EXCLUSIVE: Application Cycle Pearls with Dr. Pierre B. Saadeh – Program Director NYU Plastic Surgery

In the second of many interviews with program directors around the country, we had the opportunity to speak with Dr. Pierre B. Saadeh, the plastic surgery residency program director at the NYU Hansjörg Wyss Department of Plastic Surgery—widely regarded as the top plastic surgery program in the country. Read below to hear his thoughts on the challenges of this application cycle and on what you need to do to succeed with your residency application!

What is the biggest challenge in the application cycle this year from the perspective of a program director?

The elimination of visiting rotations (sub-internships) is a challenge for us. Sub-I’s are a two-way street. The applicants get to know what we have to offer. Additionally, they get a sense of the culture, the caseload, the teaching environments, the workload, etc.  We get a sense of the applicant and with crucial resident input, a sense of their potential “fit” with the program.  Lack of in-person Sub-I’s will be our biggest challenge.

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?

We have reached out to the non-NYU Sub-I’s previously selected and offered them mentorship at the resident and faculty level with identified members of our department. 

Hansjörg Wyss Department of Plastic Surgery | NYU Langone Health
Will standardized tests scores become more important this year? Less important? The same?

The same, but we will likely use more personalized due diligence with faculty from the applicant’s institution.  Given that USMLEs are going pass/fail, we have to prepare for this change in any case.

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

All things being equal, home students already have advantages at their home programs.  I’m not convinced this will change much.  Also, it is the home students who will have much less exposure to other programs and as a result they may be the driving force with regards to remaining at their institutions.

What is the biggest piece of advice you would give an applicant when it comes to how to succeed during the application cycle of 2021?

All of the usual. USMLE scores, grades, research, and letters will be looked at closely.  The difference this year is that the applicants will do best to reach out to programs of interest directly and through their home faculty advisors.  Faculty who have graduated relatively recently from outside programs are also a great resource.  The applicants need to inform themselves maximally about other programs and when they narrow their choices, they likely should impart their interest to a limited number of select programs.

After interviewing Dr. Saadeh, an important take home message is that applicants should utilize mentor connections and have those mentors reach out to programs on their behalf. Start this process early by identifying faculty and residents at your home program who have trained at programs that you are interested in.  Cultivate those relationships now so that they will be willing to be an advocate for you during the application process!

Thank you so much to Dr. Saadeh for taking the time to speak with us candidly about his expectations for this upcoming interview cycle. I also want to thank Dr. Carter Boyd for setting up this interview allowing us to gain yet another valuable perspective. Stay tuned for our next interview, which is a fantastic one-on-one with Dr. Britney Corey, the General Surgery Residency Program Director at the University of Alabama at Birmingham!

Click here for more perspectives from program directors.

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