The journey to residency

Your questions about matching into residency answered

From single GME accreditation to audition rotations to patient populations, get answers to your burning residency questions here.

The residency application process is full of questions. Guidance from the osteopathic family can help students navigate matching successfully.

AOA past president William S Mayo, DO, recently spoke with a group of osteopathic medical students about matching into residency, the single GME accreditation system and finding the right program. Dr. Mayo completed an ACGME-accredited ophthalmology residency at the University of Mississippi in a program that had never had a DO before. Here’s his advice for the next generation of DOs.

I’m interested in a specific residency that seems to only accept MD students. How does the single GME accreditation system impact my application? Does the program have to accept osteopathic students now?

Dr. Mayo: Residency positions are open to DOs, MDs, and IMGs. You could have program-specific biases based on the particular program, specialty or school. You will find that some are friendlier to MDs or DOs or graduates from specific schools.

You may want to call the program. Just because they don’t have any DOs currently in their program doesn’t mean they’re not DO-friendly and haven’t ranked them in the past.

Do you have any tips for forming a good relationship with your preceptor during audition rotations?

Dr. Mayo: If you’re on a month rotation, ask your preceptor for lunch or coffee so you can sit down and have a conversation. Ask questions about their family, what they do outside of medicine and what drew them to their specialty.

Is it difficult to train in a program where you don’t have connections or don’t plan to stay in the area after completing residency?

Dr. Mayo: Many students will go somewhere else to get a broader view of medicine. I did that for medical school and it was beneficial for me to not do everything in one location. Try arranging core rotations and electives at institutions you’re interested in. Rotations can give you a chance to show off your qualities.

I went to medical school in Kansas City and went back to Mississippi for residency. I didn’t have a network there. It was only a couple years after DOs gained practice rights in the state.

Some programs might be looking to add doctors in that area, or maybe they have enough doctors in that specific specialty and they’re looking to find people who will go somewhere else to practice. Finding out that information can be helpful so you know how to talk about that topic when you’re on interviews. 

How will the size of the patient population you’re treating impact training?

Dr. Mayo: There are some residency programs in rural areas that, if they don’t have the depth of educational experience residents need for a particular specialty, they’ll have them do away rotations.

For the surgical field, it depends on what you want out of your residency. The big-name institution in the large city will have fellows in every field, and they’ll get the first choice, so you might not get to do much surgery until you’re a fellow. I chose a residency program where the residents got to do the majority of surgeries so I could have more exposure.

How did you determine what type of residency program you’d feel comfortable at?

Dr. Mayo: Program directors want to have people who will fit with their program and can do the work. I asked to drop in and visit programs to get a rough feel. I went to four programs closest to where I wanted to practice. Ideally, you’ll have a network through friends or SOMA that can provide contact information in that hospital system or in that residency program. With the number of graduates we have every year, we have folks in a lot of places across the country.

Further reading: 

How to get a good letter of recommendation for residency

First year of residency: 5 things to expect as an intern

How am I DO-ing in a majority MD residency program?

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