As the Paul Gross Professor and Vice Chair of the Department of Dermatology at the University of Pennsylvania, Dr. William James directs the dermatology residency program at the University of Pennsylvania, which recently was found to be the highest ranked academic dermatology department in the United States.1
With medical students starting to think about the upcoming residency match season, it’s a good time to review what residency applicants can do to improve their chances of matching. Many students think that how they write their residency personal statement is all that matters, but this simply is not true. As September looms, I want to focus on factors that are still (for the most part) within the residency applicant’s control. This article should also be useful for anyone who may be entering the match in the future.
- Do away electives
These “audition electives” can really help your chances of matching at a program. Some applicants with whom I speak are often fearful of doing away electives because they believe a less than perfect performance may actually hurt their chances of matching at the program where they rotate. Indeed, this is often not the case. As the associate director of a program, I often found that applicants who demonstrated a solid (or even mediocre) performance when rotating with us were ranked higher than other applicants with slightly better stats. Most program directors would rather take a student whom they know will be a solid, “no-problem” resident than take a risk on someone with whom they have not worked.
Of the 654 applicants who applied to ophthalmology in 2009, 196 (approximately 30%) failed to match. Similar results were noted in the 2007 and 2008 matches, making ophthalmology one of the most competitive specialties.
We recently discussed the ophthalmology residency selection process with Dr. Andrew Lee, chairman of the Department of Ophthalmology at The Methodist Hospital in Houston, Texas and Professor of Ophthalmology at the Weill Cornell Medical College. Prior to becoming chairman, Dr. Lee was professor of ophthalmology, neurology, and neurosurgery at the H. Stanley Thompson Neuro-ophthalmology Clinic at the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine. Following residency training at the Cullen Eye Institute at the Baylor College of Medicine, Dr. Lee completed a fellowship in neuro-ophthalmology at the Wilmer Eye Institute.
A key component of the successful match is a full understanding of the residency selection process, and the factors that influence it. Program directors are key decision-makers in this process, and their insights and experience are invaluable. In future columns of The Successful Match, we will present conversations with program directors and other key decision-makers across the different specialties.
We would like to preface these upcoming columns by highlighting the results of an important study done by Dr. Marianne Green. Dr. Green is the Associate Dean for Medical Education at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. She is the former associate program director of the internal medicine residency program at Northwestern. Dr. Green is the recipient of multiple teaching awards, and her peers have recognized her as one of the “Best Doctors in America.”
In researching our book, we asked applicants what they found most difficult about the residency application process. A number of applicants commented on the same issue. “There’s so much conflicting information out there. How do you know what to believe? Who should you listen to?”
Applicants with mentors have a decided advantage. A joint committee of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine described a mentor as “someone who takes a special interest in helping another person develop into a successful professional.”¹ In defining the term, the committee described a fundamental difference between mentoring and advising.
By Rajani Katta, MD and Samir P. Desai, MD Every aspiring physician knows the importance … Read more