I was always interested in women's health, even before med school.
I knew that I would go into a field where I could concentrate on
reproductive issues and work on social problems such as teenage pregnancy
and domestic violence. Family medicine was a somewhat distant possibility,
but after doing my core rotation on Labor & Delivery, I was hooked.
Even after considering the erratic work schedule of Ob/Gyn, I could
not convince myself to go into a field that I did not love.
How did you prepare yourself for application to
your chosen specialty?
After knowing that I was highly interested in Ob/Gyn, I took the
opportunity to ask for a letter for rec at the end of my core rotation.
(It never hurts to ask early.) Then I scheduled a sub-I near the
end of my third year. I had to be certain that I felt comfortable
with my choice. This plan also gave me leeway to do other sub-I's
in case I changed my mind. Furthermore, just to make sure that I
was interested in the specialty and not the hospital, I did my sub-I
at a county institution. Admittedly, I did think about doing research
to buff up my application, especially when some of the residents
said how important it was. After talking to my advisors, however,
I decided instead to concentrate my efforts on the extracurricular
activities that I was already participating in. And it paid off!
Who wrote your letters of recommendation for your
I had four letters of rec on hand: one from my core Ob/Gyn rotation;
one from my Ob/Gyn sub-I; one from the Ob/Gyn chairman at my school;
and one from an internist who was my third-year preceptor. I would
suggest asking faculty who have seen you in action and can support
their strong recommendations with real-life examples. The department
chair at your school can also give you a helping hand. Of course,
the ideal is a faculty member who is a well-known figure in his/her
field. But that's not always attainable.
Which programs did you apply to and why?
I applied to programs on the west coast because I realistically
did not see myself moving too far from home. Family and social support
were important to me. Therefore, I applied to both academic and community
programs in order to cover my bases. There was a list of 20 when
I began the application process.
What kinds of questions did programs tend to ask
Generally, the interview questions were pretty benign. The most
common one was, "Why are you interested in coming to our program?" Be
prepared to highlight the strengths of the program, as well as inquire
into the weaker aspects. Usually, for the lack of better interviewing
questions, you will also get the common query, "Do you have any questions?" The
only time I was caught off guard was when I was asked to tie surgical
knots - both two-handed and one-handed. And I had to switch hands!
I was surprised that this happened at a community program, but the
interviewer seemed very friendly about it.
What would you have done differently in applying?
I might have done an away rotation at a program with which I had
no connections to. It might have opened up a few more opportunities
(interviews). However, an away rotation can make or break you. Residents
have even told me that they've had excellent sub-I's who did not
rank highly, just because she unknowingly offended a resident or
attending. The Match can be a highly subjective process.
What was the most difficult part of the application
The most difficult part was knowing how many and which programs
to apply to. Much of the information I had about the different residencies
was collected from my advisors, faculty members, residents, and other
students. It would have been nice to have heard more about other
people's experiences, and the Internet is a great forum for that.
What should I look for on my interview and tour
First, get a sense of the hospital's atmosphere and surroundings.
Can you work and live there for 4 years? Are you only located at
one site, or do you have to travel to other facilities as well? Then
look at the small details that you cannot do without. Even "trivial" benefits
such as good coffee and easy access to e-mail can be such perks during
those times when you need a break. Definitely ask a lot of questions
on your interview day. Most residents are incredibly honest with
their answers. Look into the call schedule and the types of clinical
experiences you will have. Not all places offer rotations in anesthesia,
NICU, or reproductive endocrinology & infertility. Ask about how
the faculty interacts with their residents. Some places are very
formal, whereas others create a family-like atmosphere. Most importantly,
watch how well the residents get along with each other. Ob/Gyn is
already a stressful field; you don't need the added pressure of underlying
tensions affecting your time there. If one day at the hospital is
not enough time to sort it all out, go back for a second look. Attending
the conferences and spending some time on L&D can help, too.
What questions should I ask of residents, faculty,
and program directors?
Obviously, each program presents itself in the best possible light,
so all the programs could start looking the same after a while. However,
the programs do want to be sure that their future residents are happy
and will stay in their program. So, don't hesitate to ask a question
because you are worried about jeopordizing your chances of getting
in. After all, your goal is to find a "match." If you are interested
in research or certain subspecialty experiences at a community program,
ask about them. Ask about scut work, the ratio of single vs. married
residents, and even exposure to elective abortions if that is important
to you. Also also tactfully ask about recent changes in the program
and any housestaff who have left the program. It is better to hear
the truth now instead of waiting until you start your internship
How did you form your rank list?
Most people talk about using their "gut feeling." I ranked the programs
based on what I felt the most comfortable with. For my top choice,
I knew What I was getting myself into -- both the good and the bad.
I knew the residents, the faculty, the schedule, and the facilities.
I could also see myself happily working there for the next few years.
Geography was also another important consideration, which includes
family and social support. Other than that, I made sure I ranked
all the programs that I was willing to match at. (Do not ever rank
a program that you don't really want to go to, because chances are
you just might end up going there.)
What other advice can you give seniors applying
in your specialty?
First of all, make sure that Ob/Gyn is the specialty that you want.
Everything else will fall into place once you're committed. Be yourself
at your interviews. Strive for the program that you would love to
go to, even if it seems out of reach. No matter where you end up
matching, the residency training will more than adequately prepare
you for a future in women's health. Good luck!