Programs will ask you about your interest in orthopaedic surgery. This question arises in at least one interview room at every program. This is a predictable question so you should develop a semi-scripted answer beforehand.
First of all, be honest. Everyone has a different story. Tell yours. Your authenticity and ability to speak about your own experiences is one of the greatest assets you have as an applicant. That being said, here are a few pointers.
“Everyone has a different story. Tell yours.”Dr. Jack T. Wilson, Contributor, Med Student Edge
There is a classic narrative that programs are accustomed to hearing in response to the question of why orthopaedic surgery. The archetypal orthopaedic surgery applicant in response this question details their experience as an athlete who had an injury in high school sports and then wanted to be an orthopaedic surgeon. Still use this if this is your story, but due to the frequency that interviewers hear this, include elements that will help you stand out. Mention your experiences and influences in medical school that drove you towards orthopaedic surgery. If you are not the applicant that had an injury that allowed you to have early exposure to orthopaedic surgery, do not view this as a negative. In fact, I would view it as a positive and an opportunity to stand out.
My answer was some variation of the following statement:
“I came to medical school with an open mind but quickly learned that I wanted to participate in something surgical. From there I decided to rotate on most of the surgical subspecialties including ENT, neurosurgery, and orthopaedic surgery to find my best fit. In truth, I liked all three and likely could have been happy in any of those fields but I enjoyed orthopaedics the most. I enjoyed the breadth of the body covered from the clavicles to the metatarsals as well as the variable patient populations. I also favored the personalities of the residents and attendings that I had the pleasure of working with. The culmination of these factors led me to orthopaedic surgery and I haven’t looked back since.”
A key element of my answer is briefly mentioning that time spent looking at other fields. When you say that you carefully looked at several surgical subspecialties but chose orthopaedics, this implicitly signals that you invested time into making an informed and educated decision. Another recommendation is to use buzzword phrases. Interviewers jot down notes when you are speaking that jog their memory when they are in the rank list meetings or submitting their evaluation of you. Phrases like “breadth of the body” and “variable patient populations” are those little sound bites that are revealing and invoke the recollection of a mature response.
One final tip that is not absolute but worth a thought; do not say you are interested in a full career of private practice. There is nothing wrong with private practice and it is likely the career path I will be choosing. That being said, remember you are being interviewed by doctors who work at academic institutions so they clearly favor academics.
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