Sunday, January 29, 2012

Interviewing for Success

Guest post from Dr. Joseph Mazzei, D.O., Medical Director, BodyLogicMD of Chicago

Interviewing for residency programs can be a pressure-packed, daunting task.  Try to take a deep breath, relax and keep it simple.  The process is necessary, affording you the opportunity to find a program that fits your needs, while each program finds residents that fit their needs.  

Advice from Experience
The most important thing remember during each interview is to be yourself.  You could stress yourself out trying to determine who a particular program wants you to be or you can try to act like someone else in order to land a spot - however these tactics will not serve you well in the end.  An interview that is less than genuine will hinder your performance during the actual interview and potentially throughout the residency.  For example, if a residency program places great emphasis upon your participation in research, and you are not interested in doing research, this is not a good fit for you. You may want to be in the program because they possess a great reputation, but their reputation may not be the best thing for you. It would be best to find a program that fits you, rather changing who you are to fit the program. This does not mean, however that you should not care about what a particular program is looking for in a resident. 

Another important aspect of your interview is to be knowledgeable about their specific program. It is very important to be prepared. The more you know about the residency, the better equipped you will be to ask intelligent questions, gain information about the program and sell them on why they need you in their program. Asking questions is important. There are nuts and bolts questions, like “How much will I get paid?” or “How much call will I have?” and other similar questions. These can be answered by the human resources personnel. 

During the interview, you want to ask questions that mean something to you and the people in charge of deciding whether or not you will get into the program. For instance, you may have a strong interest in public health and are interviewing for an internal medicine program. You might ask, “I understand that you have a center for HIV treatment at your hospital. I have worked with this population in the past and have a strong interest in expanding my experience in this area. Will I have the opportunity to focus on this area of medicine during my time as a resident?” Questions like these open the door for you to talk about yourself and your unique qualities. It shows you are motivated and have taken time to learn about their program - you are not just going through the motions of multiple interviews. Interviewers see a lot of people - you need to know what makes you stand out from the other candidates and let it shine - give them a reason to choose you over anyone else. These questions also offer you the opportunity to gather more information about the program and determine if it is the right fit for you. Remember, the interview process is a two way street.  

Be certain to ask about all the aspects of the residency, such as the work environment and community.  Resident programs are trying to find people they want to spend the next several years with, i.e., people they enjoy being around. You will be spending a great deal of time with your fellow residents, therefore it is a good idea to choose residents who “play well with others.”

You may also want to consider inquiring about the social aspects of residency. For example, you might ask, “I want to work in an environment where residents are supportive of each other. Is the environment thought of as friendly and are their planned social events for residents and staff?” This shows that you want to be a part of their community. If this is important to the residency and you, it is a good question to ask. I had a buddy in medical school that was applying out west and was an avid rock climber. He asked during his interview if any other residents were into rock climbing. It turns out that the residency director was a big time rock climber and was very happy to welcome someone with common interests into his program. Again, be yourself. Be genuine.

When I interviewed with what turned out to be my residency program, the interview panel was pressing me on my grades in medical school. I was an average student with average board scores, however I had other qualities that I felt were my strong points. During the interview, several members of the interview panel, wanted to know if I had any excuses for my average grades - were there family stresses, illnesses, or other circumstances that interfered with my academic performance? I explained that I was proud of my medical school performance and that my goals were not to achieve high scores on tests, but to get the most out of my journey through medical school, which I achieved. They continued to press me on this. I knew a few things about this program. Residents were required to train at over 10 different sites at high volume emergency rooms in the Inner City. They needed someone who could adjust to new environments on a regular basis. They needed someone who was open-minded, flexible and who could learn best with hands-on experience and without rigid structure. They did not need people who only felt comfortable with their face buried in a book. They needed a person who could get along with a variety of personalities. I learned this from talking with residents within the program before my interview. I felt this would be the type of program that would benefit me the most and allow me to succeed. I responded to their questions about my grades by respectfully stating that if they are simply looking for a book smart student with high grades, then I am not the right person for their program. I then discussed what I had to offer and why I would benefit their program. There was a short silence and the next question came from the residency director. “What do you like to do outside of medicine?” he asked. I told him that I liked to brew beer, which we talked about for the next ten minutes. I was later offered a spot.  

My advice can be summed up as follows: know the program, know yourself, and be yourself. Things will work out.
Joseph Mazzei, D.O.
Medical Director, BodyLogicMD of Chicago

Question of the Week
During a laparoscopic procedure for a patient with a history of pelvic inflammatory disease and suspected Fitz-Hugh-Curtis Syndrome, what classic finding would you expect to see on the liver?

Answer & Explanation

Sunday, January 22, 2012

In Stitches

Eat, sleep, and breath medicine. That's how medical school is for so many who live through it. We get so caught up in the world of bacteria and mutant cells that we forget to live a little. The years in medical school are filled with crazy first experiences and stories that we would be wise to remember forever. Some moving, others hope inspiring and then there are those that just leave you in stitches.

Medical Memoirs

It wasn't long ago that I was traveling the country with countless hours on flights and layovers. I felt fortunate and honored that Dr. Anthony Youn had contacted me about his latest publication In Stitches, his medical school memoir. It gave me something to do during those long trips and kept me amused as I could so easily relate to his medical training experiences.

Now, I'm not normally much of a reader, but I was surprisingly drawn to the reminiscing of a fellow medical professional. A clever chronology of events, short stories and laughable themes kept me reading until I finished only days after beginning. Dr. Youn's adventure, and misadventure, portrayed the development of his character through inner trials and external challenges. As a young man slaving away to make his father happy, he realized along with his father that happiness can only come from following our own dreams. Achieving big goals requires a sense of confidence, boldness and stamina; all of which develop over time through humorous and touching events.

It was the perfect time for me to read his tales as I had been through the classwork, clinicals and would soon be starting residency. As a practicing plastic surgeon, he lives in the light at the end of the tunnel that is finally coming into view for me. No matter how difficult school becomes, at least there will be some great stories in the end. I think he sums it up well in this small paragraph:
Thanks to my small circle of close friends, my focus, work ethic, and drive to succeed, I slowly grew up. I entered medical school a shy, skinny, awkward nerd with no confidence, no game, and no clue. I came out, four years later, a man.
For someone entertaining the thought of attending medical school, current students, or one just wanting a glimpse into the life of a medical student, I would recommend this memoir.

Question of the Week
When inflating the balloon on a Foley catheter what is the proper solution to use and why?

Answer & Explanation

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Medical Sub-Specialization

Returning home to Las Vegas after touring the country means it's time to go back to rotations as usual. Fully expecting to hit some of the core specialties, I was surprised when I was assigned to urogynecology as an OB/GYN rotation.


Initially, I expected to be listening for fetal heart tones, delivering babies and controlling irregular menstrual cycles. When first learned of the specialty, there was not much guesswork as to the line of work we would be dealing with: incontinent women and prolapsed organs. It is so specialized, that it would be similar to finding a surgeon that only operates on right hands. The patients we see are generally very satisfied with their outcomes after surgery, probably because it changes their lives significantly.

It's exciting to think these last few rotations will move faster than any before as things are rolling downhill with great momentum. Experiencing sub-specialized medicine definitely keeps the study topics to a minimum when all I can focus on is the rank list and match. At least there are some aspects in every field of medicine that can be used in emergency medicine. So I am looking for opportunities to gain from this rotation those things that will be pertinent to my future specialty. Needless to say, but this has been a uniquely educational month with far fewer babies than I had imagined.

Question of the Week
What are the symptoms of urinary incontinence?

Answer & Explanation

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Residency Interviews - In Summary

Looking back over the last five months of 2011, I realize how busy life really was during that time. It seems that I was always on the road working towards the next step and getting ready to meet the next goal along the path. The bittersweet sunset to all the travels, new locations and challenging interviews has come and is now a memory.

Interview Season

Sometimes the numbers say it well:
  • 1 Board exam
  • 2 Case reports written
  • 3 Coasts
  • 4 Clinical rotation sites
  • 5 Months
  • 13 States
  • 14 Residency Interviews
  • 25,468 miles traveled

View Larger Map

It was a lot of road and air time, which I always thought would be fun. At first it was, but as time went on it became very exhausting living out of a suitcase and never in one place for too long. I met great people along the way and was able to visit some fantastic places which can be seen in the links below:
One might think from my photos that I wasn't doing much in the way of rotations at hospitals, but I would prefer to maintain some patient privacy while working. With all that excitement and stress behind me, it is time to prepare for the less adventurous yet fear provoking Match. In a week's time I will be submitting my rank list for residency programs and within a month hopefully hearing good news. It is just a matter of time at this point, but at least things are moving along well.

Question of the Week

What programs are the forerunners in your rank list?


    Sunday, January 1, 2012

    Residency Interview - The Fourteenth

    Strategic scheduling of my last interview of the season allowed me to squeeze in a Miami Beach mini vacation at Mount Sinai Medical Center. Of course I had to make a stop at the beach to recapture the benefits of natural sunlight the rest of the nation doesn't get during the winter months.

    Mount Sinai Medical Center

    Suited up for my last interview and enjoying the Atlantic coast sunrise flooding over the Biscayne Bay, I made my way to the bay-side hospital. Once a month the emergency medicine residents hold their weekly conference at Ryder Trauma Center associated with Jackson Memorial Hospital. After the guest lectures and resident presentations we stopped downtown Miami Beach for lunch with a couple residents. Once returned to the hospital, we toured the facility which has some of the best patient-room views I have ever seen!

    As the holidays were around the corner, only a couple students were being interviewed, offering more time for questions during interview sessions. I first met with the assistant program director with whom I had worked during my rotation months earlier. In addition to the generalized questions posed, I was presented with a series of clinical case scenarios. It was friendly discussion and an opportunity to see where I stand in my learning pursuits as well as my approach to problem solving. Similar scenarios spilled over into the following interview with the residents. Open communication and the welcoming attitude were greatly appreciated at this well known program.

    On this day of new beginnings, we contemplate where to direct our efforts in seeking happiness for the year to come. With interviews a thing of the past, it is time for me to focus on the decisions that will affect the rest of my career. The excitement of new adventures, challenges and aspirations is welcomed as I step forward into this time of transition, of reinventing myself. Happy New Year!

    Question of the Week
    What strong characteristics have you seen in other programs that attract you?

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