Seeking the perfect match

7 do’s and don’ts for choosing your residency program

Your residency program may be your professional home for years to come. DOs share their tips on finding the training site that best fits you.


Asking the right questions during interviews with internship and residency program directors can help medical students determine which training site best fits their personality and goals.

When looking for his residency program, John Casey, DO, the new physician in practice member of the AOA Board of Trustees, recalls asking himself if locations not only provide outstanding medical education but also offer opportunities for relaxation during down time. He ended up in program that focused on physician wellness.

“My program director actively promoted and supported work-life balance throughout training,” Dr. Casey says. “The goal was to help young physicians learn early how important balance is to longevity and personal satisfaction.”

What else should you keep in mind during your search? Dr. Casey and Jonathan Vitale, DO, a newly practicing family physician in New York, share their do’s and don’ts for selecting a training program:

DO look at the quality of the faculty. Are they challenging and supportive enough to let you spread your wings and implement your own practice style before you graduate?

DON’T pay attention to “perks” like nice call schedules, free parking and discounted housing. “In the grand scheme of things, perks do not matter, getting experience does,” Dr. Vitale says.

DO consider location. Is the program in an area where you’d like to live? Would you want to work in that locale after graduation? Are there opportunities for relaxation during down time?

DO, if possible, speak to a resident from each year of the program to get an idea of the road ahead. Also, research what program graduates are doing and be sure their careers are in line with what you want to do.

DON’T fake attitudes or opinions you don’t really have during the interview. “If you match into a program based on characteristics that you don’t possess, it can lead to a lot of unnecessary stress,” Dr. Casey advises.

DO ask about the strengths and weaknesses of the program. All programs have them and knowing what they are can help you make an informed decision.

DO take the opportunity during a visit to speak with nursing staff. They will be your colleagues for several years and it is important to gain their perspective on residents.

And when training begins, DON’T view the experience as “pass/fail.” “This is one of the last times in your career that you will have the educational support as a student, an excuse to try new things and support when you fail,” Dr. Vitale says.

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