Matchmaking 101

Matching into residency: A breakdown of 10 specialties

These specialty-specific insights from program directors and residents can help you land the residency program you want.

From interviews to rank order lists, matching into residency can be an intense process. Knowing which traits, extracurriculars and experiences program directors in different specialties value can help you understand how to stand out and match successfully.

While quantitative characteristics such as grades and board scores are important during the match, program directors also look for specialty-specific qualities in residency applicants.

The articles linked below share insights on matching into residency in 10 different specialties.

1. Matching into anesthesiology 

Applicants who excel in the basic sciences and pharmacology typically do well in anesthesiology residency programs.

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2. Matching into dermatology

Having dermatology research experience or publications in dermatology can help set you apart as a dermatology residency applicant.

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3. Matching into emergency medicine 

The SLOE (standard letter of evaluation), unique to emergency medicine, allows program directors to compare applicants easily. It is often the heaviest weighed part of a candidate’s application.

4. Matching into family medicine

Debbie Lupeika, MD, a family medicine program director at Shasta Community Health Center, values seeing applicants with a strong interest in the specialty and community health.

5. Matching into ob-gyn

One of the keys to match success for Catherine Caponero, DO, was getting heavily involved in the national student society of The American College of Osteopathic Obstreicans & Gynecologists (ACOOG).

Catherine Caponero, DO

6. Matching into orthopedic surgery

Wade Faerber, DO, an orthopedic surgery program director at Riverside University Health System, looks for applicants who are team players. Potential residents typically must rotate at his program to be considered for an interview.

(Photo by Getty Images--Zentangle)

7. Matching into osteopathic manipulative medicine

Program directors are interested in applicants with a sustained interest in OMM, which can include research experience, says Mark Thai, DO, a program director for the OMM/NMM fellowship at Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences.

Matthew Barker, DO, completed a dual residency program at the University of North Texas Health Science Center Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine that combined family medicine and osteopathic manipulative medicine. (Courtesy UNTSHC)

8. Matching into pediatrics

Pediatrics program directors look for candidates who are well-rounded, says Simrin Atwal, DO, a pediatrics resident at the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Peoria. She encourages applicants to obtain letters of recommendation from pediatric attendings as well as attendings from other fields.

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9. Matching into plastic surgery

Diligence, resilience and a good work ethic will take plastic surgery residency applicants far, says Tony Weaver, DO, a plastic and reconstructive surgeon at Huntsville Hospital.

Tony Weaver, DO, performs plastic surgery.

10. Matching into general surgery

Jeffrey Baron, DO, a general surgery resident at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, completed 14 interviews and applied to 55 programs before landing his first-choice residency.

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Related reading:

Pro tips for nailing your residency interviews and audition rotations

Pros and cons of turning down an audition rotation: What you need to know

Audition rotations: 7 tips for success

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