Choosing a Medical Specialty IV — Interviews!

The process of choosing a medical specialty, and applying for residency programs is nearly complete as I have returned from my tour of the West Coast and am nearly done with interview season. This is when medical students travel the country at great (and unreimbursed) expense to find their future training program. When all is said and done, all your research into programs and time spent interviewing boils down to a simple question. Do you want to work with these people for the next 3-7 years of your life?

It’s also nice to see the cities where you may live and get a feel for the type of lifestyle you may enjoy. You also get to take pictures from helipads! Like this one from UNC:


And then there is the famous medical art like the Gross Clinic at Penn which also graces a common surgery text:


Or Ether Day (in the Ether Dome at MGH):

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More pictures and some fun interview questions below the fold…

Here’s the view of Philly from the top of Penn’s hospital:


And Boston:


UCSF in beautiful San Francisco:


And the views from the Parnassus campus give you a great view of the Golden Gate Park:


OHSU in Portland has one of the most beautiful views of any hospital. It’s built on the side of a hill and you take a tram up for some beautiful scenery:


And of course Seattle has the views from the Space Needle:


But it’s not all fun and games. You also get subjected to grueling interviews by the hospital staff. Ok, not really. They mostly just want to get to know you, and as a result most of the interviews are informal conversations. This might have been my favorite part of the process in the end, because it was a chance to travel the country and talk to some of the brightest scientists and doctors in the country about research and medicine. As a general rule there is only one interview during the day in which they ask the “interview questions”. You know them: “what is your greatest weakness?”, “can you describe yourself in three words?”, “why do you think you’re a good candidate?”, “tell me your life story.” etc. Only a few questions threw me for a loop. In particular, I was once asked, “what if you fail to complete your residency?” which is of course a helluva question. Usually failure is not at the top of your thought process as you embark on a new career, but it certainly did make me think.

Luckily, I’ve been fortunate in that at almost all of the programs I’ve visited I’ve had very positive experiences and I’ll be able to choose between many excellent programs with excellent people. I still have to make the hard choices though when I form my rank order list of the programs I want to attend in the order that I want to attend them. This data along with the program directors’ match lists are put into the matching algorithm and then on Match Day (March 19th) we find out where we will spend the next chunk of our lives.