Lessons from Interview Season: An Intern’s Reflection on What Really Matters

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Interview season provides a great opportunity to meet leaders in the field of emergency medicine, build new friendships with future colleagues, and begin envisioning your career. While an experienced advisor is an invaluable asset, faculty and residents along the way offer helpful insight and advice. At my final interview, this recommendation encapsulated the pearls from the interview trail:

“Throw away your spreadsheet comparing the finer points of residency, and consider the philosophy, people, and opportunities of each program.”

One faculty interviewer told me the residents who do best at their program are the ones who buy into the training philosophy. At the end of each interview day, I wrote down a sentence or two encapsulating each program’s mission. This written summary helped me reflect on how I best learned during medical school and what types of challenges help me thrive. With these insights in mind, I considered whether I bought into the program’s approach. There are many outstanding residencies across the country with the tools to help you become a great physician. Ultimately, the outcome of your training is not the result of a program’s formula. Rather, the outcome of your training is a product of your commitment and investment, both of which will be enhanced when you believe in a program’s principles and practice.

Not only do you want to buy into a program’s mission, you also want to be part of a team with a shared commitment to one another. A sense of social support bolsters your success during residency and helps stave off burnout. One of the best opportunities to evaluate the residency culture is during the interview dinner with residents. Consider how well you fit in and how much they seem to enjoy being together. If you can, call residents after the interview to corroborate your impressions and further evaluate if this could be your team. Amidst the rigor of training, you want to feel supported, have fun with your teammates, and trust that everyone has each other’s backs. A residency program is a community that will mold and refine you into a reflection of its leadership, faculty, and trainees.

Residency will be your first job after medical school. Look at how the opportunities at each program align with your career goals. Take into account who you are and who you want to be. Look at the program alumni to see if graduates practice what the program teaches. Just as you place your best foot forward on interview day, programs do the same. Evaluate the data for consistency between what the program claims and how well they are achieving this.

Interview season is a wonderful introduction to the emergency medicine family. Seize the opportunity to soak up the wisdom, encouragement, and hospitality of residents and faculty across the country. To the medical students interviewing this coming year: Don’t sweat the details! You have already chosen the best specialty. Good luck!

Andrew D’Alessandro, MD

Andrew D’Alessandro, MD

Emergency Medicine Resident, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Nashville, TN. Follow him on Twitter: @dalessandromd
Andrew D’Alessandro, MD

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