Pediatrics was a natural choice for me, and you probably will hear
that a lot from applicants. Most people say they love kids, and this
was true for me as well. Knowing this, I knew that eventually I would
end up in pediatrics, family practice, or maybe medicine/pediatrics.
During my rotations, I found I loved working with pediatric patients
and that they were totally different from their adult counterparts
in many ways. In my Family Practice rotation, I didn't get the opportunity
to see many children and I decided that to really serve pediatric
population well I would need to pursue a categorical pediatric residency.
How did you prepare yourself for application to
your chosen specialty?
I wasn't a big research person, I had done some projects with the
department of family practice, but no basic science research during
medical school. During my 3rd and 4th years, I did several subinternships
in addition to my core pediatric rotation. I spent 4 weeks each in
general pediatrics, pediatric hematology/oncology, and pediatric
emergency department. Also, I knew a few friends who were Peds interns
and I spend many long nights on the phone discussing variuos career
options. These conversations with people in the field were definitely
the most helpful.
Who wrote your letters of recommendation for your
You should never feel like you need to get all your letters of recommendation
from people inside pediatrics, but I felt that the people who knew
me best were all within the field. I obtatined 2 from attendings
that I had worked with during my general pediatrics subinternship
(one general pediatrics attending, one from the assistant program
director.) My other letters came from a 3rd and 4th year advisor
who was a program director at another institution.
I would always suggest getting a letter from the people you know the
best who also are well known in the field. But if I had to choose from
the two, always pick the person who knows you the best.
Which programs did you apply to and why?
Being from California, and wanting to stay in California, I only
applied to programs there. I chose programs from all different areas:
community, academic, and county programs. Basically you should apply
to more programs than you think you'll need to, just in case you
change your mind later. It's good to see a diversity of programs
so you know what kinds of programs you like and which programs you
like less. I applied to about 15 programs. If you are a competitive
applicant, try not to apply to programs you know you will not attend.
What kinds of questions did programs tend to ask
Very different from medical school applications, residency interviewers
mostly were trying to sell their program to you. They want to know
about your background, your family, your interest, and of course "why
pediatrics?" Beyond that they spend most of the time asking you what
you are looking for in a residency program. Most pediatricians are
laid back people and their interview style reflects that.
What would you have done differently in applying?
I think I would have applied to a few less programs, only because
there were a few places I was almost certain that I would never attend.
Also, I might have done another one of my peds electives at an away
insitution just to see what other programs were like.
What was the most difficult part of the application
The interview process was the most tiring part of the whole process.
Pretty soon, all the programs start to look alike and when you've
seen one ward, you've seen them all. Try to pace yourself and put
your most important interviews somewhere in the middle of your interview
What should I look for on my interview and tour
I always like to look at the wards, the ICUs, etc. I want to know
how busy the NICU looks, and the proximity of the call rooms to the
various parts of the pediatrics areas. Also it's good to find out
what kind of back up you will have in areas like the NICU and the
PICU. You never want to feel like you will be left alone in these
kinds of settings. I also took note of how the teams were divided,
either by system (e.g. Heme/onc, general Peds,etc.) or simply by
What questions should I ask of residents, faculty,
and program directors?
Ask the residents if they are happy! This is probably the single
most important part of your day. Also find out if they get along
with their classmates and with attendings. Find out what they would
change about their program. Do they have enough support on-call?
Find out if they are simply unhappy about being interns/residents
or are they unhappy being interns/residents at their institution.
You may want to know from program directors if they are planning
to change things in the program. Are there any areas they are addressing
on their own "problem list?" Where do they forsee the program heading
in the years to come.
How did you form your rank list?
This was very difficult. I would change my rank list daily, if not
hourly. Basically you need to as everyone says "go with your gut." I
ranked places first knowing that I liked the residents and knew I
would fit in. It really all comes down to comfort level. Then I factored
in the program director's impression on me, the location, and facility.
I also considered whether or not the insitution was an academic or
county center and whether or not they had third year medical students
rotating through on a regular basis. I knew I wanted to be at a place
that emphasized teaching. Basically you'll probably end up happy
no matter where you end up, but it's a difficult process getting
What other advice can you give seniors applying in your specialty?
Pediatrics tends to be a very laid-back specialty. Most people are
very nice and friendly during the entire interview and rank list process.
Don't forget to ask a lot of questions and don't be afraid to call
residents back if you think of other things you would like to know