Alumni Highlights

Alumni Highlights

Compiled by Jaclyn Chua, OMS-IV 

The following alumni highlights include an extraordinary set of mentors at varying levels of their training who graciously agreed to provide personal advice on questions that were unique to each year of medical school. Included are two highlights from an Emergency Medicine and Internal Medicine intern belonging to the most recent graduating Class of 2014, a Pediatric resident from the Class of 2013, and a Psychiatry resident from the Class of 2012. They are all personal role models of mine, and it is my hope that their advice alleviates any anxiety that often comes with the fear of the unknown.

 

JOHN P. FLAHERTY, DO

Class of 2014

Emergency Medicine Resident, PGY1

St. Vincent’s Hospital, Allegheny Health Network, Erie, PA

 

What should my priorities be as a first year?

Work hard. Learn how to study efficiently. Take care of yourself mentally.

#OMS1, What if I don’t know what I want to do?

That’s okay, but you really need to start narrowing it down by March/April of third year. In the meantime, make sure you have a CV that is up to date.

#OMS2, #Boards

Studying for boards is a long process. You should start studying after Christmas break. No matter what, plan on doing all of the USMLE World and one of the COMLEX question banks. Do not get frustrated when you get questions wrong. Those are the ones that you will learn from. Take at least a few practice tests, perhaps one a month before your scheduled test date and then another practice test a few weeks before your scheduled test date. If you are thinking about taking the USMLE, schedule it. Doing UWorld and COMLEX questions will prepare you for both tests. You should take a practice USMLE a few weeks before the test to see if your score is where you want it to be. You can always opt out of the test if you feel like you are not prepared for it. Do not get frustrated.

#OMS3, #Showcasing

If you are going to go into a field you have not rotated in, like EM or Anesthesia, you need to set up some of those rotations early in your fourth year so that you can decide if that’s truly the field you want to go into. This will be so you have a source of letters. You can also have another rotation in that field during the fall of your fourth year.

#OMS4, #ERAS

ERAS is pretty simple to use with most of it just plugging in data from your CV and personal statement. Submitting an application to a program is inexpensive. It is best to apply broadly at the beginning and so that you have more options at the end. Researching programs take a long time, but reviewing a program’s website is a start. You will also learn a lot about programs while you on the interview trail.

#EmergencyMedicine, #SLOR

You will need decent board scores. EM programs require a specific kind of letter of recommendation called the SLOR. Typically, you will need two. They must be written by an attending physician which whom you have rotated. Your last two letters should be from someone pertinent.

 

RAYMOND CHIONG, DO

Class of 2012

Psychiatry Resident, PGY3

Undergraduate: NYU

Westchester Medical Center, Valhalla, NY

 

#OMS1, What if I don’t know what I want to do?

As a first year, you should try to just acclimate yourself to the academic rigors of med school. For me, it felt like a whole different level of concentration and studying was needed in comparison to college.

#OMS2, #Boards

Try to start studying for it as early as you can. You will need to organize your time because you will also need to dedicate time to your 2nd yr course load.

#OMS3, #Showcasing

Try to rotate in hospitals or physical locations where you hope to do your residency. This also applies to your early 4th yr rotations. For most programs, it can be a huge asset to have had rotated in their hospitals. Try to keep an open mind through all your rotations. Don’t be afraid of or dismiss psychiatry off the bat. One of the skills that you learn on your psych rotation is to how to listen empathetically which is a skill that you will need in most specialties.

#OMS4, #ERAS, #Interviews

Get your letters as early as possible because you’ll inevitably have to start stalking some people to get them to write or upload the letters. Get letters from doctors in the specialty that you’re interested in and if possible, from the specific program. There’s no such thing as having too many letters so get as many as you can. Enjoy your interviews! They are less awful than writing your personal statement or waiting for match day. Rank the programs in order of your preference – don’t try to outsmart the system or worry about how the programs will rank you.

 

PRIYAL PATEL, DO

Class of 2013

Pediatric Resident, PGY2

Undergraduate: Fairleigh Dickinson University

Nationwide Children’s Hospital, Columbus, Ohio

 

Why pediatrics? Fellowships?

I knew at the age of 11 years that I had an interest in Pediatrics. However, in medical school, I enjoyed most of my rotations and had a really tough time picking what I wanted to do. However, I ultimately did decide to go into Pediatrics, and I LOVE IT. I love my job and after starting residency, it seems like I absolutely made the right decision. I am very happy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. We see cases here from literally all around the world. It has given me the opportunity to see both the “bread and butter” of pediatrics as well as be a part of taking care of patients with very rare conditions. Doing my residency here has also given me the opportunity to test out many sub-specialties and to do clinical research.

I originally was interested in NCH for their Pediatric gastrointestinal fellowship, but soon after I did my ward month on the Hematology/Oncology service, I knew that was what I wanted to do with my life. I am currently in the process of apply for Hematology/Oncology fellowships.

#OMS1, What if I don’t know what I want to do?

The main priority during the first year is the survive and to learn how to balance social vs. school life.  First year of medical school is emotionally and physically draining at times. Don’t get caught up with trying to figure out what it is that you exactly want to do in life. All of that will make more sense after starting the clinical years of medical school. Also, by the end of first year, it is advised that the students start thinking about how they will study for the boards.

#OMS2, #Boards

The best advice I can give is to stay calm and do a lot of questions. Everyone studies differently, but what worked for me was picking a couple of review books to read and to get through two question banks.

#OMS3, #Showcasing

For third year, decide early if you want to do a regional rotation or if you want to take the route of ranking different sites in the lottery system. I chose to do a regional in upstate NY in Kingston. I was happy with the regional because it gave me the opportunity to get to know the attendings and residents very well. Also, the regional I chose did not have a lot of students, so I had the opportunity to do a lot of procedures and to be first assist on a lot of surgical/OB cases.

It honestly is a personal choice of whether to chose a regional or not. Either choice is fine. The point of third year is to get as much exposure as possible in the different specialties. Always be on time for the rotations, ask questions, ask to do procedures, show initiative, never disappear during your work-day and just have fun. Third year will ultimately solidify what specialty you want to go into. It is a great time to start asking for letters of recommendations.

If you are interested in Pediatrics, try to do your pediatric rotation at a place that will let you do both in-patient, specialty and out-patient pediatrics. The reason being is that this will give you the opportunity to figure out whether you are interested in primary care pediatrics or doing a specialty. Knowing this will help you decide what kind of residency program to apply to. For example, I knew I was interested in doing some sort of specialty, so when I was applying for residency, it was important for me to know how many residents at a particular pediatric residency went onto doing fellowships. Also, it was important for me to know if the residency program offers research opportunities (because, research is very important for Pediatric Fellowships and Fellowship programs often look for candidates who did some sort of research in residency).

#OMS4, #ERAS, #Interviews

The biggest advice I have for the application process is to get everything done on time. Do not waste time and start your ERAS application at the last minute. Make sure you know who to ask to get a letter of recommendation from. I started asking for LORs during my third year rotations. Definitely get one or two letters from a doctor in the specialty that you are applying from. Also, try to get a letter from a program director you worked with as a third or fourth year. Residency programs love to see what program directors think of certain students. I got five total letters and submitted a different combo of four to the different residency programs I applied to. I got one letter from a Family Medicine Program Director at the regional I worked at. One letter was from a Pediatric Assistant Program Director that I worked with as a 3rd Year student. One was from a psychiatrist and one was from the head of the Gastroenterology Practice that I worked with during my 3rd year elective. Also, I got a letter from the head of the Discovery Health Center director who was trained in Med-Peds. Most residency programs only allow applicants to send 3-4 LORs so I chose from these letters which ones to send.

As for ranking programs, go with your gut feeling. I made a word document for every place I went to for an interview. In this document, I included the pros and cons of each program. I ranked based on fellowship and research opportunities and also based on where I thought I would fit in best. There were programs I interviewed at that looked good on paper but not during the interview (i.e. the residents were unhappy, program directors did not seem invested, etc.). I did not rank these couple of programs at all.

 

PUNITA SHROFF, DO

Class of 2014

Internal Medicine Resident, PGY1

Undergraduate: Drexel University

Mount Sinai Beth Israel, NYC

 

Why internal medicine? Fellowships?

My first rotation as a third year was in internal medicine. I knew before starting rotations that I would either end up in IM or pediatrics. I kept an open mind throughout the year, and found myself really loving OB/GYN and even surgery. In a 5-10 week time span those rotations were great, exciting and I experienced my many firsts. I saw my first vaginal delivery, I scrubbed in on my first OR case, and I attempted my first intubation. In pediatrics, I found myself smiling almost at a constancy – kids are so darn cute. But I found that pediatrics is a lot of times reassuring worried parents, and as much as I loved playing with kids, seeing them very sick was not easy either. When it came time to decide what specialty to go into, I won’t lie, I was very uncertain. Life decisions are scary, the fear I’d make a mistake was very apparent. But when I sat down and thought about it, I realized I found myself looking back on my IM rotation. The patients I encountered, the intellectual conversations, and the down to earth residents who worked hard but still smiled every time they walked into a patient’s room.

#OMS1, What if I don’t know what I want to do?

As a first year medical student, focus on passing your exams. Medical school isn’t impossible, but it requires commitment and dedication. It’s okay not to know what you want to do with your life in your first year. Your main goal is to stay afloat and do the best you can. Also, don’t neglect yourself – eat, sleep, exercise, make time to go out every now and then, and always remember to call your loved ones.

#OMS2, #Boards

It is not impossible. Keep your head up, focus on your own journey and do not get discouraged. We’ve all been through it, we’ve all survived.

#OMS3, #Showcasing

I decided to do all my rotations at NUMC, because I didn’t want to be moving around every few weeks. In terms of making a schedule, I would talk to as many upperclassmen as you can. Find out what rotations are great for learning and experience (not all rotations are created the same). If you’re interested in a specialty at a specific hospital that our school allows us to rotate at, it’s a good opportunity to show your face and your interest. However, be mindful that if you end up not impressing them, you’re putting yourself at a greater disadvantage. So make sure to put your game face on! Good luck, and third year just means the light at the end of the tunnel is that much closer!

#OMS4, #ERAS, #Interviews

Be organized! I wrote down all the dates of when things were due and made a plan for myself. It’s overwhelming, but having a time line makes things easier. Towards the middle of your third year, begin to ask for LOR as it will take some time to obtain them from your attendings. The higher the position, the better the letter will look. Focus on quality versus quantity (3-4 is sufficient). Also, polish your CV so you can provide your letter writers with more information about you. The CV also serves as a template for ERAS. If you are obtaining letters from someone who you rotated with very early on, also provide them with a brief paragraph or two about your experiences. It can help them jog their memory, and make your LOR more personalized.

How to rank programs will be dependent on what you want in a program. Is it the location, education, prestige, camaraderie, salary etc? After every interview I went on, I made myself a pro and con list for what the programs offered. Initially, it helped me gather my thoughts on the programs. I also started making my rank list early, and tweaked it as I went on. The truth is, I never really followed the pro con list and chose to rank programs based on my gut. Really simply, I thought about what I would be happiest with if I were to open my Match envelope at that very moment.

I’m pleased to say, it all worked out in the end.

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