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jmattwilson

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Just collecting a little info for next year, hence my two questions.
Looking for some averages here.
1) How many Residency programs did you 4th years apply to
2) How many interviews did you 4th years go on
 

hemoccult

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Applied to 24 programs.
Set up interviews with 19.
Went to 16 interviews.

*I felt like I met my complete level of tolerance for interview type stuff of smooching a$$ and telling them you're excited about your visit, etc at #16. Even though I was truly excited to visit each and every program, it gets tiring trying to show "sincere" interest in each program when you are flying all over the place and changing time zones.

On the flip side, I am always of the opinion that you will only have to do this once in your life...unless you don't match and then you're screwed! Thus, I wanted to visit a good sampling of places all over the country to see what place would be best for my family and me.

Johnny may have even more to offer on #'s as he did a stellar 21. His stamina must be pretty good to endure that many tours and pre/post-interview socials.

Hope this helps!
If you have questions on specific programs, feel free to ask them along the lines of this same thread and I bet you will get some decent answers as everyone has just made their ROL's and the interview info is somewhat fresh.:cool:
 
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Herpeto

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Is the residency application process as grueling as the medical school application process? Do you just fill out one application? How much does it cost? How do you select programs to apply too? Is using location as the main factor wrong in selecting a program? Is it very difficult to land a surgery spot in California, Washington or Utah? Do you just look at information they have on their website? How does one find the time to travel to the numerous interviews all while finishing fourth year rotations? Going to 21 interviews must have cost about $10K? What does a typical interview encompass?

Herp
 

Johnny Cash

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I have to agree with some of the other posts here in that it does get difficult to show genuine interest toward the end of the interview trail. I contemplated cancelling some of my interviews toward the end of the season, but thank god I didn't because those late programs are now very high on my list.

My advice is to apply to as many as you can afford. Give yourself options upfront to reject interviews. You don't want to be left saying "I wish I had applied to more programs". Residency application is an expensive process (I took out an additional 10K in loan to fund the application/interview process).

Be creative in how you schedule your interviews. Drive to as many interviews as you can to keep costs down. Try to interview at a couple of programs during one trip (ie. I interviewed at Stanford and UCSF all on one plane ticket and in 3 days). That keeps costs down. Get yourself a good calendar, and try to find out the potential interview dates for the programs even before you get invited for an interview. That way, as soon as you are offered an interview, you send an e-mail back asap with your optimal date choice.

Explore things like Priceline.com. This was a great service to use for hotels. I ended up staying in nicer hotels, close to interview sites, sometimes for half the cost of the "reduced rate" being offered through the surgery program.

As far as finding the time to interview, my medical school lets us take two months of vacation, placed anywhere in the fourth year. I used one of these months of vacation to interview. The other time I interviewed I was on a research rotation working on papers for publication on my laptop in the airports/hotels.

Location and cost of living became huge factors for me as the interview season went on, since I'm a home owner now, and have two dogs, a wife, and a probably will have a kid in a year or so. That means I must be matched in a city/town where I can afford to own a home. This was so important to me that it outweighed prestige of programs in many cases. For example, the Boston, California programs I interviewed at I thought were excellent programs that would offer great training. However, cost of living in those areas is outrageous, and wouldn't allow me to own my own home. Therefore they are placed very low on my rank order list. On the other end of the spectrum, places like Wash U, Vanderbilt, UVA, and Duke all have great reputations and have very reasonable costs of living, hence they are higher up on my rank order list.

Hope this information helps you all out. Keep the questions coming.


Johnny Cash
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Herpeto

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Thanks for all the insight. It sounds like you have done well for yourself based on the caliber of programs you are interviewing at. How can one set themselves apart from other applicants besides scoring a 250+ on the boards. Will boards scores ever matter after step one if I do not plan on doing a fellowship?

How necessary is research in medical school when applying to a surgery residency? The general surgery residency is five years right? If one wants specialize do they just do a fellowship after the residency? How much will you make as a fellow?

Herp
 

hemoccult

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Johnny is dead on and to echo some of what he said...

Use priceline like a cheap rug and you will save boatloads of $$ on hotels. Several times I would book priceline, pay $40 including taxes and extra bull$hit charges and wind up with the same recommended "discounted" hotel on the school list that they advertise for the cheap price of $99.

Work like a dog to schedule interviews close together geographically and in a comfortable yet packed schedule. I wound up doing 9 interviews in December, took boards right before Christmas and felt like my time was well spent in that month.

Board scores seem to always matter. It is an easy way to separate folks from different schools. On the flip side, they don't mean everything. Other things can make up for that...ie research with a big name. Never underestimate the power of networking. If there is a big name in surgery at your school, work like a dog to get to know them and see if they can write you a letter. WHO writes your letters seems to be an often underestimated factor.

Research is great if you have it, but you can still get interviews at outstanding programs without it. I did none. Ohter things like AOA help out though. I am sure that the few places I did not get offers from was a direct result of my not having done any research. Otherwise, I interviewed at some great places that are very research oriented without prior research experience. I do have a goal of pursuing academic medicine and intend on doing research in residency, however.

Residency is often 5 years in length, however, there are some programs with mandatory and "mandatory... wink wink" research that can make residency longer.

Regarding fellowship after residency, you can sometimes specialize in something even without fellowship training. Sure, it has to be the right setting (ie rural specialist or small region without "x" type of surgeon) but it can be done. To obtain competitive fellowship positions, it seems that many of the successful applicants have done research relative to that field. Fellows are paid at a rate slightly higher than residents but nothing like attendings. They simply follow the pay scale from PGY-1 to PGY-200+.

Again, all of this info is from my recent experiences along the interview trail. Perhaps if Foxxy, womansurg, droliver, or other elite veterans of the surgical discipline have any further info, they may have more firsthand knowledge.
 

Johnny Cash

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Good thread going here. Just thought of some more advice.....


Never underestimate the power of external rotations at your top choices. Early in my third year of medical school I zoned in on two great surgery programs (well one turned out to not be up to what I had expected). My surgery mentors gave me some great guidance, and suggested I do two away clerkships early in the 4th year (September/October). I listened to their advice and set up the away clerkships.

Clerkships (away) are great because they give you an insider's view of a program, and you techincally become part of the program for a month. I went into my two clerkships thinking I was going to be ranking those programs #1 & #2; I ended up ranking one of the programs #1 on my list, and the other at #10 on my list.

So away clerkships are great for two reasons....they can reinforce that a top choice is indeed a top choice, which happened for one of my programs. Or, on the other end of the spectrum, getting an insider's view of a program and realizing it isn't all you thought it would be is also very valuable information (as happened to me with the program in the #10 position on my ROL).

Other words of advice that helped me out are to try to stand out from the rest of the applicant pool. I earned a graduate degree (MPH) before entering medical school, and actually worked in the field for two years writing grants, etc before starting as an M1. This helped tremendously with my residency application in that it made me stand out from the rest of the applicants. Also, I became heavily involved in research during my years at medical school (both basic science and clinical outcomes research). I was able to include a lot of the presentations, papers, abstracts, etc on my ERAS and I feel that too helped distinguish me from the average applicant.

Going into actual interview, of the 21 program I interviewed at only 1 (UTSW) asked me about my USMLE scores, class rank, etc. All 20 of the other programs focused on my research accomplishments, previous work in the public health field, goals for the future.

My gut feeling is if you have stuff that makes you different, put it on the ERAS application. Interviewers like talking about different stuff. If you give them something interesting on your application to focus on (ie. work, research, etc) the interview will go way smoother.


Keep the posts coming.

Johnny Cash
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DadiyaMD

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What do you think about getting LOR from people not from your med school. If I plan on doing an away elective and score well with a faculty at that institution...is it ok to ask for a rec letter from them to send to all the schools you apply to?
 

hemoccult

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If you develop a decent relationship with that faculty, that is perfectly acceptable (and even better if the "big name" comes along with that letter). A friend of mine who is an intern in general surgery did an away and got a LOR from the MD in charge of his rotation who also had a name with connections.

The great thing about this process is that the MD's know that you may be looking for a LOR. Don't feel bashful at all. Be tactful, but don't hold back as this is your future career on the line. Be proactive and seek out the best you can find.
 

Johnny Cash

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Wow....we are burning up this thread tonight.....Strong Work Everyone!!!!


My advice on LORs. Have them written by surgeons (keyword here is surgeons) who know you well. At my medical school we have a couple of well known trauma surgeons. They do not know me well since I've been doing research/scrubbing with the CT surgeons since M1 year.

I was told by multiple people at my medical school that if I were going into general surgery that I would need a LOR from one of these famous trauma surgeons. I thought to myself....well they are famous, well known throughout the country....however, I've never scrubbed with them, they've never seen me in action, and most of all they don't know me at all.

On the other hand, I have these 4 CT surgeons who I approached the first few weeks into medical school, I've developed close mentoring relationships with, and have done some research with and published papers with.

I decided to take the gamble, go against the advice I was hearing, and NOT get letters from the famous trauma surgeons, but rather from the CT surgeons who knew me well.

Turns out to have been a great decision because the LORs these 4 CT surgeons wrote for me are incredible, and much better than anything I would have received from the famous trauma surgeons. I attribute these awesome letters to the simple fact that these surgeons knew me for so long that it resulted in them writting their true feelings about me.

This is just one way to go about getting good LORs. I've learned through this residency application process that there definitely is more than one way to skin a cat.

Also, a final word of advice that was given to me by a surgery resident at my home medical school......it is possible for you to see the letters of recommendation that are written for you without waiving your rights on the ERAS cover sheet. Most surgeons will ask if you want a copy, or have no problem providing a copy of the LOR to you if you ask. It seems to be a common courtesy they often extend. Therefore, you can have your own copy of the LOR, read it, and know exactly what the residency interviewer has read about you. I wouldn't go blabbing this information to the guy interviewing you across the table, but nearly all of my classmates going into General surgery have seen their LORs.

In addition, with the Dean's Letter (MSPE) our school has a policy that each student must proofread the entire Dean's letter before it is scanned into ERAS. I don't know if other medical schools have a similar policy, but that was also nice to have seen what my Dean wrote about me.


Just remember, more than one way to go about this whole process. Keep seeking input and experiences from everyone, and then do what is best for you.


Johnny Cash
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hemoccult

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Again to echo the Cash's comments...
Best to get letters from someone who knows you well than to chase famous names down and have them write sub-par letters for you. The best scenario would be to get to know the famed individuals so that they can write a sincere letter for you.
In all, it is better to have sincerity rather than fame on your side but it will never hurt to have both.:)
I am done with my last call as a medical student now and it feels very nice!:clap:
 

Herpeto

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Thanks for all this information. This is going to prepare me for beginning school in the fall.

Johnny,
How did you approach the surgeons during the first few weeks of medical school and under what pretenses? Where you looking for research, shadowing etc..? How feasible is it to do research while taking classes during the first two years and maintaining a marriage?

As of right now I have two primary interests in surgery and cardiology. Will it enhance my application for residency if I am involved with both in some form or do they just want to see that your life is devoted to surgery? Was anyone able to sit in on surgeries during their first two years. How close to the discipline can I expect to get before my rotations begin?

Will a Master degree and pharmaceutical research work set me apart from the other applicants if this is what I have done before beginning school? Should I try and attain an MPH while in medical school on top of research, clubs, shadowing, grades and boards?

Herp
 

Johnny Cash

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Great questions...... What I did was I first chose one of those famous trauma surgeons I was telling you about in my previous post. I set an appointment with his secretary, and after having been cancelled on about 5 times, I finall was able to sit before ole' mighty trauma surgeon. I explained that I had an MPH, wanted to use it to conduct clinical outcomes research for him, and also wanted to shadow when I had free time. I was greeted with a very cold look, and an apparent disinterest on his part. He said something to the tune of "Oh well, I guess I would be amenable to having you shadow me and do research with me, lets set up an appointment next week." Given that I was cancelled on 5 times (even though each of those five times I saw him sitting in his office reading Time Magazine)...so I set up the appointment and just never showed. My attitude was "I'll find a surgeon who is more receptive".

Then I approached the CT surgeons, specifically the pediatric cardiothoracic surgeons. These peds CT surgeons tend to be a different breed of surgeon (much nicer, down to earth) perhaps because they deal with kids a lot. I set up a meeting, showed up at the specific date/time at the office, only to find the secretary pointing me toward the hospital. She said Dr. X would like you to come over to the OR, they are doing a case right now. So I walk across the street to the hospital, thinking I would be waiting outside of the OR for hours. Much to my surprise I found a scrub nurse waiting with a set of scrubs for me. She said go into OR #10 and stand back by anesthesia. When the surgery that they were doing (Tetralogy Repair) hit a slow point, Dr. X introduced himself and his partner to me from across the drape and asked if I wanted to scrub. Keep in mind I had only been in medical school for about 4 weeks at this time. I blerted out a "Yes, I would love to scrub!" The rest is history. Over my first two years of medical school I scrubeed on >70 cases with these surgeons, mostly pediatric heart cases, but branched off into some adult (including heart transplants). They knew I was only in my preclinical years, so they would pimp, but only with a level of questioning I would be expected to know as a preclinical medical student (ie. anatomy, physiology, a little path questions). I would get the OR schedule the day before, and read for about 30 minutes on the case I would go scrub on the following morning. Granted, when I say "scrubbed" on a case, as a medical student in a congenital heart case, I'm standing next to the first assistant, typically holding a "pump sucker" used to evacuate blood from the surgical field and back to the heart-lung machine. But nonetheless I'm there, present, asking questions, participating, and showing an interest.

I guess I just lucked out with coming across such a great group of surgeons. They knew I wanted to be a surgeon, I showed them I wanted to be a surgeon, and it resulted in some great menotring relationships developing.

My approach was systematic. I started with the trauma surgeon, got blown off in my opinion, and just moved on down the surgery department list until I found someone I clicked with. It just so happened that was the second person on the surgery department list.

After scrubbing, observing, helping take patients to the ICU, etc....for about 5-6months, I then revealed that I had an MPH in Epidemiology and would like to get involved in some clinical research. My god, if I only knew then what I had gotten myself into. The chief pediatric heart surgeon had years, yes years, of data back logged, that he just never had the time to analyze/write papers. So me expressing an interest to him in research were magical words to his ears. I spent lots of time in medical records, pulling patient charts, creating MS Access databases, running statistical analyses, and writing papers. It all culminated in a paper in the Annals of Thoracic surgery which was published in November of this year, right in the middle of interview season.

You might be asking yourself, how did Johnny Cash find the time to do this. Well at my medical school class attendance is not required during the first two years (except for PBLs). So I would keep up with my studies by reading note sets, texts, review books. I would not attend class, but rather would spend my days in the OR with the surgeons. My grades did not suffer, and actually went up because I was liking medical school (mostly do to my experiences in the OR). My wife is a professional, and is very involved in her own work. She was very understanding in my pursuits, and I'm lucky to have such an understanding spouse. I did however dedicate one day a week (typically saturday or sunday) to our relationship and did no school work, no scrubbing on surgeries, etc. That was viewed as "Our time" for "Our relationship" and worked well for us.

I hope this information helps you out. Please send any other questions you have to this thread.
 

NebelDO

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johnny i have to say thats pretty cool man. sounds like your gonna be a great surgeon someday.its funny you were talking about how nice those CT guys were for you. I am interested in Urology and a couple of weeks ago i emailed one of the PD's at WVA just to ask the standard Q's about boards,research, when to do aways etc... usually when you request info you get the short email back from one the secretaries. This guy wrote back and said he got my email and he wanted to talk to me about what need to do further as far as doing urology. He actually asked for my phone number so he could call me!!! i was like holy crap..And he actually called and we talked for like 25 mins about what i should do and when i can come and do a rotation. he told me about this years match outcome and things they like to see. At the end he said to keep him in the loop and to call or email if i had any other questions. It was nice to start to build some kind of relationship like that.
he told me that it would be good to get involved in some kind of project. but i dont know where to begin..our urology dept consists of visiting faculty
 

Johnny Cash

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NebelDO: You see, your experience with that Urologist at WVA is very similar to the experiences I have had at my home medical school. Surgeons are above all else....people.....just like everyone else. They just happen to have a really cool job, thats how I view it. I often go out to dinner with my surgery mentors and discuss things besides surgery. Just try and build a relationship and everything else will fall into place (ie. great LORs, telephone calls to PDs, research, etc.)

Johnny Cash
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Herpeto

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That sounds like a fantastic experience. I can only hope that my time at medical school is as fruitful. I'm sure you were able to learn quite a bit by seeing surgeries on such a frequent basis. Unfortunately I don't have an MPH so my research skills would be limited to more traditional duties. However, I would like to get involved in some clinical research as my interest in basis science research has begun to wane. I guess my approach to the surgeons will be that I would like to shadow on some surgeries and participate in any clinical trials they have going on.

Herp
 

Astroman

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Good Lord, fellas. You all are crazy.

Herp, don't worry so much about it (already). There is NO NEED to be such an over-achiever. Med school is hard enough as it is. Research is NOT mandatory. Other advanced degrees are NOT necessary. Good (but not necessarily exceptional) grades and board scores and a GENUINE interest in surgery are enough to get your foot in the door at most places. Then, you need to be a likeable person that can carry a normal conversation and doesn't say stupid things like "I'm really only interested in CT surgery." Remember, it's a GENERAL surgery residency you're hoping for.

And beware, there's a fine line between enthusiasm and just being annoying... and that goes for day one of medical school, too. The #1 dude in my class is also the most low-key person in my class... Pretty cool.

Have fun. It's been a great 4 years...
 

Herpeto

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Astro,
I know I shouldn't worry that much about it, but I just want to make sure I do all that I can enhance my chances of ending up in a location of my choosing. My biggest fear would be to not match and have to wait a year before applying. Are there a lot of people that don't match in the surgical residencies? If so, could some of that be due to the fact that they aren't willing to go into certain programs? How many people are you generally competing against at each location? What would one do if they didn't match? Is an attending just when you finish residency?


Herp
 

jc7721

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Great advice from everyone--I thought it would be good to have another perspective on the topics discussed here. Personally, I am not married, have no kids, no dogs/cats, no other advanced degrees and come from a medical school that USnews does not consider in its top 50 (just to make a point!). On the other hand, I kicked a$$ during school and on step1, did some research, got published and presented at national conferences. There are no internationally famous surgeons at my school--but some that are definately known around the country. Worse, the two most notable surgeons left here about a year or two ago.

I applied to 28, offered interviews at 26, scheduled 16 and went to 13, ranking 11. Plenty for me. I would be thrilled to go to any of my 11 ranked programs. And to again echo previous thoughts, location became paramount in the end, and I initially thought reputation/prestige was most important. What's nice is that there are so many programs that it's easy to match a great location with a great program. I am young and single so my 'choice' locations will be very different from others. Example, I cancelled my interview at Duke because there was no way--even if God was chairman--that I could live there for 7+years. On the other hand, places like SanFran, Boston, Seattle, Chicago, San Diego are ideal for someone like me. Ann Arbor, St. Louis, and Durham are not.

In the end, I would have to assume that in my case it was my grades/scores that got me most of my interviews, and they were at all the great places that have been mentioned in this thread--ucsf, mgh, brigham, washu, michigan, uwash, duke (cancelled). It sure wasn't my schools rep, famous LORs, advanced degree, etc. Just hard work, hopefully like most of us.
 

hemoccult

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There is no question that hard work and good grades get you far in life and in medicine. I know that MD's were more than happy to write solid letters after seeing that your grades and boards are outstanding. It is just like everything in life...everyone wants to be a part of a winning team. It seems as though if you worked your a$$ off through the classroom and into the wards and clinics, MD's were eager to help you go to the best place possible as they knew you would represent them well.

On the flip side, I know some folks who were at or just below par for the course and either got denied letters or were less than well received in their requests. If you are a sub-par applicant, MD's don't want to put their name behind you with such enthusiasm as their rep is also being placed on the line if they say you are wonderful and turn out to be a donkey.

I have no advance degrees, no research, don't know a lot of rich and famous people, but worked my can off (...though my pants haven't changed size...) throughout med school, and tried like hell to get along with even the toughest of individuals. Like jc said in the previous post, hard work, studying, and doing outstanding work will get you great places.
 

Astroman

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Very very true about location.

I applied to 16 programs, got 13 interviews, went to 11, and ranked 10. When it came down to it, I realized that I would really ENJOY moving to only 5 or so places for 5 or so years. Time out of the hospital is too precious to not be happy with my new city, neighborhood, house, yard, commute, etc... Therefore, some great programs got bumped to the lower half of my list.

To answer an earlier question: Competition this year for spots was evidently pretty healthy. I looked at small to medium-sized programs and it seemed most got 400-500 applications, interviewed 80-100, and take 3-5 categorical interns. Obviously if a bigger program takes 7-10 interns they'll interview a good bit more and others would know those numbers better. Does anybody know the actual number of categorical applicants vs the number of openings this year??

Good luck.
 
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