Questions from an MSIII wanting to go into Anes

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Jul 13, 2003
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I just discovered this forum and am glad I did. I am choosing electives for next year and dont have many resources to ask for information. My questions concern what electives to take and also where I should realistically be applying.

In terms of electives, I have scheduled an ICU month, but unfortunately it falls in Feb, after interviews have already finished. Will this be a big drawback in that I won't be able to discuss any ICU experiences during the interview? I plan to schedule an anesthesia rotation in Sept. I had originally not planned to do any away rotations, but from what I've been reading it seems like this could really give me a foot in the door and help bolster what otherwise would be an average application.

This brings me to my second question, which is what programs should I realistically expect to be competitive for so that I don't waste my time doing an away at a program I could never get into. My stats are midwestern medical school w middle of the pack USN&W rankings, USMLE Step I was mid 230's, grades are a mix of mostly P's, some HP and H's. I am pretty tired of the midwest, and would like to go to a school with a great environment and reputation. That being said, I am looking at the West coast schools like Stanford, UCSF, UCSD. Do I honestly have a chance at UCSF or Stanford? I am a good person to work with and have always gotten good clinical comments, it's just the standardized clerkship exam scores pull me down. Other schools I am considering are U of Michigan, WashU, MGH, B&W. Honestly I would like to go to the best program that I can get into (and of course that I find appealing in terms of environment, atmosphere, etc.)

Finally, I plan to take the Step II in Aug and release my scores. I figure if I can really do well, like say 245 or better that this will help with my lackluster clerkship grades so far. Would this significantly improve my chances of matching at some of the top programs?

I appreciate your comments and any other suggestions on what I could do to improve my chances.

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gerbila, to answer your first question, no it won't hurt your chances. Regardless of when you do the rotation, it will be of benefit to you in the future and in any case, most programs will not ask you about your experiences there. Those programs that emphasize critical care may be more impressed, but it is an extra, not a necessity.

Scores above 220 should get you interviews at any program in the nation. You would improve your chances at your favorite program(s) by rotating there. Rotating there is like a free interview and gives the program a chance to take notice of you. Of our 15 matched candidates, three had rotated through our program in the fall and did not have to press their case as much as other candidates.

As always, when you do an externship, work hard, stay late, and be vocal about your interest in the program and in learning. You cannot help your chances if you do not follow those three tenets but you most certainly can hurt them. The resident selection committee will solicit opinions from staff and residents about rotating residents and a perception of laziness, lack of interest, or just plain stupidity WILL get passed on.

Take advantage of the time you spend there as an opportunity to dissect the program and see if you would be comfortable there. Ask the programs you rotate at to give you an opportunity to rotate at EVERY hospital you will be working, not just "home base" or the county facility. You may find that the other hospitals are much better or much worse than the primary hospital and you need to factor that into your decision making process.

Lastly, ask as many questions as you can about the program and faculty and don't hesitate to get in touch with the program to get contact information with faculty and residents. Even this close after this year's match, I have already received three e-mails soliciting opinions about my program and how to go about arranging an externship here. That kind of determination and preparation will be passed on to the powers that be and give those people a better chance to match here next year.
Thank you very much for your response. I will definitely take note of the things you said.
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You'll probably get an interview at most of the schools you apply to. You may be a bit borderline for big guns like UCSF and Harvard, but there are other top programs you would stand an excellent chance at like Hopkins, Penn, BID, etc. See the "for those you matched" thread for some board scores and where people matched.

Being able to talk about clinical/research experience on interviews is a must, but it doesn't have to be ICU experience. It may not even come up.... most interviews are pretty laid back. They mostly want to get to know you, why you're interested in anesthesia, and what you want to do with the future.

I had similar board scores, slightly higher grades (mostly HP but some H), two abstracts published, and I matched at Penn (my #1 choice).
On my interviews a number of programs asked what rotations I had left for the rest of 4th year. They seemed to like that I had chosen a few substanital electives. ICU in February is fine. I never got asked about any ICU experience even though I did a month of SICU.