Thursday, November 29, 2012

Change in Reception...

Well, this was certainly a little different than the previous places I went to. Today's interview day went okay. It was mostly negative, though. First off, none of the residents who were showing us around seemed to know what they were doing. The day started off with a tour, instead of an orientation like all my previous days had started, so we didn't even have an agenda. The person giving the tour was an intern resident, who has only been with the program since July and hasn't even worked in all the hospital departments yet. Usually it's a 2nd or 3rd year resident who does the tours. They also were frank about telling us some of the negatives about the program. When we got back, first I was with a faculty member and she seemed to start off a little colder but she warmed up gradually. Went over my application, I got a bit of a skeptical vibe from her, but I kinda shrugged it off, it didn't seem to be a big deal. After that interview, I was with a current resident who was pretty nice and seemed to like me fine. He even told me a little about the criteria for ranking people, which he probably shouldn't have, and said that being a Spanish speaker, interested in OB/GYN, underserved and rural medicine, etc. are all part of their checklist for whether to rank someone or not. 

After that came the program director (PD). I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt at first, but he didn't seem particularly warm or excited about me. Certainly not like the Sutter had. Sutter probably knew I had genuine interest in them based on me doing the sub-internship, and I had spent a month with them being nothing but nice and pleasant and enthusiastic. I basically felt like the PD here started the interview with the assumption that I was a lying game-player trying to dupe them into thinking I wanted to be in their program so they would rank me highly. For one, he didn't seem enthusiastic or happy at all when I said (TRUE) stuff that matched their mission goals. I DO want to work with Spanish speaking patients, I DO want to have full-spectrum experience and know what resources are available to uninsured patients in California. I don't want to do nothing but OB/GYN but I'd like to be able to handle my primary patients when they get pregnant instead of sending them off to a "specialist".  He basically told me not to rank them unless I really wanted the program, and whenever I said what I liked about the program he seemed entirely nonplussed and just reiterated his previous statements. He even went so far as to say that it's "better to scramble for a residency than match at a place that is just a backup." 

Also, mid-interview, he asked about my Spanish experience and then proceeded to say (in MEXICAN Spanish) "How about we chat in Spanish for a bit?" At first I was thrown off because he used the Mexican-Spanish word for chat instead of the more common verbs like hablar or charlar. I never use the word he used, but based on the context of the rest of the sentence I figured it out after a second of confusion. I asked what he would like to discuss and he said tell me about a patient I saw in the past year. So I start telling him about a patient, and I wanted go on, since I was starting to get going better, and he basically cut me off and played it off like he just likes hearing peoples' accents. First off, part of me feels like he intentionally used the Mexican parlance to make it more challenging. Second, he didn't even let me talk long enough to hear much of an accent, OR let me get in the rhythm of it. He knows it's not my native language, and interviews are somewhat stressful even when you're a competitive semi-confident applicant. Obviously he was checking to make sure I didn't just lie all over my application.  I was expecting to run into someone who would want to speak Spanish with me as a subtle 'test', after all, they always say never to overestimate your language skills unless you can conduct the interview in Spanish.  It wasn't the fact that he tested me, but his skeptical expression and tone. I kind of wonder if it was because my personal statement seemed overly-tailored for their program - I only tailored the very last short paragraph, but the rest of the personal statement (the generic family medicine part) just so happens to perfectly suit their mission statement over the other programs a bit. My scores are also pretty competitive.  Maybe on paper it looks a little too good to be true for their program.

Either way, I had been starting to consider that the place might be nice to be at, if it came to it - it would definitely give me my Spanish experience, the residents all seemed pretty chill and nice, and the earlier faculty member I was interviewed by seemed nice and interesting.  Plus its location is pretty nice is near some nice places.  Ultimately, this program director's attitude was a complete turnoff, and the PD plays a pretty significant role in your residency training over the next three years.  I don't want to have to be around someone like him who treats me in such a judgmental manner and isn't even open to hear what I have to say. One of the other faculty members also attacked a 3rd year student from UCSF who was giving a talk about a global non-profit organization she started before medical school that was reducing maternal morbidity and mortality worldwide.  After we finished clapping and it was opened up for comments and questions, the first guy who raised his hand was this faculty member who essentially told her that some of their efforts were a waste of resources and time, and that they were going about it wrong.  Not a single word of encouragement.  A couple other people commended her after that initial commenter, and of course she took the initial criticisms in stride, but...I was upset because her accomplishments were honestly quite impressive.  

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Two Interviews Left...

Well, two more days of GI left, and two interviews left.  I decided to cancel my Reno interview.  I've gotten good enough vibes from three of my top four programs, and two of my backup programs, that I don't really want to risk driving my two-wheel drive car into Reno in January when it would be at the bottom of my rank list anyway.  I am almost tempted to cancel the next two interviews, because I'm getting tired of interviews, the novelty has worn off, and these last two places are also at the bottom of my list.  However, one of the interviews is Thursday, and the next one is a week from Thursday.  They are coming up so soon that I might as well just do them.  

Currently on my GI rotation - mostly just trying to get through it.  I'm already tired of seeing colonoscopies.  They're interesting enough, but ... pretty brutal to watch and most of them are very routine.  Nice preceptor, very glad I'm only spending two weeks doing this.  Really more like one week considering the Thanksgiving vacation and my two interview days.  After this, it's a month off!

On another note, got my wedding dress ordered, got my car repaired (one more expensive repair coming up but I'll do that after I get my next loan disbursement), and have all of December off during which I get to visit my maid of honor in Seattle, have two friends stay over, and celebrate two Christmases.  Oh yeah, and my Birthday.  The guy at the Pinkberry Frozen Yogurt place today guessed that I was turning twenty - off by about 6 years.  Glad I still pass for a college kid in a college town.  I would think it would be even more obvious when you're surrounded by people who actually are younger than you.  Also going down to Monterey soon for a few days to check out wedding venues, and next year Mom's taking us to Hawaii for a few days.  All-in-all, 4th year is winding down to be pretty good, and I feel like when you really set your mind to something, anything can happen...

Probably because today's interview felt like it went really well.  Maybe I was just overconfident or over-comfortable  but I feel like I got really good vibes from them.  Like Kit always says, "Be nice to the administrative people, because they make a big difference and are usually unappreciated."  Very true.  When I did my sub-internship at this place (my number one choice for residency), I tended to go through the back entrance since the front included the waiting room.  The back entrance I had to ring the bell every day and they were always smiling and very happy to get up and open the door for me - I even apologized most of the time, saying I wish there were some easier ways to get through, and started using the other door after a while.  I always chatted with them, smiled a lot, showed my appreciation.  Today I feel like they not only remembered and liked me from before, but I felt like they tried to put the spotlight more on me a few times, and I feel like they even might have talked a little to the program director.  They definitely made an effort to remind her that I had done a sub-internship at the site, and when she came back while I was the only one sitting in the room (others had gone to their scheduled interviews, I was on a scheduled "break") she said she had looked over my application just then and talked to me in a kind of informal interview.  Just the level of comfort from knowing the facility and all the residents was really encouraging and confidence boosting.  

Also, when they're saying to the interview group "We allowed to tell you that you're a shoo-in for the program," I couldn't help but feel like they were half-directing it at me.  I don't know.  They aren't allowed to tell us this stuff because if they do, then students get the wrong idea, and cancel their other interviews and put all their eggs in one basket when there are no guarantees that the program plans to follow through.  It's all part of the game I suppose.  

On another note, we toured the Davis maternity facilities and when I graduate, it would be pretty sweet to deliver my first baby there.  They have one of the lowest C-section rates in the country, have facilities to allow you to be in a pool for labor or for water birth deliveries... it looks pretty dang awesome.  You can also connect your music player up to the sound system in the rooms.  I have 4 years or so to figure it out, so we shall see.  But I've got my eyes set on that location - not to mention it's only 10 minutes from where I live now.  That would be pretty awesome.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Update from the Interview Trail...

Well, it has been a long two weeks.  I have been to Redding, Merced, Fresno, UC Davis, and Methodist (Sacramento) for interviews.  Redding I had to do two sets of interviews because they have two tracts.  Each time, I have had to meet the current residents at a dinner the night before, sometimes stay in a hotel, be enthusiastic and pleasant and sociable for an evening and then even more so the next day in a suit walking around a hospital and discussing "Why X program is the one I want and why I think it would suit me super well."  

It gets tiring... lots of free meals, but it does come with a price.  

On the plus side, I now know a lot more about those programs.  Problem is, everywhere I go, no matter where it is, I feel like "Yea, this would be fun!"  It's all part of them selling themselves, but each time I think to myself "I should go to this one."  Then I think at the next site, "Yknow, this one might be THE one I like most!"  And it keeps going on.  My requirements are not very exclusive as far as these programs go, and the fact that they are all Family Medicine programs in California = lots of nice people who I could get along with whom I probably have much in common.  

In case you are curious (this entry shouldn't be visible to any would-be googlers) my current preference list in descending order...

Sutter Sacramento (Sacramento Tract)
Sutter Sacramento (Davis Tract)
Methodist Sacramento
UC Davis
Redding (Shasta Tract)
Redding (Traditional Tract)
UCSF Fresno

Salinas / Modesto

I haven't yet interviewed at the last three, and I am still waiting to hear from Contra Costa in Martinez.  I am not really holding out hope for them, and I don't know how high I would rank them anyway.  I've heard some negative things about them, like I have about Salinas.  Modesto... it's more because it's just another central California program.  Reno because it's far away and out of state, so it means it'd be a headache to get licensed to practice in California after I complete my training.

It might seem odd that I rank UC Davis lower than two community programs, and I must say the facilities were huge and super impressive - it reminded me of UCSD a lot - but something didn't seem right.  I want to have a close knit group of faculty members and residents.  The way they did it was a little too manufactured at UC Davis for my tastes.  I would put UCSF Fresno above Redding because they have a patient population more to my liking and better didactics... but I would probably enjoy living in Redding far more than Fresno.  

Anyhoo, I now have a short break from interviews - Sutter Sacramento on the 27th and Salinas on the 29th. I should reserve a hotel for Salinas...

Friday, November 2, 2012

Halfway Through Pediatric Psychiatry

I've been on pediatric psychiatry for a couple weeks now - it's been fun so far.  I only actually have two more days left because I have so many interviews coming up.  I got a call from our school's dean of clinical education, who writes most of the students' dean's letters and guides us through our third and fourth years, because he was worried that one of my letters of recommendation was not a good one.  He had actually misunderstood, as it was just a very thorough evaluation written in prose and directed at my school, not a letter of recommendation aimed at residency committees.  While on the phone, he asked about my interview status, since I had applied to only 11 places (now 12, since I added the new Redding track).  He was also the professor who had advised me to take the USMLE when I knew I wasn't ready for it and had I listened to him, would have probably cost me all these interviews that I have secured.  I told him I had 8 interviews scheduled (actually I have 9 now, since I called one of the programs to make sure they had my information and they had actually lost the paper version, but had put me on the interview list earlier).  He was pleasantly surprised and pleased.

Pediatric psychiatry has been a lot of shadowing, ADHD students, attending group therapy sessions for depression and anxiety, a lot of free lunches, and chatting with my preceptor about this and that.  Next week I get to drive to Merced and Redding for my first interviews.  Should be exciting.  The week after is Fresno, Davis, and Methodist.  Intense days ahead.  I get a break during Thanksgiving, but then it's Salinas and Sutter, and after that Modesto.  Reno is in January, and I'm still waiting on Santa Clara and Contra Costa.  Honestly I wouldn't care too much if either of those reject me, since Contra Costa has a bit of a bad reputation for being a "full of themselves, anti-DO" program.  

Anyhow, this weekend I will be going over the book "The Successful Match," particularly the interview question list, and formulating answers to the most common or challenging ones I will have.  I'll have plenty of time on my drive down on Monday to practice the questions aloud.  The interview trail begins!