EXCLUSIVE: Application Cycle Pearls with Dr. Margaret Chase – Program Director Ohio State/Nationwide Med/Peds

In our first of many interviews with program directors around the country, we had the opportunity to speak with Dr. Margaret A. Chase. She is the Program Director for the Combined Internal Medicine and Pediatrics Residency at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center and Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. Read below to hear her thoughts on the challenges of this application cycle and on how to effectively put your best foot forward with your residency application!

Dr. Margaret A. Chase, Program Director for Med/Peds at Ohio State/Nationwide
What is the biggest challenge in the application cycle this year from the perspective of a program director?

I think the biggest challenge remains the uncertainty of a new process-trying to figure out how to showcase our program, city, and most importantly our amazing residents virtually. There is something to be said for the “feel” of a program and a “fit” for applicants, so we are working hard to make sure that comes across sincerely. Our marketing departments, program leadership and residents have been working overtime to ensure virtual tours and the interview day can help give applicants a glimpse of our facilities, city, unique strengths and “personality” of our program, but it will be a learning curve for everyone-programs and applicants alike.

With applicants not being able to interview in person, they lack the ability to show off their interpersonal skills, manners, and overall demeanor in person. Is there a way that they can still manage to do this during this application cycle?

Actually, I think applicants can show off all these aspects in a virtual format. It’s a bit awkward at first, but having interviewed a few applicants for fellowship already I think you can get a decent sense of people. An interview is an interview so I just encourage people to practice, try to maintain their energy with each interviewer and as much as possible…be yourself!

Will standardized tests scores become more important this year? Less important? The same?

Certainly the goal is always to review applications in a holistic fashion and this was the rationale for the upcoming transition of Step 1 to pass/fail scoring. I think programs will start off with the same approach to their application review that they have used in prior years and therefore, the standardized test scores will have the same impact for each program as before. However, one of the big concerns by programs this year is the potential for a significant increase in the number of applications received (given the lack of need to travel and overall uncertainty of the process). If that becomes a reality, programs may indeed have to use testing scores as a primary screening tool. I remain convinced that programs, just like applicants, want to find the right “fit,” which is not simply reflected in a testing score. As such, programs will do their best to look at the whole picture presented by an applicant as much as they are able. I strongly encourage students to follow your advisors’ counsel with regards to the number and type of programs that you apply to and don’t over-apply!

Do you believe programs will be more inclined to rank applicants that they already know fairly well (home students) to avoid any surprises?

I think for both programs and applicants alike there may be an increased level of comfort with the “known entity” of a home program or student. I suspect, however, as the interview season progresses and we all develop an increased level of comfort with the process and the ability to connect with people and places virtually, that people’s willingness to look outside of their home programs/students will expand. I suspect, in the end, ranking will look very similar to how it has in the past for programs-each based upon their individual program priorities and who they feel would be the best fit.

What is the biggest piece of advice you would give an applicant when it comes to how to succeed during the application cycle of 2020?

Do your homework! Talk with lots of people-current residents, recent graduates from your medical school, fellows or young faculty members that trained in different places. Try to get their perspectives on different programs they visited and their experiences. Review websites, tours, links provided and take advantage of the information provided that might help you better understand what programs have to offer. Be flexible and gracious during your communication with programs and interviews-remember we are all in the process of learning how to do this! Most importantly remain true to yourself and your goals as you look to find a residency program. Identify your biggest priorities and ensure that the programs you are applying to can meet those priorities. And finally, try to enjoy the process! That may sound strange given the challenges that we are all facing, but honestly, this is a really exciting time and a unique opportunity to learn about what different programs have to offer and to connect with people all across the country who want to get to know you and what you are about. Embrace the adventure!

Thank you so much to Dr. Chase for taking the time to candidly discuss her thoughts on this application cycle. I also want to especially thank Dr. Alan Gambril for setting up this interview where we gained a really great perspective. If you enjoyed this exclusive interview, stay tuned for our next interview with Dr. Pierre B. Saadeh, the Residency Program Director at the NYU Hansjörg Wyss Department of Plastic Surgery—widely regarded as the top plastic surgery program in the country!

Have specific questions for program directors we are interviewing? Comment below!

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