For all types of professional students in the nation, it is interview time. Podiatric medicine is unique in that there is no element of mystery when it comes to the medical specialty you will pursue after graduating from school. There will be even less questioning now about the type and length of training that you will receive as a resident as the American Podiatric Medical Association’s Vision 2015 takes its course.
Most individuals appreciate a sense of predictability with the exception of those few of us who are thrill seekers. With that in mind, it is often easier to make life altering decisions when there are fewer variables present. Conversing with a few of my medical school peers last year, I could breathe a sigh of relief knowing that after years of schooling, I would complete a residency in podiatric medicine and surgery.
My contemporaries had to concern themselves not only with where they would be accepted as residents but what type of physicians they would ultimately become. Many had to accept positions at certain institutions for their intern year and relocate to another program to complete their specialty training.
Another obstacle is the fact that acceptance into certain fields of medicine is heavily dependent upon medical board scores. On the contrary, podiatry boards do not have a numerical score but a simple pass or fail, which may work in favor of those who do not test well. I am not 100 percent convinced that knowledge of basic sciences alone makes you a stellar physician. Therefore, we should place only a reasonable amount of weight on such tests.
The total match process is a year-long process. It begins during the third year of school when we select externship locations. Throughout the next year, students meet different timelines with each step leading up to the moment of interview day.
Many would agree that the fourth year of podiatry school is the most challenging, especially when you are embarking upon your time as an extern. Essentially, students are participating in a month-long or longer job interview. It is easy to make a great first impression and impress individuals during short encounters but it is difficult not to show your true colors during the period of many days. Externships are beneficial to both the students and residency programs in that each will show strengths and weaknesses in due time.
When approaching interview season, there are a number of things to be “worried” about but luckily there are less unknowns in the world of podiatry. The centralized regional interview programs (CRIPs) have even narrowed down their interviews to one location as opposed to having them at three different regions as in the past.
As interview time approaches, I have observed increased tension in visiting students and externs. Their minds are preoccupied with the details of interviews, including travel arrangements and preparing academically to handle the rapid fire questioning. Although it is impossible to predict every aspect of the interview, after completing a first interview and observing the logistics firsthand, most people breathe a sigh of relief.
The diversity in interview styling from program to program is also intriguing. Some residencies prefer a relaxed, social interview. Others squeeze as many academic questions into a 20-minute period as possible. Others ask a few questions and challenge critical thinking skills. In addition, there may be one interviewer or a panel of interviewers transmitting questions via Skype from across the country.
Just as students must prepare for a successful interview, interviewers spend an abundance of time trying to maximize the experience. In recent years, the number of podiatry schools and students has increased, making it even more essential for residency programs to prepare efficient interviews. Many decisions must occur from selecting the appropriate number of interviewers to the most beneficial amount of interview time and most importantly, devising fair questions that exemplify the knowledge base expected of first-year residents. Even the presentation and scoring of questions are subjects of debate.
There are an abundant amount of unknowns as match day approaches. As interview season approaches, it is important for both students and residency programs to put their best foot forward as the selection process is becoming more and more competitive.
Dr. Ryans is a first-year resident at SSM DePaul Health Center in St. Louis.
Dr. McCord retired in December 2008 from practice at the Centralia Medical Center in Centralia, Wash.