Decide right now what kind of doctor you want to become in the future. You can change it later.
It is also called polarization. And it works.
If you try to be liked by everyone then no one will like you.
And this social concept works for your residency application too.
With this article, I want to give you the secret sauce that will help you write a strong personal statement, CV and do well on your interviews.
It sounds too good to be true. But it is hundred percent true.
You decide exactly what kind of doctor you want to be and you make your personal statement, CV, interview answers point to that. You decide this based on your life, skills, experiences, and interests.
When I started applying, I was thinking of becoming a primary care physician (PCP) in a small town in the US. Of course, I didn’t do it (I am an assistant professor in a University now). But I made sure the story I told on my resume, personal statement and interviews matched my aspirations to become a damn good small town internist. In my personal statement, I talked about an incident in my medical college when I was working in ER and saw a patient I knew from my clinic rotation. The patient had a history of a medical condition that contraindicated the medicine infusion that the ER attending had started. Because I knew the patient well, I was able to stop that treatment before it caused harm. Experiences like these are very rewarding because I know my patients and they know me well. That makes me interested in becoming a PCP.
Yes, I still listed all the USCE, research and volunteer work I did. But, I paid more attention to the clinical experience and ability to work hard and connect with my patients (qualities of a PCP) in my personal statement and interview answers.
The program directors who trained residents mainly to go into primary care loved it. They talked about their residents who went on to start private practices and what not. They shared their stories of how good they feel when they connected with their patients and took care of them for years.
Big universities who train residents to become researchers and academicians didn’t consider me a good match. But most of them didn’t consider me at all because of my low scores.
Had I prepared my application with a little bit of research, a bit of clinical work, for both big universities and community programs, I would have appeared a weak candidate to all of them.
It is no secret that my scores were very low. In spite of that, I was able to get 11 interviews, 1 pre-match which I refused and matched at my top choice university affiliated program.
This is the secret sauce that worked for me. And it will work for you too.
Look at the big picture with your application right now. What are your strengths? All the work you have done so far. USCE you were able to get, research you worked on or got published, extra stuff you did back in medical school. Does it make you look like a person who is into primary care or a primary care/hospitalist who likes to do research or a specialist who enjoys clinical practice or a specialist who wants to research some novel treatment options and become well renowned for that? One time, I worked with an applicant who ended up matching at a University program with low scores because she focused her entire application on wanting to become a travel medicine physician (she had done some missionary work in Nicaragua). Another applicant had a successful match based on his interest in taking care of immigrant population in the US.
There are a number of different areas you can explore. The one you chose depends on your life experiences. Think about your life even before you joined medical college. Influences you had from your parents, friends, events in your life, experiences in medical college and later when you moved to the US.
Choose one specific thing you are thinking of doing in the future. Let that one thing be the flavor of your application. Let that one thing be the distinctive factor that separates you from thousand other IMGs. Talk about that in your personal statement and during your residency interviews.
Let that one thing help you get matched.