hey guys, i'm presently a PGY-3 at a very research driven program. my program seems to place a lot of weight on okaps performance and everyone seems to get anxious/freak out in the spring. i'm still not sure why this is (my friends in other specialities seem to care a lot less about in service exams)
in my class, we had everything from 99% to 5%, though even the lower-end folks are extremely strong clinically and published extensively.
for those who are finishing up fellowship interviews, how important are okaps scores? specifically:
1. does the application ask for them?
2. do home program directors embed scores in their letter of rec for their own residents?
3. do specialities such as surgical retina and plastics ask for them? if so, verbally during interviews or do programs want paper score reports?
Outside of the really competitive fellowships, people don't ask for them. Don't tell others who train me or other thought leaders in the field, but my OKAP scores really suck. I don't like memorization, particularly in the digital age when I can look stuff up. For instance, I was an early adapter to technology. It must be my Asian heritage or something, but I love the smell and feel of new electronic gadgets. Drives my wife bonkers!
Dr. Weingeist (former Chair at Iowa) loved electronic gadgets too, so I would always hang out in his office encouraging him to purchase this "must have" for the residents. He liked me so I was able to convince him to purchase the latest Palm handhelds for all the residents - I was able to get a new model every year for all the residents!
There is nothing better than a new computer that fits in the palm of your hand... unless it's purchased with department money! I loved the Palm because I typed in all the grand rounds, all the evening Dr. Ed Stone retina rounds, and any fact and tidbit into the Palm. The Palm became an external hard drive for me! I used it to study and to help me recall facts during clinic.
One day, the retina fellow was presenting white dot syndromes, and I recognized the slides. I quickly looked up the syndrome on the Palm and had a differential in my brain. The fellows loved pimping the first years and watch them sweat, so I had to arm myself and be ready for the pimping. I stayed quiet, watched other co-residents pretend not to hear the question, and then got asked to give the differential - doh!.
The differential flowed out of my mouth as easy as it flowed into my Palm. After the grand rounds, the fellow approached me and complimented me about how impressed he was with my differential and rarely does anyone get most of the diseases.
I smiled and knew that in the digital era, why are we forced to memorize and reproduce data? The physicians in the digital era can access information quickly using portable devices. Back when I was a resident, I walked to work 5 miles in the snow, and there was no Internet on the Palm and the BlackBerry just came out. Now, the residents seem to have chips implanted in their heads.
My advice, memorize, remember important facts, but learn concepts. It's how you see things and data that will make you an outstanding physician, not necessarily each little minor detail like a walking encyclopedia. If I need to know specific details, the truth is I know how to use the Internet. Saves me time and allows me to understand concepts! After helping the AAO launch http://eyewiki.aao.org
(it's the next evolution of www.eyerounds.org
that I created for Iowa in 2004), we may never need to input any notes in our devices and just use the Internet to access information.
Long rant about your question. The bottom line is that research support that OKAP scores may not
be a valid criteria for selection of candidates for fellowships:
Good luck with fellowship!