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Ask the Program Director: Finding the Best Residency Program

How would you suggest finding the best residency program?

Program Director 1 Response
There is no one answer. Do you want to be a clinician, a researcher, an educator or perhaps work in industry with your MD? Do you want big or small, north or south, urban or rural? You need to examine your priorities first. Then start looking for a match. Word of mouth, the internet, graduates from your school, are all good resources to find what is right for you.

Program Director 2 Response
There is no such thing as the best residency program; you have to look for programs that would be the best fit for you. As you screen for programs to apply to, consider you preference for geography, size of program (both large and small programs have advantages), patient demographics, career plans (primary care, hospital medicine, fellowship, research). During the interview day a very important factor to assess is how happy the residents in the program seem to be.

Program Director 3 Response
Learning about available residencies has been a challenge ever since I was a medical student. I recall thinking at the time that it was much easier to decide which college and medical school to apply to, than to determine which residencies to apply to. Medical students are often at the mercy of their advisors and mentors, who do not have first-hand knowledge of the various potential programs. I recommend seriously considering geographical preferences. Many residents stay at the same general location as their residency for further training or for practice. The relationships that are built during residency with practicing physicians, faculty, and the local community make it often a seamless transition from training to fellowship or to practice. Once the geographical preferences are established, the student can research the available residencies in that area by reviewing their websites, their descriptions listed by the ACGME, and informal reviews from faculty and current residents. Former medical students from the same medical school who are now training at the program under consideration can provide important insights and perspectives. I recommend speaking with as many faculty as possible, including those at affiliated community hospitals, to gain their opinions on specific residency programs. If you are uncertain about a program, I recommend applying to the program. The interview process gives the student the opportunity to visit a diversity of programs and meet a variety of faculty. You can learn a lot more at the residency program by talking to both residents and faculty. Come Match Day, you do not want to have regrets. You will want to have visited enough different types of programs and institutions to know that the program in which you will train is the one that you actively selected.

Program Director 4 Response
First, identify those factors that will help reduce the universe of programs so you don't have to read all of their websites. Do you have geographic limitations? Do you have a definite preference between university and community programs, or between small and large programs? Is there any other strict criteria that will help you limit your search (cities where a spouse could find a job, programs that have strengths in an area of possible subspecialty interest) One applicant told me he only wanted to visit cities with his political leanings. After cutting down your list in this way, it should be easier to read through remaining websites so you learn more about what different residencies have to offer and what catches your attention.

Program Director 5 Response
It is really preference as to what suits the individual and geographic considerations. If someone is looking for special experiences like research, primary care tracks or more experiences that would help them with fellowship decisions, then they should select a program accordingly. The best program would be one that allows that individual to shine and grow. If you pick a program that doesn't match your personality or career goals, it will be very hard to be successful and happy.

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Ask the Program Director is a new feature that focuses on providing medical students practical advice to help them navigate the process of obtaining a residency position in internal medicine. Issues covered include: CV development, writing a personal statement, the Match process, residency program interviews, and more.

Back to May 2012 Issue of IMpact

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