fairly sure that I wanted to go into neurology from the time I
entered medical school. I had been a neuroscience major as an undergraduate
and while I don't like doing basic science research myself, I greatly
enjoy learning the science on which the field of neurology is based.
However, there are many people who enjoy neuroscience without enjoying
neurology, so held my final decision to enter the field of neurology
until I had done my clinical rotation. A few days into my rotation,
I found that I enjoyed the strong, long-term relationships neurologist
enjoyed with their patients and was not "depressed" by the patient's
diseases or the degree to which they could be treated (a common
complaint made by those who despise neurology). Another highly
significant factor in my decision was that I seemed to get along
best (e.g. thinking processes, sense of humor) with the neurology
residents and faculty.
did you prepare yourself for application to your chosen specialty?
only two weeks of neurology are required at my medical school,
it was absolutely crucial that I did a sub-internship in neurology
before interviewing in neurology. Otherwise, it would have been
hard to justify that I truly had an interest in this field. While
I don't think that it is mandatory, the two summers that I spent
doing research in neurology was useful preparation.
wrote your letters of recommendation for your application?
3 letters of recommendation-- two from professors of neurology
and one from a professor of ob-gyn. One of the letters (in neurology)
was from a professor with whom I had spent two summers doing research.
From what others have told me, this is the strongest letter, most
likely because this individual best knew me and my work. As long
as you have at least one letter from neurology, I am not convinced
that the letter writer's field of expertise is most important.
I think it is crucial that the individual really knows you. While
it might be useful to have a prominent neurologist at your institution
write a letter for you, I believe that it is virtually useless
if the letter does not indicate that he/she knows you. Another
bit of advice-- individuals who have been around the institution
and in academics longer tend to write better letters.
programs did you apply to and why?
I am interested in academic medicine, I applied to a lot of the "big
name" academic institutions throughout the country. I initially
applied to 16 institutions. At that point, I knew very little about
these programs. Since there is very little printed information
about programs, I found it most useful to talk to residents at
my own institution to find out which programs they had applied
to and strongly considered. While I received interviews at most
of the places to which I had applied, I only ended up interviewing
at 9 programs. I narrowed this down after realizing that there
were areas of the country that I had no intention of moving to!
Also, at this point, I had learned from residents that certain
programs were known for being either too malignant or too disorganized,
kinds of questions did programs tend to ask you?
most common questions I was asked included "Why did you choose
neurology?" and "Where do you see yourself in 10 years?" Also,
interviewers asked me about my research. Most of the interviewers
were very friendly and asked general, personal questions. I was
not asked any neurology questions nor did I feel "pimped." However,
in my "hardest" interview I was asked to present a patient I had
seen on the neurology service.
would you have done differently in applying?
I had to apply to neurology programs again, I would definitely
get my applications in sooner. It was difficult to get motivated
to fill out all the paper applications for neurology programs,
so I didn't get my applications in until mid to late October. I
think it would have been more ideal to have applications in by
early to mid September. Also, I should have started asking residents/
other applicants about programs before I actually filled out the
applications. There were some programs I didn't realize were excellent
until after the deadlines had passed. Conversely, I filled out
a few applications to some big name schools before I found out
they had notoriously poor programs, even bordering on not maintaining
was the most difficult part of the application process?
most difficult part of applying to neurology was finding senior
med students/ residents at my institution who I could ask questions
about different programs. While I was initially intimidated about
talking to residents, they were actually very friendly and excited
to talk to me, especially because they don't find that many students
who actually go into this field. Other than that, the most grueling
part of the application process was the amount of time and money
it cost to interview. The interviews turned out to be the easiest
should I look for on my interview and tour day?
most important thing to do on interview day is to talk to the residents
to see if you get along with them well. After all, you will be
working closely with these individuals. Next, the call schedule
is important. These vary widely between institutions, especially
in the PGY-3 & PGY-4 years. In neurology, it is especially important
to find out how much time is spent in the inpatient and outpatient
arenas. Unless you are have decided exactly what type of neurology
you will practice, it is important to have training in both inpatient.
questions should I ask of residents, faculty, and program directors?
it was very important to find out how responsive the program director/
administration is to changes/ recommendations made by residents.
There are some programs that are very responsive to the residents
and others that treat the residents as low-level employees. Also,
it thought it was very important that a program be flexible and
have a lot of electives. I used the interview process as an opportunity
to compare the requirements/electives at different programs and
learn how to supplement the program into which I eventually matched.
As I go along, I'm happy that I will have the opportunity to pick
electives according to my interest, strengths, and weaknesses.
did you form your rank list?
end, I based my rank list on geographical location, size of program,
academic reputation, "friendliness" of the program/administration,
and how well I got along with the residents. As I interviewed at
programs, I had significant "pet peeves" about various programs--
some were too small, some were rigorous (in-house call all 3 years),
some were too disorganized, some were in very undesirable locations.
I eventually found two programs that I was extremely happy with
and ranked them according to my geographical preference.
other advice can you give seniors applying in your specialty?
best advice is I could give to seniors interviewing in neurology
programs is too appear enthusiastic and intellectual while also
appearing "normal" and well-rounded. There are so many "nerds" (and
I don't necessarily mean that in a negative way) that program directors
get really excited when they meet someone who does more than just