The Grit Factor

In 2016, a multi-institutional group from the Cleveland Clinic and Saint Louis University published a paper reviewing the integrated plastic surgery match.  The authors identify various qualities that improve an applicant’s likelihood of matching and discuss factors program directors value when evaluating prospective residents.  While most of their findings are intuitive, one specific discussion point should catch your attention.  The only quality of a person that is explicitly discussed as being valuable to program directors in the abstract is “grit”.  They define grit as a “persistent work ethic” in the abstract and later use the term grit as a placeholder for the combination of “integrity, persistence, professionalism, empathy, and a patient-centered attitude”.  Knowing how highly grit is valued, you want to make a conscious effort to demonstrate your grit.

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There are plenty of ways to show programs that you have grit—that you will get the job done no matter the circumstances.  On away rotations*, you do this through your work ethic, being there first in the morning, staying until dismissed, and being helpful in clinic all without signs of fatigue, disinterest, or complaint.  Your CV can reveal your grit by highlighting your simultaneous strong academic achievement, your productivity in research, and extracurricular involvement.  In interviews, you can demonstrate that you have grit by carefully crafting your interview answers to highlight your grit factor.  Tell stories that describe how you overcame adversity, how your determination was they key to your success, and that hard work is a part of who you are.  When I was asked to discuss my greatest strengths or to describe myself with a word…I always included grit or its synonym (tenacity).  Programs want hard workers that fit in well on a team and are active learners.  Give them what they want and you’ll likely be successful in the match, in residency, and in your career. 

Do you have grit?  What question’s do you have about effectively demonstrating your tenacity to programs?  Leave a comment below or contact us directly. 

*Applicant class for the 2021 Match: Because there are not traditional away rotations, you won’t have this explicit opportunity.  Don’t worry.  Put your grit on display during your home rotations so that your letter of recommendation writers will include explicit mention of it.

Carter J. Boyd, MD, MBA
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