How this DO matched into orthopedic surgery

Orthopedic surgery resident Jake Checketts, DO, shares his advice and insights for students aiming to match into this increasingly competitive specialty.


Jake Checketts, DO, PGY2, is an orthopedic surgery resident at Oklahoma State University. He derives immense satisfaction from seeing his patients’ lives improve from surgery, and he values being an expert in a specialized area of medicine. Dr. Checketts also actively mentors DO students interested in orthopedics on social media and can be found on Twitter @ortho_jake.

In this interview, Dr. Checketts shares his advice and insights for students aiming to match into this increasingly competitive specialty, from someone who went through the orthopedic match process himself.

Why did you choose orthopedic surgery?

I entered medical school thinking I would like to do something surgical. What confirmed orthopedic surgery was for me was the fact that the patients come to us with a problem, typically in the form of an injury or diagnosis, and we can address it immediately with surgery and see the outcome shortly after.

I love that we treat a wide range of conditions with a vast range of expertly honed skills. If you do your job well, you can fix or restore much of the patient’s anatomy, and their pain and quality of life naturally improve. I also love that there is minimal cross-over between orthopedic surgery and other fields of medicine; I enjoy being the expert in something. I wanted to know a lot about one thing, not a little about many things.

What was your mentality like knowing you would be applying for a competitive MD-dominated field as a DO?

I knew it would be an uphill battle. I did lots of research early on about what it would take to match successfully. I studied day and night, and I did well in my classes. I got involved in research during my first year of medical school, and I started making connections with orthopedic surgeons early on.

That I was a DO applying to ortho did not deter me at all. I maintained a confident and positive attitude and pursued the experiences and qualifications that I felt would set me apart.

Where did you go to undergrad and medical school?

I went to Weber State University and Oklahoma State University College of Osteopathic Medicine.

Do you aim to do a fellowship?

I do, but I am still undecided on which subspecialty I would like to pursue.

How many audition rotations did you complete in orthopedics?

Five total. I did four away rotations and one at my home program.

How many programs did you apply to?

137. I applied to all of the previously AOA-accredited programs and about 100 others.

How many interviews did you complete?


How many programs did you rank?


What factors weighed into your rank order decisions?

Compatibility was the most important thing to me. I considered how well I got along with residents and faculty at each program. I also looked at case volume and resident-faculty cohesiveness. Other things I considered include housing, affordability, location, and because I have a wife and kids, I wanted the location to be a safe and comfortable area.

If you were applying today, what would you do differently, if anything?

I would have been more selective about where I did my away rotations. I rotated at some great places that were probably not a good fit from the start for me and my family for various reasons (location, research opportunities, cost of living, etc.).

However, I knew other people who rotated there so I elected to do the same, due more to familiarity than fit. Be honest with yourself about where you could really see yourself going, and try to rotate at those places.

Jake Checketts, DO, PGY2, is an orthopedic surgery resident at Oklahoma State University.

The 2022 ortho match was stunningly competitive. Do you have any comments or observations gleaned from this year’s match cycle?

It was an extremely competitive year, and we saw decreased match rates for both MDs and DOs. We are learning what it means to be a truly well-rounded applicant. You have to be the complete package in terms of numbers and performance, and you need to make strategic connections with mentors and program faculty who can help you succeed.

Did you take a research year? Why or why not? What advice do you have for students considering a research year?

I did not take a research year, and instead worked hard on research from the get-go and applied with more than 30 publications. If it’s affordable and feasible for a student to take a research year, it can be extremely beneficial for publications and mentorship.

Just as important as the research that comes from a research year are the connections you make and the letters of recommendation you secure. I’ve noticed that applicants who have done a research year also have the best letters of recommendation.

If a student does not do a research year, what recommendations do you have for them to get involved in research and make meaningful connections?

It’s not impossible. For research, start early and learn how to do it efficiently. Find mentors who will help you publish. Take advantage of remote collaboration. For networking, conferences are so important. Now that conferences are back in person, you should be attending.

The SAOAO conferences occur in the spring and the fall and I made great connections going every year. Rotate strategically and build relationships with people at the programs in which you are interested.

What specific advice do you have for students to perform well and stand out on audition rotations?   

Engrain Pocket Pimped Ortho into your soul. It’s a well-known tool, but most students only kind of know it. We had a student who recited the Jupiter Subclassifications of Monteggia Fractures on Day 1. That is not high-yield information, by the way. We were all so impressed, and it certainly caught our attention.

Otherwise, be the first one to arrive and the last one to leave, be gracious to the staff and patients and take initiative to help the service run smoothly. 

What is your advice regarding board exams?

Pass Level 1 and Step 1 on the first attempt. Do well on COMLEX 2 and Step 2.

Should a student do any other rotations as electives that would be helpful for a career in ortho?

I recommend doing ortho for your elective rotations. After the match, though, if you can complete an MSK radiology rotation, that would be helpful.

What advice do you have for a student who likes ortho but is not sure they will fit in or doesn’t feel like they fit the stereotype?

Orthopedics has everything from large implants and amputations to microsurgery and tumor resection. We also work with every patient demographic. There is something for everyone.

Be true to yourself and know that if ortho is your passion, you can find your place within the specialty. Seek programs that share your mission and vision and talk to current residents about the culture of the program.

What final advice do you have for a student pursuing orthopedic surgery?

I am trying to combat the false idea that applying to a second specialty means you don’t want ortho badly enough. Applying to a second specialty is the smart thing to do and gives you more control over the outcome in an increasingly competitive and unpredictable application process.

You need to be your own advocate. If a program holds that against you, you don’t want to go there anyway, as they clearly don’t have your best interest in mind.

Please perform brutally honest introspection on your candidacy. Ask a mentor or advisor to be honest with you concerning your competitiveness and for help identifying your areas of weakness.

Work diligently to become the complete applicant and use the match process to your advantage. Find a mentor who has been through the process recently, and take outdated information with a grain of salt.

Editor’s note: The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of The DO or the AOA.

Related reading:

How to Match into your No. 1 program: Insights from 38 applicants who did it

The world’s 10 best hospitals for 10 different specialties, according to Newsweek


  1. robert m miller

    It would beneficial for DOs and DO schools to become MD schools. This would increase the strength of all physicians, especially in political areas in this country.

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