The match application process is stressful, whether you are a DO or MD, by addressing some common questions our team hopes to make this process easier for our osteopathic students. Across the board getting involved in Emergency Medicine (EM) early on in medical school can help pave the way for your success down the road. There are many ways to do this and we urge you to look for projects and opportunities that align with your specific interests and career goals. This could be research related, holding a local or national leadership position, attending EM conferences, or shadowing in your local emergency department. Don’t forget there are many facets of EM including wilderness medicine, ultrasound, EMS, hospice/palliative care, critical care and many more! These experiences will not only show your dedication to the speciality on your CV, but hopefully also give you the opportunity to make connections and find a mentor with similar interests.
Finding a Mentor
Having someone to help guide you through the match process is invaluable. When choosing a mentor be sure to find someone who is familiar with the application process (such as a recent graduate or faculty at a residency program) and who you can trust to give you unbiased advice. While many of us have become close friends with our mentors over the years, at times you will appreciate a mentor who can provide you with honest, blunt advice. Many of us found our mentors at national conferences, local EM club events, on rotations, or at our medical schools. However, when looking for mentors, don’t forget about the incoming interns! You can get a lot of good advice from the class that just graduated above you because they know what away rotations your school already has contacts with, how things have worked from scheduling standpoints, and they can help you make connections with other grads from your school. Lastly, remember there is nothing wrong with having multiple mentors. In fact, many of us would recommend it!
To take Step 1 or not?
As an osteopathic student, you are required to take COMLEX to graduate from residency and get your medical license. As EM has evolved and now with an integrated match, the bias against the COMLEX has definitely improved. There have been many studies that have shown COMLEX is a statistically equivalent test to the USLME. That being said there are still some programs that require the USMLE (Step) exam. While we all agree it is frustrating to see osteopathic students have to pay this “surcharge” and study for another test we acknowledge it may increase your chances of matching at certain programs. As a second-year student, it is hard to know with certainty what specialty and programs you want to go to, as you are still very early in your career. If you want to leave more doors open and you are confident you can pass the test, it might be a good idea to go ahead and take it. If you have a good idea of what programs you are interested in and those places do not require step 1 then you may choose not to take it. There is no right answer!
Where to audition?
When it comes to where to audition, that is a very personal choice. Your goal during a rotation is to gain insight into the program, obtain a solid SLOE (standardized letter of evaluation), and make a good first impression. In order to do those things well, you really want to audition at programs that fit your personality and career goals. Different types of programs put an emphasis on different areas of an application. If you ultimately want to end up at a community program, but your audition is at a university academic program, your SLOE may not be written emphasizing the qualities that a community program would be looking for. This can be a disservice to your application.
Where to apply?
When choosing where to apply do your homework! Hopefully, your audition rotations have helped you decide whether you are looking for a community, community-academic hybrid, county, or university academic program. Be sure to take note of programs that have DO residents or osteopathic physicians in their leadership roles. Networking can also be very beneficial to get your foot in the door for an interview. Attend local and national residency fairs/conferences, talk to any local doctors that may have graduated from programs you are interested in and know where recent graduates from your school have ended up. Know how competitive you are and be realistic. It is ok to reach, but be sure you have a reasonable number of realistic programs on your list too.
Listen to the Audio
- Be focused, but be real. Don’t go into the application process thinking of yourself as a DO candidate with tons of challenges. MDs have their own struggles too. Be realistic and recognize any areas of weakness. Everybody has their thing!
- Find a mentor early. EM is a very small tight-knit community, especially osteopathic EM. There are plenty of people who want to help you!
- Be confident and don’t sell yourself short. With the right guidance and hard work you may be surprised at the opportunities available to you and where you end up.
- Choose the program for you. Pick the program that you feel suits your personality best and where you feel the most comfortable training for the next 3-4 years. Don’t get distracted by where your colleagues are going or “big name” programs. Make the right choice for you and your family.
Resources you should check out:
- The American College of Osteopathic Emergency Physicians- Resident and Student Organization: https://acoep-rso.org/
- CORD’s Osteopathic Emergency Medicine Applying Guide: https://www.cordem.org/globalassets/files/student-resources/applying-guide—osteo.pdf
- ALiEM’s EMBound Student Newsletter: https://www.aliem.com/em-bound/
- EMRA’s Medical Student Newsletter: https://www.emra.org/students/newsletter-articles/
- EM Over Easy’s other Med Students Over Easy content: https://emovereasy.com/med-students-over-easy/
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