Catherine Caponero, DO, was only 16 years old when she witnessed her first delivery as a teen volunteer in labor & delivery at University Hospitals in Cleveland, Ohio. As an undergrad in a bioethics program, she studied reproductive endocrinology, assisted reproductive technologies and birth control.
Now, as a third-year ob-gyn resident at Grandview Medical Center in Dayton, Ohio, Dr. Caponero is an advocate for women and women’s health. In this edited Q&A, she talks about what she did to land her ob-gyn residency and shares her tips for students seeking to follow in her footsteps.
How many audition rotations did you have?
Six. All ob-gyn. I set them up early in my third year at a variety of places. I’ve always had the attitude that being over-prepared is better than being underprepared. Auditions are critical in the DO world. In my residency program, we really take our auditioners very seriously. It’s so much easier to get to know someone over two weeks or a month versus just on paper.
How did you land your current residency?
In medical school, I was part of the national student society of The American College of Osteopathic Obstetricians & Gynecologists (ACOOG). During one of our conferences, I met with Mark W. Day, DO, who’s my program director at Grandview Medical Center. I was able to get an audition rotation in his program, and I did well. After my audition, I stayed in touch with Dr. Day and the residents.
What made your audition at Grandview stand out as where you really wanted to be?
The residents were incredibly supportive and really tried to help each other out. I also loved watching the senior residents operate and working with patients as a volunteer. I had a lot of great role models to look up to.
What was your approach to securing letters of recommendation?
I got three letters, one each from an ob-gyn, a surgeon and a family medicine doctor. As an ob-gyn, you do a lot of surgery, but you’re also doing primary care, so by incorporating all three of those specialties, I was able to provide the best picture of who I am to program directors.
How many applications did you send out?
I figured there was no harm in applying to a variety of places, so I ultimately applied to 20 to 30 different ob-gyn programs.
How many interview requests did you receive?
Over 20. I turned down quite a few because I ended up getting more than enough. Since I was so involved in ACOOG’s national student society, I met a lot of the program directors. That really helped me. I honestly believe it’s a lot about who you know in this whole process. I recommend that people make sure they get their name out. Don’t be afraid to introduce yourself at conferences and events.
What was most challenging part of applying for residency?
It was difficult to take care of all the requirements related to the application process while also complying with my medical school obligations.
What personal practices helped you land your residency?
It’s important to stay on top of things. I am very organized. Some of my colleagues didn’t get the auditions they wanted because they didn’t apply early enough.
After going through the process, what do you think applicants should really focus on?
For our program, it’s most important for the applicant to get along with the other residents. Making sure we have a cohesive group is critical because we see each other more than we see our family or friends. The other big thing is to show the program that you’re teachable. You can come in and not know how to do a delivery and that’s 100 percent OK as long as you’re willing to learn and willing to pay attention.
How did you prepare yourself before medical school?
In high school, I had a family friend who was a head labor and delivery nurse at University Hospitals. I would go into work with her every day in the summer. I got to learn from her and the physicians.
What did you do to prepare yourself during medical school?
I started the Ob-gyn Club at Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine. I helped coordinate a variety of events throughout the year. If a medical school doesn’t have one, I recommend starting one. ACOOG is a good resource for information on starting an ob-gyn club.