How did you choose the programs you rotated at?

I was advised as a student from the southeast who went to medical school in the southeast to carefully consider geography when selecting away rotations. Thus, I chose a program on the East coast and West coast to implicitly signal that I was willing to go anywhere in the country to receive the best surgical training. I addressed this directly when answering the question and my exact verbiage was tailored to the program I was interviewing at.

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At my University of Washington interview, I may have said, “As a student from the southeast, I wanted to show programs that I am willing to go anywhere for residency to receive the best plastic surgery training. I chose the specific institutions that I did largely due to my mentor’s advice and connections. I chose a program on the East and West coast. Living in those cities, helped reinforce my desire to go to the best program for me, regardless of location.” Seattle is a long way from Birmingham, Alabama. I didn’t want geography to negatively impact my position on the rank list.

At my Emory interview, I changed the perspective of the answer. “As a student from the southeast, I wanted to experience what living elsewhere might look like for residency. Thus, I chose a program on the East and West coasts to rotate at. While I enjoyed those experiences and they were great educational opportunities, I want to stay in the southeast for my training. This is where my family, friends, and colleagues are. I want to practice in the southeast some day in the future.”

These examples demonstrate individualization of your responses to the program you are at. Any experience or connection you can leverage is beneficial.

“Any experience or connection you can leverage is beneficial.”

Dr. Carter J. Boyd, Founder, Med Student Edge

Other elements that might be the cornerstone of your response include scheduling considerations or specific qualities of a program. One of the reason’s I chose to rotate at UCLA over USC was that UCLA had a 3 week rotation. The 3 week rotation would get me back on schedule with my home institution as opposed to the USC 4 week rotation. A friend I met applying was very interested in burn surgery and wanted to be a burn focused plastic surgeon. She did her research and only rotated at programs that had well developed plastic surgery involvement in burn surgery. This would be an important element to include at a program with a burn center. If the program didn’t have involvement in a burn service, then I would leave this detail out and find other reasons to include in your answer.

It is okay that you didn’t rotate at the program you are interviewing at. Create a positive tone and refocus the interview to speak about your interest in the program you are interviewing at.

How did you choose what programs to rotate at? Comment below.

Back to more interview questions and structured responses.

Carter J. Boyd, MD, MBA
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