Monday, September 9, 2019

"Ghost" stories

I recently read this article in Barron's:

It reminded me of a few situations I've heard about over the years. The first happened approximately fifteen years ago (while I was still working at the medical school, and before I started Residency Support). It was interview season, and a program director called our dean of students. One of our medical students had never arrived for his scheduled interview. Had there been an accident? Was he okay?

It turned out that this student had decided he had enough interview offers, and that he had chosen to skip this one. But he never contacted the program coordinator or director to cancel (which would have given them enough time to invite a different applicant to take his interview slot). Instead, he found himself face-to-face with our dean, and she was angry. This student, soon to graduate from our medical school, had displayed unprofessional behavior that reflected poorly on all of us. She could have added a note about this to his MSPE, and had me transmit an updated version of the document to all of the programs he had applied to. She could have contacted this student's potential program directors across the country to let them know what had happened so they could factor that into their ranking decisions. This student was very lucky that "ghosting" one program didn't have more serious repercussions.

I recognize that most of you reading this are IMGs, and you would never think about skipping an interview, because it's so hard to get enough interview invitations at all! But there are other types of "ghosting" that happen when applying, and some are your own bad behaviors.

For example, after you asked an attending, a resident, or a friend for help with writing a letter of recommendation or reading a draft of your personal statement, did you thank them? Did you ever ask them if they needed any help from you? I've heard from numerous advisors how disappointed they are when applicants treat the advising/support relationship as one way, and never offer anything in return. Maybe your advisor is struggling with a survey design, or could use a medical student's perspective about an upcoming meeting. The other issue that's been mentioned to me quite a few times is how after Match Day, you might never tell your attendings that you matched, because it didn't occur to you to reach out. But why should an attending write LORs year after year, only to never learn that their hard work paid off?

Finally, programs often "ghost" applicants during the application phase, particularly IMGs. You might apply to 100 programs and receive 10 interview offers, 30 rejections...and get no reply at all from the other 60 programs. It's just as rude when a program "ghosts" you, and you feel completely powerless. Thankfully, I've had some success over the years by helping my clients appropriately follow up with programs after they apply, and sometimes changing their lack of reply to an actual interview invitation. It's not easy, and there are wrong ways to contact programs that can violate AAMC or NRMP policy, but sometimes it pays off! Please contact me to see if I might be the right resource for you and your residency dreams.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Adding value to your application

With the NRMP Match and SOAP starting in just a few minutes, my thoughts turn to the applicants out there who are about to get bad news, and how to help them when they reapply.

A friend recently shared this article about medical students not having the manual dexterity that they used to, which means that their surgical skills aren't as strong. It led me to think about the experiences people list on their residency applications. Of course, you should mention the basics: volunteering in the community, student leadership, externships and observerships, relevant jobs, research, and language skills. But beyond that, what are you demonstrating (or failing to demonstrate) with your choice of hobbies and activities?

If you're going to practice primary care, have you explored that through community involvement? If you're a future surgeon, are you extending your dexterity by playing piano, knitting, or even juggling? In other words, what do you have to offer beyond your rotations, grades, and USMLE scores? How can you set yourself apart from other applicants in order to get noticed by the people who make interview decisions?

In an early blog post, I described the value of joining a committee during your pre-clinical years. But since most of you reading this are at the end of medical school and possibly just after not matching, it's worth thinking about similar activities you can participate in at that level. For example, join a professional organization dedicated to your specialty. From the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists to the American Psychiatric Association to the American Academy of Family Physicians, most of these associations welcome student/graduate members (although you should be aware that there are fees). Participating in their activities and conferences can be a great way to learn about your chosen field, and every year some of my clients get interviews due to connections they made through these groups.

As always, I encourage you to reach out to me for a free consultation. If you have trouble matching and need to reapply next year, please let me know if I can help.