What Program Directors look for

I have been getting a lot of emails this week, as well as questions in classes about what program directors look for and how to get into residency. I will do a series this week about what the majority of program directors look for. I invite your comments and I will respond to them as often as I can.

The first thing is:

1. Where did you go to school

2. USMLE Scores

3. Transcripts

4. Research

5. Personal statements

6 Letters of Recomendation

7. Visa status

8. Other languages spoken

These are the things that get you the interview. At the end, I will try to cover what to do in interview.



11 Responses to “What Program Directors look for”

  1. pustota Says:

    re: research while taking a year off/reapplying:
    would it be better to concentrate on one place and do 40 hr/week? or try two different hospitals 20hr/week and increase your chances of getting published/connections?

    re: usmle scores:
    how detrimental is a failed CS while reapplying? considering that it was passed on the second attempt?

    also, does CK vs Step 1 matter?

    purely hypothetical questions of course 🙂

    • Conrad Fischer Says:

      If you can make a MEANINGFUL presence at two hospitals, then two is better.

      No way to gauge how detrimental a failed step 2 CS is.
      What is the failure rate? 8%? then it is painful

    • Conrad Fischer Says:

      Step 2 CK and step 1 are EQUAL for IMG’s because you must have both to be ranked. For US grads, step 1 is more important because that is often the only score the programs see.

      • pustota Says:

        thank you for the reply. do you think that getting a higher score on step 2CK vs Step 1 will affect one’s standing?

      • Conrad Fischer Says:

        IF you pass both step 1 and 2, then it does not matter if the score is higher, except that it will help.
        If you got an 82 on step 1, a 92 on step 2 will help a lot!!
        (I hope people did not get fussy about the school discussion, it is just that everyone is sensitive to pedigree)

  2. jas Says:

    USMLE scores: How important is a failed step 1 score for an IMG? Considering that I passed it with 95 on the second attempt?

    Research: Is full time research (towards a degree) and a paper published in UK/Australia “good enough research”while applying for a residency in the US?

    • Conrad Fischer Says:

      This question on what to do with a fail on step one is VERY important!
      If there is a failure, then a VERY high grade on finally passing can really cure that. It does not eradicate it and it will hurt, BUT when the pass is a BIG pass then it really minimizes the failure.
      Drive on!

  3. Maria Says:

    Hi Dr Fischer! This blog has been very helpful, thank you!
    I am an IMG from off-shore med school and after I finish Step 2 CK I will be back in a town where I am applying for some more competitive Pediatrics programs. I was wondering if it was appropriate to go to a few Program offices to introduce myself and ask them questions about the program, kind of put a face to a name and show them I am very interested in their program. This would be in early September. What do you think?


    • Conrad Fischer Says:

      I would NOT just drop by. first, I don’t think it will help. Second, it makes you look flaky and desparate

  4. apu Says:

    I am an IMG with scores of 94 and 95,passed cs on second attempt,1 month observership in a community hospital.I graduated 2 years ago.I have applied for IM.From your above post it looks like the cs attempt is going to be very bad.So do you mean that nothing can compensate for my failure in cs once?What about average programs?

    I would be grateful if you could share your thoughts on my case.

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