Hi guys! This will be the last Match Series for this year, and I just wanted to say thanks for following along. Whether you’re a pre-med, MS1, or someone who will be applying this fall, I hope it was helpful and that you learned a few tips. Best of luck to everyone starting this summer, and thanks again to everyone who took the time to write about their experiences and tips.
Emily will be starting Dermatology residency this summer, with an intern year in medicine first. The last feature was with Dahlia, who just finished intern year and is starting her AOA Dermatology this summer. Keep reading to learn about applying to MD programs.
Hometown/State: Houston, TX
Medical School: Baylor College of Medicine (BCM) in Houston, TX
Specialty and Residency Location: Internal Medicine Preliminary Year – Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, TX
Dermatology – Georgetown University/Washington Hospital Center in Washington, DC
For those who are not aware, some specialties such as dermatology, ophthalmology, and radiology require a separate intern year prior to beginning residency training in their specialty. So I will be doing my intern year in internal medicine prior to starting dermatology residency in 2018!
What made you decide to apply to your school? Did you consider other program types?
When I was applying to medical school, I applied to all the Texas MD schools since I was considered an in-state student and tuition is so much cheaper at Texas med schools than in other states! The Texas government subsidizes tuition, and even though BCM is a private school, they also receive money from the Texas government and can afford for tuition prices to be much lower than other schools. Being from the Houston area, I grew up hearing of the amazing and innovative things happening at BCM and the Texas Medical Center (the largest medical center in the world!), and going into the med school application cycle, BCM was my dream school. I’m very grateful to have received my acceptance phone call 4 years ago!
Honestly, I didn’t really look into or consider other program types, partially due to a lack of awareness of what other programs are out there. I was also very fortunate to be accepted my first application round to MD schools, so I never had to go to Plan B/rethink what I was applying to. Looking back, I wish I would have looked into PA school more. I definitely don’t regret the MD route, but I do like that the PA path is more flexible if you want to change specialties down the line!
How were your pre-clinical years?
BCM has a 1.5 year condensed pre-clinical curriculum, as opposed to the traditional 2 year curriculum. It meant that we entered clinical rotations January of our MS2 year, which was AMAZING! We had traditional didactic lectures with some small group learning mixed in. If I remember correctly, we had exams roughly every 2 months our first year and then every month during fall of our second year. The majority of our classes were recorded and streamed online as well. We were required to attend certain classes like labs, small groups, or special moments (ie when patients came to speak to us about their experiences), but for the most part, I just stayed home or went to the library and watched my lectures on double speed (#streamteam!!). It was just way more efficient for me personally!
The 1.5 year condensed pre-clinical curriculum really is great. We all come to medical school to help and learn from patients, not to just study from books and live in the library. Getting into clinics earlier is just so much more rewarding, and seeing diseases and treatments in the context of patients made facts stick so much easier when studying for Step 1 (we don’t take it until February of MS3 year). Baylor has been doing the condensed pre-clinical curriculum for a long time (I want to say since the 70s or 80s?), but more and more schools in recent years have been moving towards a modified/condensed pre-clinical curriculum. I would definitely encourage those of you applying to take a closer look at those schools!
The workload in medical school definitely is overwhelming! One thing that helped me, especially as all my undergrad friends were starting their real adult jobs, was to think of medical school as a job and work during regular business hours. So I would watch lectures and study from 8-5 with a lunch break (and of course other smaller breaks throughout), but then in the evening I could make dinner, work out, and do fun things to unwind from the day. Not all my study days ended up being a productive “full work day” and conversely my days would be longer leading up to exams, but I think this mindset definitely helped me adjust to medical school.
Did you do any research during medical school?
Yep! I did mostly dermatology related research, but had a couple oculoplastics projects mixed in. I was never super intense with research and mainly did clinical research — a mix of a couple longer term projects (for quality) and shorter case reports (for quantity). Although many people applying to dermatology take time off for research, I didn’t take any time off. I had a decent amount of research when I applied, but I still considered it one of the weaker points of my application since I didn’t take any dedicated time for research.
One tip I have for finding research/writing opportunities in medical school is to keep your eye out for interesting patients that you take care of during rotations, and then take the initiative and offer to write up a case report to the attending/resident, rather than waiting for them to give you a writing opportunity. You can say something like, “This seemed like a interesting/rare case based on our discussion of x, y, z. Do you think it would be worth writing up? If so, I can write up it up!” I actually presented an internal medicine/dermatology overlap case from my medicine rotation at an internal medicine conference because of doing this, and the case was brought up at many of my residency interviews for both intern year and dermatology!
Any advice for those who are about to take Step 1?
Questions, questions, questions! But don’t use UWorld as your benchmark of how you’re doing — think of it as a study tool instead. It can get really discouraging only getting half the questions right on problem sets, but it’s less painful if you think of it as a study tool! The practice NBME exams are better to use as your benchmark. Make sure you do all the practice NBME exams! UWorld questions are great, but NBME questions do feel slightly different. When I was doing dedicated studying, I did one practice NBME a week at the same time and same day as my scheduled exam to try to mimic how it may feel on that day. I was also a big fan of using Anki cards to study rote memorization facts.
How and when did you decide on your specialty?
I was interested in dermatology entering medical school, and it was around December of my MS3 year that I decided to for sure apply to dermatology. My interest actually began at an oculoplastics private practice that I worked at during 3 years of my time in undergrad. We had patients who would come to oculoplastics for their Mohs defect repairs after seeing a Mohs surgeon for their initial skin cancer removal. (Mohs is a surgical technique to remove skin cancer while sparing healthy tissue. It is performed by a fellowship trained dermatologists.) This piqued my interest, and the doctors I worked for put me in contact to shadow some dermatologists in the area. The first thing that stood out to me was that I really enjoyed the visual aspect of the field, and I also really enjoyed the fast pace of the day!
After entering medical school, I shadowed some during my pre-clinical years. I was able to do my first dermatology elective rotation during March of my MS2 year (again, a perk of 1.5 year pre-clinical curriculum – earlier exploration of clinical interests), and I really fell in love with the field! I also had ophthalmology in my mind though and was able to do an elective during December of my MS3 year. I had an absolutely amazing experience on ophthalmology too! I was first-assist on a scleral buckle, sutured oculoplastics flaps, and got to try my hand at operating under the scope by closing vitrectomy port sites!
But even after those incredible experiences, I still had dermatology in the back of my mind. I enjoyed the two fields for similar reasons (visual diagnoses with attention to detail, functioning as a specialist, impact on quality of life etc.), BUT I liked that with dermatology, you didn’t need so many special scopes and lenses to see what you’re dealing with!
My favorite part is the impact on a patient’s quality of life! Even though dermatology deals with the skin and is inherently cosmetic, it’s not a superficial field. Being able to help little kids with eczema be able to sleep better at night and not be too tired/itchy for school, or treating patients with severe acne and giving them their self confidence back – I find it all very rewarding!
My least favorite part is that sometimes there are some not so pleasant smells with cysts and other things like feet. Also, genital warts aren’t great. Also, haven’t done it yet on any of my derm rotations during medical school, but I’m already dreading doing nail biopsies. Ugh.
Now that you’ve matched, what are some tips you have for third years who are preparing for the interview season?
– Get TSA Precheck!!!! Makes going through the security lines at airports so much less painful! Or get Global Entry which gives you the same benefit as Precheck but also lets you skip customs with international flights (useful for when you do that big post-match 4th year trip!). But one of the two for sure if you are going to listen to any one piece of my advice!
– Airline miles credit cards! I had Chase Sapphire Preferred, which lets you transfer points 1:1 to any airline. Chase Southwest was very popular among classmates who were couples matching – it gets you to the Southwest Companion Pass sooner, which allows you to take a designated friend or family member on any Southwest flight with you for (almost) free! Especially with registration for Step 2 CK and CS coming up (which is $$$), you’ll hit the bonus amounts in no time!
– Get a well fitting suit – even if you go cheap, at least get it tailored to fit YOU and you will look and feel great! I personally went to Nordstrom to buy my suits (I got 1 pant suit and 1 skirt suit). They have personal stylists/shoppers there that you can make free appointments with. They know the complete stock and how pieces fit for different body types, and will bring items back and forth to the dressing room for you! So helpful! I knocked out suit shopping in less than an hour, and there are also onsite tailors that will do any necessary alterations/hemming complimentary!
– Ok this is going to sound REALLY dumb probably to any of y’all who live in cold places, so just ignore this tip, but well, being from Texas I really didn’t know how things would work/what to wear for my interviews up north. For my fellow warm weather friends in the South, there will most likely be a coat closet in the residency program’s office area to hang your big coat and if you wear boots and bring shoes to change into, you can usually store the boots in the coat closet as well. Especially for the ladies with your heels, I’d recommend wearing boots to the interview and then changing. 1) you don’t want to slip on ice wearing heels and 2) if there’s sludgy snow, you don’t want to get your shoes all dirty before your interview either!
How many programs did you apply to, and how many interviews did you end up attending?
I applied to most of the dermatology programs (90-100+), which unfortunately is fairly standard for dermatology. I mostly left off the programs on my application list that were very new, only took 1 resident a year, and/or were in locations that I had absolutely zero connection to. Essentially programs that I think I would be happier not matching and having to reapply than spending 3 years at that program (kind of harsh sounding, but true). Yes, it’s REALLY expensive! It was shocking comparing my application fees to friends who were applying in less competitive specialties and could apply to less programs. But my mind set around the sticker shock was that I would rather spend the money than regret not applying to enough programs.
I attended enough interviews to match, which technically speaking is at least one. 😉 Honestly, I don’t think it’s productive to compare yourself to other people in terms of number of interviews, especially without the context of the full application, so that is why I’m choosing not to share. I do however think the “Charting the Outcomes” by the NRMP (click here) is helpful since it aggregates the data. Usually “Charting the Outcomes” says if you have 8-10 interviews it is likely you will match into dermatology.
I did two away rotations, including Georgetown! In dermatology, I think away rotations can be very helpful for making yourself known to programs which may otherwise not notice you, since each program interviews so few applicants. I think 2 is a fairly typical number of away rotations for those applying to dermatology, more if you don’t have a home derm residency program at your medical school. One of the reasons I decided to do an away rotation at Georgetown was because they have a combined 5-year Internal Medicine/Dermatology residency program, in addition to the normal 3-year Dermatology residency. I am really interested in complex medical dermatology (see below for more details), and I wanted to explore med/derm some more. Ultimately I decided to apply for just dermatology programs, but it was a great experience and I ended up matching there!
You were obviously very successful in your medical school career. If you had the chance to do it all again, would you have done it the same way?
I think so! I don’t have any major regrets. Thinking back, sometimes I think I probably should have taken some research months for derm research. Since we started rotations January of MS2 year and I didn’t take a single month off, I ended up finishing all my rotations for graduation requirements October of MS4 year, so there was definitely room to have taken some research months before applying. But well, it was also really nice to be done so early and be able to enjoy so much of 4th year!
How do you ultimately see yourself practicing medicine?
As of now, I would like to be a dermatologist in an academic center focusing on complex medical dermatology, most likely autoimmune dermatology. I really enjoy teaching and would like the opportunity to teach medical students and residents in the future to give back and further the field of dermatology! Several of my key dermatology mentors specialize in autoimmune dermatology, which cultivated my interest. Like I said earlier, I was interested in the Combined Med/Derm residency programs, but ultimately decided to apply to just dermatology after talking to several Med/Derm trained dermatologists and the program director at Georgetown. I learned from them that there are now various complex medical dermatology 1-year fellowships, so I think I will pursue one of those if I decide I want more experience and training!
Thanks so much, Emily! Check her out on Instagram @e_guo.