So Easy for You to Do: Medical School and Residency Interview Thank You Notes

A few years ago a medical school applicant wrote me to say that the dean of the school at which she had recently interviewed called her to tell her that he was impressed with her candidacy and the hand-written thank you note she had sent. The client thanked me for my help and the thank you note tip I had given her. As you might have guessed, she was admitted to that medical school.

Writing a thank you note after a medical school or residency interview is so easy for you to do, and it can go a long way.

Now, I get asked by clients what the best way to send post-interview thank you notes is – email or snail mail. I strongly advise sending your thank you note by good old USPS. The reasons are:

1) Email may be viewed as lazy. Handwritten notes demonstrate you’ve put some time into being appreciative.
2) Email can be deleted without much thought. Emotionally, it’s harder to throw someone’s handwritten note in the trash.

Get your handwritten thank you notes in quickly. The night after you’ve completed your interview or the next day is a good time to write and send.


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Emergency Medicine: Queen, Rodney Dangerfield, and George Clooney All Rolled into One

Check out the below, a great post called “We Are the Champions?!” written by Crispydoc (Dr. David Presser) on burnout in emergency medicine, a field that towers over the others in burnout statistics:

It’s official: a study published in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings showed that as of 2014, Emergency Medicine (EM) took the top slot for physician burnout (59%).  Suck it, critical care (50%). In your face, OB/GYN (56%).  We’re #1, we’re # …huh?

How did my beloved field of EM win the race to nowhere?  When I was in medical school, the pioneering faculty insisted that EM’s reputation for early burnout was based on the fact that those docs who’d burnt out had trained in another field, couldn’t hack it in their chosen specialties, and ended up woefully underprepared to spend their careers in EM.  As a medical student, I saw EM transform from Rodney Dangerfield disrespected to George Clooney sexy.  A full 13% of my class at UCSF matched in EM.  We smugly believed we knew what we were getting into, and we took for granted our ability to work as lifers.

Read more of this article (and see an awesome Queen video to boot)…

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Your Residency Application: What Do Program Directors Really Want?

Imagine that you’re a program director (PD) going through scores of ERASes and interviews. What questions would you ask yourself as you assessed each residency candidate to avoid big headaches?

1) Can this person do the job? Is s/he competent?

2) Will this person “play well with others” and not create complaints from patients, faculty, or other services.

3) Will this person stick with the program and not leave prematurely? A PD does not want to scurry around to fill an open call schedule/ residency slot.

As you approach your interviews, consider how you can demonstrate your competence and collegiality, as well as your commitment to the field and the residency program. For the former, ensure you showcase academic successes, extra curricular activities that demonstrate teamwork, and – if asked – hobbies and reading materials that demonstrate your personality. For the latter, highlight research projects in the specialty, sub-internships, and knowledge about the program and city.

Making sure the PD knows you are not going to cause him/her trouble is at least half the battle.


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White Coat Investor Scholarship Winners Announced

For the past few years, the White Coat Investor has funded a scholarship for full-time professional students, including those in medical, osteopathic, dental, law, pharmacy, nurse practitioner, physician assistant, optometry, and podiatry schools. The goal is to both reduce the winning students’ debt burden and spread “an important message of financial literacy throughout medical, dental, and other professional schools.”

This year’s first place winner’s essay is here. It’s great and worth a read. Second through fifth places can be found here. Keep your eye out for next year’s contest. The financial support is significant.

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I Believe

I was recently speaking to a friend who is a law professor at a prominent institution. He teaches first-year law courses and thus, meets students when they are just entering their careers and not yet polished. He was telling me that he is taken aback by how many of his students use “I believe” before their statements in class. The preface “I believe” diminishes the student’s point; my friend is looking for persuasive pronouncements, not thin opinions.

Consider this issue when interviewing. Note the difference between “I’ll make a strong medical student” and “I believe I’ll make a strong medical student.” The latter introduces that inkling of doubt you don’t want to impart.

I have advisees who worry about saying “um” or “uh” during interviews. (I advised a pre-med who, in preparing for interviews, asked his girlfriend to gently slap his hand every time he said “um” so he’d experience negative consequences. Yikes!) As I tell my mentees, I’m not worried about an “um” or an “uh.” (Note President Obama, well-known to be an excellent orator; he inadvertently uses vocal pauses when he speaks.)

Instead, the key to a persuasive interview is to have confident responses that are bolstered by persuasive evidence.


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About Dr. Michelle Finkel

Dr. Michelle Finkel

Dr. Finkel is a graduate of Stanford University and Harvard Medical School. On completing her residency at Harvard, she was asked to stay on as faculty at Harvard Medical School and spent five years teaching at the world-renowned Massachusetts General Hospital. She was appointed to the Assistant Residency Director position for the Harvard Affiliated Emergency Medicine Residency where she reviewed countless applications, personal statements and resumes. Read more

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