• We Matched! Here’s How You Can, Too

    March 30, 2023, David Mitchell — On March 17, more than 4,500 medical students and graduates matched into family medicine residencies. AAFP News recently talked with candidates about experiencing medical school during the pandemic and why they chose the specialty. In this second Q&A, we asked students what advice they would offer to those matching in 2024 and beyond.

    stethoscope next to three wooden squares that spell Q&A

    AAFP News: What is your best piece of advice for students matching next year?

    Julie Ngo, Michigan State University College of Human Medicine, matched to Henry Ford Macomb Family Medicine Residency in Detroit: Have an open mind and apply and interview as broadly as you are considering. Geographically there might be a lot of programs that you might not be aware of how awesome they are.

    You might have an original plan of, “Oh, this is my No. 1. I really want to go to a cool program near me.” But then you find out that there’s another program that gives you absolutely everything you want. 

    Katie Yu, George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences, matched to the Contra Costa Family Medicine Residency in Martinez, Calif.: Really think about what matters to you as a learner and as a person — what priorities do you have? In family medicine there is such a wide array of program options that it’s almost impossible to create an algorithm that balances how much you value vacation time versus salary versus CME funds versus proximity to family versus hours worked per week. All of these things are important, and it will be almost impossible to find the program that matches everything you want. So, when you ask questions, try to ask questions as specific to you as possible so that you can get a sense of if you’d be surrounded by likeminded people at that program.

    Julie Ngo, Michigan State University College of Human Medicine

    AAFP News: Before the pandemic, interviews were almost exclusively in-person in family medicine, and during the first two years of the pandemic they were almost exclusively virtual. You participated in the first truly hybrid interview season. What helped you prepare for interviews, and can you compare the in-person and virtual experiences?

    Ngo: I listened to advice about how your virtual presence can make an impact, too. Is your eye contact to the camera sufficient? For example, if you’re darting your eyes around to look at your notes, that can be distracting. I also felt like second-look days were very important, especially with virtual interviews, because sometimes you have a better sense when you meet people one-on-one in person.

    AAFP News: Did you have in-person and virtual interviews, or did you do virtual interviews and then second looks in person?

    Ngo: I only had one in-person interview and everything else was virtual. I only considered second looks on my top programs because I wanted to make sure I was ranking appropriately. There were also virtual second looks.

    AAFP News: How did you decide which programs to apply to?

    Ngo: I definitely used a database to find out what is out there. There are just so many programs. I mostly focused on the Midwest because that’s where my support system is and then a little bit in Northern California where my parents are. Then I focused on which programs in those two areas had good women’s health, for example, or which ones had broad-spectrum training, which was important for me. 

    Yu: I’m interested in rural family medicine, so I really prioritized full-spectrum programs that have a strong tradition of training rural docs. I also want to make my way back out West, so I narrowed my search from there.

    AAFP News: Were there any AAFP resources that were helpful that you would recommend to students?

    Ngo: I used the AAFP’s suggested interview questions to ask program directors and residents.

    Yu: I think it’s great to crowd-source as much information as you can. I used Strolling Through the Match, my family medicine mentors at GW and other institutions, my friends at other schools, and even (with some reservations) Reddit. Conversations at National Conference are also massively important. I was fortunate to attend National Conference (twice virtually and once in person) and spoke to residencies every time. There were a few programs that I spoke to every year.

    (Note: Registration is open for the 2023 National Conference of Family Medicine Residents and Medical Students, which will meet July 27-29 in Kansas City, Mo.)

    AAFP News: What was most helpful to you in choosing this specialty? How did you pick family medicine?

    Katie Yu, George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences

    Ngo: I would say mentorship. I had very strong family medicine faculty who gave me more information about family medicine. But the biggest things were my clerkships and being in the clinic, being on those department rotations, seeing what family medicine is all about. It gave me a full picture of what it is and how I can fit in it.

    Yu: Meeting family doctors and hearing the breadth of work they do. Also really reflecting on the relationship I hope to have with my patients and the type of impact I hope to have on my community.

    AAFP News: What advice do you have about ranking programs?

    Ngo: I struggled a lot with ranking because there are so many awesome programs. “What is important to you?” is what I was asking myself. I had to think about, “If it’s going to be a hard day in my rotation during residency, what’s going to keep me centered?” I ranked programs highly where my family is and where my partner is. Those were the biggest factors.

    Yu: I have a spreadsheet. I did all of my interviews in a relatively condensed period of time, so things definitely blend together. I tried to be as honest as possible when taking notes about my thoughts on program opportunities, how residents and faculty talked about each other and their experiences. Having all of this when I put together my rank list a few months later was very helpful.

    AAFP News: Family medicine residencies have new requirements starting June 1. What did you learn on the interview trail about how residencies are innovating with the new requirements?

    Yu: I’m most excited about all the extra elective time. I have so many varied interests, so I’m really excited to see what opportunities I am able to take advantage of. I was impressed that so many programs don’t have to change too much because they were already innovating and recognizing the skills their trainees need to develop.