This is part of a series of interviews with current PGY1s, done during May and June 2020, asking their thoughts about residency application, interviewing and Match. We hope this is helpful to the current #Match2021 applicants, despite all the differences of applying during a pandemic.

What’s your elevator pitch?

I’ll be a PGY-1 at St. Elizabeth FMR this year. I went to medical school at the Arizona College of Osteopathic Medicine and I was pretty involved with ACOFP and AAFP while in medical school. I have interests in Social determinants of health, health disparities, full spectrum primary care and health prevention.

Did you apply to both MD and DO programs?

For medical school, I applied to both MD and DO programs, but I was interested in being a DO because I really like the idea of thinking about ‘why’ patients present the way they do. In my view, the osteopathic tenets of ‘mind, body and spirit’ applied broadly are just social determinants of health and I wanted to be trained to think critically. This was the first year of the single-accreditation match so I did not really sort by MD or DO residency programs. My goal was to find a program that would train me as broadly as possible. 

Why Family Medicine?

I was pretty set on Family Medicine even before I went to medical school. I worked as an ED scribe while in college and during my gap year, and the ED I worked at functioned for a lot of patients as a primary care. However, the ED takes care of patients who could have avoided the ED by seeing a primary care physician. Here, I found myself wanting to work on primary care access and providing patients what they needed. While in medical school, I enjoyed OB, peds, FM, and IM rotations which confirmed FM was the right choice for me.

Were you advised against FM?

I generally didn’t have mentors who weren’t primary care docs in medical school. So, to answer your question, no, but a lot of that was because I set myself up to have mentors who would support my career choice. I did have some classmates tell me that I was making a bad decision, or to consider doing something with more income potential. They were apparently unaware that any medical specialty can be lucrative if that is your primary motivation. For me, money isn’t my main concern and it’s not like primary care physicians don’t earn a good living.

What would you say to medical students still trying to choose between FM and another path?

I think one of the best things about FM is the flexibility. If you have a ‘generalist’ mindset, I think you should really think about FM because it really can be a ‘choose your own adventure’ specialty. I know FM docs who are OB trained doing C-sections, who work in EDs both rurally and in major cities, who are outpatient only, who work a mix of outpatient and inpatient and who work as hospitalists and intensivists. It requires some planning, but there are so many possibilities. If you love working with a variety of patient populations with a variety of concerns, I would encourage you to look long and hard at FM, knowing you can always adjust your practice as you go on in your career. 

How did you narrow down programs to apply to?

I was lucky enough to be able to attend the residency fairs at both ACOFP and AAFP conferences three times while in medical school. This let me hear a lot of sales pitches from different programs and I highly recommend going if you can.

I mostly applied geographically as I was couple’s matching with my fiancée, who also matched into family medicine. We wanted to have multiple programs in the same area to give us more options. I also think there are ‘groups’ of programs in FM. Some are OB heavy, some are inpatient heavy, some are focused on broad spectrum, while others are more outpatient focused.

I would recommend applying to a variety of these types because you may find while you’re interviewing that you’re really excited by the opportunity to do more OB training, for example, and you’re not actually as interested in inpatient training as you thought. 

Did anything complicate your interview process?

My fiancée, Kelly, and I couples matched which required a lot of planning for interview travel and how we decided on which programs to apply to. We identified areas that had multiple FM programs within driving distance so that we could rank more possibilities in that area.

How many programs did you apply to? How many interviews did you have and did you rank them all?

I applied to 39 programs, accepted 19 interviews and ranked 15 programs. I think I definitely applied to far too many programs and accepted too many interviews. With the couple’s match, we were nervous about it and wanted to make sure we had options available to us. I do think it was beneficial in that a few of the programs I identified as programs I thought I would love, did not feel like a good fit when I interviewed and having a wide variety of programs let me reevaluate what was really important to me when it came time to make the rank list.  

Are you considering future training (beyond residency) or considering a fellowship?

I most likely will not do a fellowship. Our program offers strong inpatient training with lots of procedures, so I have considered a hospitalist fellowship, but most of our grads have no problem getting hired on as hospitalists without doing additional training. 

Imagining your post-residency self are you considering academic, rural or urban practice? Full spectrum or multi-spectrum, tell us what professional life looks like in five years!

I am leaning towards working as a hospitalist for a few years after residency to keep my inpatient knowledge and skills up while I work to pay off my loans. After that, I’m not sure. My priority is to make sure I have as many options open to me as possible, which with full-spectrum FM training, is a lot easier to do. I am considering academics after I work for a while and gain some experience.

How has COVID-19 affected your medical school experience, graduation and moving for residency plans?

I was pulled out of rotations with about 6 weeks left and had to finish online. Graduation was virtual and my friends and I were able to celebrate, but it was definitely an adjustment. Moving cross country was doable using a pod service, with social distancing and wearing masks especially in hotels and at gas stations.

Finally, for the 2021 Match interviews will be virtual. Thinking back on your experience, what questions would you suggest the applicants ask in their 1:1 Zoom meeting with a residency’s PD? Other faculty? Residents?

FYI – the other interviewees responses were included in a single post called “Interviewing for Residency Virtually?” in June, prior to Dr. Coker being added to our interview list.

For the PD, I liked to ask where they saw FM going in 10 years. I wanted to know what their vision was for the specialty and how they saw their program adjusting to meet that. It was important to me to know the program was willing to adapt to any challenges that may come up.

If you can find out which faculty and residents you’re interviewing with in advance, I would recommend you look them up online to see what their interests are. If you’re interviewing with a faculty who does FM/OB, even if you’re not interested in doing an OB fellowship, ask them about their training here. People want to talk about what they’re passionate about and you’ll be able to learn a lot about the culture of the program this way.  

I would often ask residents about perks that they did not know about, what ended up being important to them and why they chose the program. It may be harder to identify on Zoom, but so much of the decision comes back to ‘feel.’ Trust your gut and the impression you have of a program, even if your initial thoughts were very different.