By Roberto De Los Santos, DPM
Roberto De Los Santos is a Houston, Texas native and graduate of California School of Podiatric Medicine. He is currently a 2nd year resident in the Houston area. He has a four-year background in promotions, advertising, sales, and brand management. In addition, he has a four-year background in leadership development and organizational leadership including national and local recognized organizations.
When it comes to applying for a high sought-after job, you have to be interested and interesting. Interviews can be a very stressful time in your life. You have to travel to Texas to secure your residency spot, where you will be for the next 3-4 years. It’s a big gamble because oftentimes, you don’t know what the directors are looking for, and you’re not 100% sure where you will end up. The best advice that was given to me was by an Anesthesiologist who said, “The two major factors are that you have to be a student that’s interested and interesting.”
But… what does that even mean?
You have to show that: you want to learn, you’re able to adapt, you’re confident in your decision making, you want to be surrounded by this group of residents and directors, and you are teachable. You show interest by asking questions at the appropriate times. If you ask too many questions, you can be annoying; too few questions, and you can appear disinterested. There is a fine balance in knowing when to talk and when to be silent.
Yes, you are going to be a doctor. Yes, you are going to hold a lot of responsibility. However, you are still learning.
You want to be enthusiastic: be the first one up early in the morning. Be there on time. Be well groomed, dressed well, speak appropriately and be authentic. You have to remember these directors and the faculty have been doing interviews for years, and they can read people who are fake, gunners, or who don’t like to be told what to do. Yes, you are going to be a doctor. Yes, you are going to hold a lot of responsibility. However, you are still learning.
Things you want to be interested in:
- What does the curriculum consist of at this residency program?
- Where do graduating residents end up after completion?
- Have graduating residents gone on to become leaders within our profession of podiatry?
- Are the attendings and faculty leaders in podiatry?
- Are the residents well trained and overall proficient at surgery?
- Is the residency more focused on academics or research, clinic, or is it more hands-on based in surgery?
- What type of lifestyle do residents have? Are they enthusiastic about their program or do they seem miserable and overworked? Do they generally get along with each other and attendings?
- How is the cost of living within the area? Is it suitable to your living standards? Are you willing to sacrifice driving in order to obtain a higher education in surgery?
Overall the question is, can you envision yourself being in that residency program with those current residents and the current director?
Next, understand what is the ratio of acceptance per year. Is it 3-4 residents that are accepted or just 1? Do you work well with others or would you rather be more independent? Overall the question is, can you envision yourself being in that residency program with those current residents and the current Director? Residencies change over the years based on the leadership, and on the acquired resident pool. Generally, there is no set-in-stone *top* residency that everyone is pursuing because each student has different visions of what they want to get out of a residency. Each residency has its own pros and cons, its own living situations, and their own patient population diversity. However, you have to understand that at all residencies, you do go through standardized rotations and are required to participate in a certain amount of surgeries encompassing podiatric medicine and beyond so you can be rest assured that you will get adequate training based on the standards outlined by the podiatry education counsel.
You have to be a unique individual that stands out from the rest.
People want diversity, someone new, someone they can offer growth to, someone that motivates a director and their peers to be greater than what they can.
You have to learn to be someone who is interesting. Programs don’t want the same person to act as a clone. People want diversity, someone new, someone they can offer growth to, someone that motivates a director and their peers to be greater than what they are. They don’t want somebody who is just above water barely getting B’s and C’s. They want a well-balanced student who understands the importance of getting A’s and B’s because they tried their best. They want a student that was heavily engaged in school and understands other social aspects of being a physician.
When you become a podiatrist, you’re going to learn quickly that you are part of a team; a team that involves internal medicine doctors, hospitalists, nurses, general surgeons, vascular surgeons, and infectious disease doctors, just to name a few. So, you’re never alone; you have to be able to work well with others and have a background that shows that in your CV. Things that stand out as interesting as a student can be research, community service and a balanced past experience in the medical field. Remember, these directors look at dozens and dozens of potential residents for their programs; they already go in expecting certain students to perform well and have them high on their preferred list.
Simply put, questions you must ask yourself before interviews:
- Did you prepare well for this moment over the past 3+ years?
- Are you physically and emotionally ready to tackle an intense surgical residency program with high expectations?
- Can you handle stress levels well because the majority of your time, you will be sleepless, hungry and tired?
Residency is only 3-4 years of your life, but it can seem like forever in the midst of it. At times, you’re going to feel like you’re drowning in the middle of the ocean when in reality, you’re just choking on a small glass of water in the grand scheme of things. I understand that motivation is a key during interviews, but too much motivation can lead to arrogance. I recommend practicing in front of the mirror answering fundamental personal questions: who are you, where do you come from, why podiatry, and what you can bring to THAT SPECIFIC residency?
I also encourage you to practice ethical, personal, and social questions out loud. Enjoy interviews and enjoy traveling to Texas. You will only do it once in your life, and it will be very memorable. You’ll see a lot of your friends there who are going to be stressed. Hard work and preparation beforehand will all pay off in those days. I hope the best for your 4th year of podiatry school, and I wish you the best of luck in the interview process and beyond.
By Roberto De Los Santos, DPM
You Need To Be Interested & Interesting
Special Edition, Residency, Interviews
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