Interview Advice From Family Medicine Residencies

I interviewed at 15 Family Medicine programs in 6 different states across the country and matched at my first choice, so I decided to interview some of the places I interviewed at to compile this post on interview advice from family medicine residencies!

interview advice from family medicine residencies

The criteria I used to choose a program included the following:

  • Emphasis on providing care to under-served populations
  • Community outreach opportunities
  • Friendly, supportive learning environment with a family-like atmosphere
  • Flexibility to explore my interests within Family Medicine

That being said, the advice here should really hold for most family medicine residency programs out there!

…So who did I interview?

  • Dr. Barbara McGarry (Program Director of Rutgers-Robert Wood Johnson FMR in New Brunswick, NJ)
  • Dr. Debbie Lupeika (Program Director of Shasta Community Health Center FMR in Redding, CA)
  • Dr. Janalynn Beste and Dr. Cecile Robes (Program Director and Director of Osteopathic Medical Education of New Hanover FMR in Wilmington, NC)
  • Dr. Geraldine Urse (Director of Medical Education at Doctors Hospital in Columbus, Ohio)

What makes an applicant stand out (positively) to you?

Dr. McGarry: Be able to accept something bad that’s happened—own it, it shows maturity when they can say, “I made a mistake. I learned from it, and next time I’ll do this.”

Dr. Lupeika: We really like to see community medicine, as we’re a more community-based residency–a more university-based might be more research-focused–but we like to see any sort of community activity, volunteer teaching, and genuine interest in family medicine.

Dr. Urse: A well rounded candidate who is in control of their presentation.  Emotional Intellegence – maturity – is a winner for me.   When a candidate is able to answer questions clearly, it demonstrates ownership with the information.  Fumbling and stumbling through the information creates the thoughts of unfamiliarity.  A little bit is understandable from the “nervous” standpoint but when it gets beyond, that it becomes a problem. 

Dr. Beste and Dr. Robes: In family medicine, we are looking for passion.  Make sure both your application and interview display why you want specifically to be a family physician – not just some primary care doctor.  What about family medicine excites you?

What are “red flags” that would deter you from interviewing or ranking an applicant?

Dr. Lupeika: Failing boards more than once or twice and failing classes can be a “red flag” to us. Believe it or not, we read through every applicant’s evaluations, so if someone writes that there are professionalism issues, or that the applicant was difficult to work with, that can reflect negatively on the student. On the flip side, if they write really positive things in the evaluations and recommendation letters, we definitely look upon that very favorably.

Dr. McGarry: Not having good eye contact or seeming bored—we understand nervousness, but there’s a difference between that and disinterest, people who go on and on about how great they are (“too much self worth”). Other red flags would be not knowing what our program is about or trashing/speaking negatively of other people/places.

Dr. Urse: Any dishonesty or attempt to hide/gloss over an occurrence during their undergraduate studies makes me very suspicious.  Also being unwilling to take responsibility for something when asked to relate a time when they have failed – in other words, excuses.

Any parting advice?

Dr. Beste + Dr. Robes: Ask the residents honestly how happy they are.  The best predictor of success is if they feel supported, challenged and ready to practice when finished.  Ask what they plan to do when they finish and if they think they will be ready.  Ask how resident concerns are addressed and how interactions are with faculty.  You will spend a lot of time with these people the next 3 years and want to make sure they will make you the best family physician possible.

Dr. Lupeika: Send in your application as soon as you can (within the first couple days would be ideal). Get recommendation letters from people who really know you, and make sure at least one is from family practice doctor.  

Need some more advice? Check out my article on The DO for how to ace your family medicine residency interviews!




Farrah has a background in exercise biology and music. Her passions include food, sports medicine, working with the under-served, blogging, food and cats. She’s a good cook, too.

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