Otolaryngology!

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I never thought I’d say this… but guys, I matched into my top specialty and at my top institution. Starting in July 2016, I will be studying to become an otolaryngologist – head and neck surgeon (do we have the longest specialty name?)!

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I was literally in tears on Monday of Match Week when I got my email. My best friend CT and I wanted to open our emails together… but my phone wasn’t ping-ing emails to me, so I tried to refresh… and lo and behold, the first words I saw were “Congratulations!” before I started bawling uncontrollably. Now that I’ve matched I feel a little more cavalier about discussing my application process, but basically, if otomatch means anything, I was severely below average for just about everything (my Step scores, my grades/AOA status, my research, my # of interviews). Going into Monday, I had already met with my faculty advisors several times to discuss what to do next year if I didn’t match, and I had mentally prepared myself to participate in the SOAP (scramble). Thankfully, I didn’t need to! And honestly, that news on Monday was enough for me. :)

The days leading up to Friday, I was in a state of anxious calm. Mostly calm but occasionally irrationally thinking that maybe the email was a fluke. My school randomly calls up students, and when I finally held the envelope in my hands, I felt like I really knew that Everything was going to be okay. Match Day was emotional overall; I ended up getting not only my top choice but also the same institution that CT will be going to, as well as a couple of my other classmates. I can’t believe my luck.

Since Match, I have been on a surgery “bootcamp” class that my school offers to help prepare us for intern year. I’ve learned so much from how to respond to a page, how to do pre-op and post-op orders, “palming” a needle driver, and more. The last week of the class, we were gifted the opportunity to be primary surgeon on a simple operation for three days related to our specialty. I got to perform a rhomboid flap reconstruction for a cheek defect with the plastic surgery team, a tracheostomy with the OHNS team, and a neck dissection with a thyroid surgeon. I honestly cannot wait for intern year to begin. I know it will be busy, but I feel so blessed to be where I am, getting to do a specialty I love and finally having the power to take care of others and hopefully make their lives better.

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Interviewing for Residency

Ah, shoot, I disappeared again. Well, I have finally finished up my interviews for residency this year. I can’t say that I am an expert by any means, but hopefully this will help answer at least some questions.

What to Wear

I’m not going to lie- this was somehow one of the biggest anxieties I had going into the season. Skirt vs. pant suit? What color blouse? It’s rough for a women, let me tell you! There are just so many options. After having interviewed, I can tell you that basically as long as you look professional, it seems anything goes. I’ve seen both pant and skirt options (just make sure the skirt is knee length and practice sitting down too). Make sure to cut the back seams on your skirt/blazer if they are new; one of my friends saw someone who hadn’t done that and we all mentally cringed. Any dark color seems fine. I would definitely wear pantyhose if you are wearing a skirt suit, and most girls I saw wore a nude pair. Shoes: heels shouldn’t be too high, flats are okay, make sure you’re comfortable walking around. Blouse: I tried to be really conservative but I saw just about everything on the trail, including ruffles, patterns, and bright colors. I really think as long as you aren’t distasteful (e.g. a plunging neckline), it’s okay. As everyone says, you’re not interviewing to show off your fashion sense, but you shouldn’t also feel like you have to suddenly rush out and buy a new closet (which… I did).

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What I wore: simple black pumps with a thick heel around 2 inches tall, nude hose, a new Halogen skirt suit, and a new LOFT blouse. I justified my purchases because the suit was on sale, and I can definitely rewear all of them.

How to Prep

I created an Evernote document of common interview questions, and I BRIEFLY answered all of them with clinical examples. I also had a separate section of just clinical stories that stood out to me so that I could remember them and apply them to certain questions. Interestingly, I got very few of the “common” interview questions, but I would still know how to answer them — why this specialty, why this residency, what makes you special.

Definitely know your application inside out. I reread my app before the first couple of interviews and then eventually got so used to answering the same questions that I stopped. I got asked most about my research but got different questions even then- some just wanted me to explain what I was doing, others asked me to predict what my results would be, one person hardcore challenged the whole necessity of the project.

Day of Interview/Dinner

If you can, I definitely recommend making the interview social dinner, which is usually the night before. It’s a great time to meet your other applicants (and remember, these are your future colleagues!) and the residents in a casual setting. I greatly enjoyed all of mine. I wore a sweater dress, tights, and boots.

The interview day: make sure you arrive early and are abreast of your surroundings if you are unfamiliar with them. I would try to ask the residents the night before about specific directions to get to the interview location. Again, put your best face forward but be yourself. Try to put yourself into the mindset that you too are interviewing the residency; this should help with the ever confusing “do you have any questions for me?” part of the interview. Some of the questions I asked about include the culture of the residency, how evaluations are performed, what are the weaknesses of the program/what would one change about the program, how call is handled. Otherwise, just have fun! Most interviews are very conversational.

Afterward, you can choose to send thank you letters. Some places tell you not to at all. In general, most people sent letters to the program director and chair of department, and maybe someone you clicked with. I don’t think it matters much whether you do.

Well, that’s all I can think of! Feel free to drop questions in the comments, and good luck!