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Anesthesiology Residency Application Forum Provides Valuable Insight

AIG Forum on Zoom

The Anesthesiology Interest Group, under the leadership of Lia Metzger and Scott Lewis, both members of the School of Medicine (SOM) Class of 2021, held the first of three anesthesiology residency application forums on August 25. With the application process much different this year due to COVID-19 safety guidelines, the forum provided an opportunity for anesthesiology applicants to learn more about the variety of programs in the New York and New Jersey area, directly from the program directors, and to hear from residents about their experiences. Open to fourth-year medical students in the United States and internationally, the forum was extremely well received with more than 200 logging on for the live session and more than 500 views to date of the recorded session.

“This year has been a wild ride. The process of applying for residencies is already stressful and confusing, but we’re going to be the first group in history to do it virtually,” says Mr. Lewis, who also represents New York Medical College (NYMC) as the delegate to the Medical Student Component of the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA). “We’ve seen the specialty response to COVID-19 recommendations posted by AAMC, but if you’re anything like me and my classmates, you’re still left with lots of questions about how this year is really going to work.”

"The idea for setting up a series of virtual residency application forums came from our desire to help make this application season more transparent given the unexpected barriers encountered during this pandemic,” says Ms. Metzger, who serves as alternate delegate representing NYMC to the Medical Student Component of the ASA. “With limited opportunities for away rotations and clinical exposure, most applicants have had very little interaction with programs that they are interested in. As fourth-year medical students applying to anesthesiology, we have both been directly impacted by the changes to the application process this year, so we know what it feels like to be in the middle of this."

Mr. Lewis and Ms. Metzger planned the series of forums with the assistance of their faculty advisors, Apolonia Abramowicz, M.D., clinical professor of anesthesiology, and Garret Weber, M.D., assistant professor of anesthesiology. The first forum on August 25 featured program directors and residents from New York University Langone Medical Center, University Hospital of Brooklyn of SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University and Mount Sinai Morningside and West Hospitals.

The forum opened with each program director describing the unique aspects of their programs, followed by their residents giving a firsthand account of their experiences in the program.  During the subsequent question and answer portion, the program directors offered their perspective on the anesthesiology residency application season, as well as valuable advice to the applicants.

“Look for a program where you fit in. You will do better if you are reading from the same script,” advised Bryan Mahoney, M.D., director of the Residency Training Program and vice chair of education in the Department of Anesthesiology, Perioperative and Pain Medicine at Mount Sinai. “Different programs have different strategies for teaching. Some are more formal and emphasize following instruction and learning by watching, while others want you to learn by doing.”

In a virtual application season when the lack of travel limitations could result in applicants over applying, the programs directors encouraged applicants to contact the program director if they were really interested in a program.

If you are really interested in a program and want to stand out, you should reach out to the program director and tell them specifically why you’re interested in their program,” said David Wlody, M.D., residency program director and professor and chair of the Department of Anesthesiology at SUNY Downstate.

In response to questions from concerned applicants about soliciting letters of recommendation from clinical directors who may not know them well because of the suspension of clerkships, Dr. Wlody encouraged a broader approach to who they solicit for letters. “When I look at the personal statement and recommendations, I want get a sense of the qualities of that applicant. A letter from a less senior person who knows you really well, and could speak about your qualities, is going to be a lot more valuable than a letter from a more senior person who writes a very generic letter.”

Dr. Mahoney concurred. “Don’t discount a letter from the people who know you in capacities that you don’t think are as important. Did you have a mentor during the first two years of medical school? —which is when you are actually doing a lot of the things I like to see on applications. Maybe you worked with a faculty member in a capacity that’s not clinical but they mentored you through research or some volunteerism. That could be a great letter that can speak to your personality and your character and quality. Broaden your notion of who can write to us about the kind of person you are. That type of personal letter can make a difference and push you from the bottom of the pile to the pile who gets interviewed.”

Additional forums featuring program directors from other area anesthesiology programs, including those at NYMC affiliates, will be held on September 15 and October 7. To learn more about the upcoming forums, visit the Anesthesia Interest Group website. The video from the first forum is also available for viewing.