeting and a colleague of mine, who is now a leader at a major New Jersey hospital, was telling me about his match experience. This colleague did not match and entered the scramble. On scramble day, he had a phone interview with one residency director at a prestigious program in the midwest. The program director asked him, "So, why do you think you didn't match?" Sightly offended, this colleague instinctively replied, "I don't know; why do you think you didn't fill." This is a great story to tell but, needless to say, he was not offered a position at this program and completed his training elsewhere.

What is the lesson here? If you don't match and end up in the scramble, be prepared to answer the question, "Why do you think you didn't match?" and don't be offended! I know many great doctors who did not match and got spots through the scramble so, if you end up in this position, have faith.

Be sure to read my article about the scramble on the Student Doctor Network.

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Letters of Recommendation: How Do You Ask?

If you are applying to medical school, you should be thinking now about who will write your letters of reference. Many clients ask me about the best way to ask for a letter of reference. Like most things, there is no "one size fits all" answer to this question.

For example, last week a former resident asked me to write a letter of reference on his behalf. Since I know this resident well, I did not feel the need to meet with him and simply asked him to send me an up to date curriculum vitae (CV) so I could review his more recent accomplishments and remind myself of when he graduated!

So, the manner in which you ask for letters of reference should be individualized. If you don't know your letter writer well, call them or their assistant to schedule a meeting. At this meeting, which could be in person or over the phone, ask if they would be willing to write you a strong letter of reference. The key word here is strong; hopefully, if someone feels they cannot write you an excellent letter of reference, they will be honest and tell you this.

At this meeting, ask your letter writer what materials they would like from you to make this task easier for them. Consider sending your letter writer an up to date CV via email before your meeting. Many things you read advise bringing a "portfolio" to your letter writer that includes your CV, personal statement and any additional materials that might be helpful. Since most people in academics are now accustomed to web based applications, they prefer electronic versions of all documents rather than hard copies but, again, ask your letter writer about their preference.

If your letter writer asks for a personal or a brief autobiographical statement, do not feel that you must provide what will be the final draft of your statement; the letter writer is asking for your statement to obtain a more complete sense of who you are which will allow them to write a more substantial letter.

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Monday, February 1, 2010

MedEdits Blog Suggestions?

I was speaking with a former colleague and current faculty member from Mount Sinai today who called to consult with me regarding some details about the residency match. When I referred him to my blog, he said, "Jessica, you guys need a search box." Seems like an obvious suggestion but was an oversight on our part. A search box has now been added to the upper right hand corner of the blog.

In the same conversation, he said, "Why on earth do you do this and how do you know about all of this stuff?" I explained, advising and mentoring was always the aspect of formal academic medicine I enjoyed most. The topics covered in my blog address the same concerns that my students and residents had at Mount Sinai. Through MedEdits, I can continue to advise and help students.

The MedEdits blog readership has grown steadily over the past 2 years. I would like to thank our readers and ask all of you for suggestions of topics you would like to be covered in this blog. By the same token, if there are any other services that you feel would benefit MedEdits' readers and clients, always feel free to drop me a note:

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