Recent fourth-year matcher (and in-Training writer) John Dougherty of the Feinberg School of Medicine provides his expertise on how to succeed — and stay sane — in medical school and beyond:
1. Tell us about yourself: Where are you from? What is your undergraduate degree and where did you receive it? Did you do anything between undergraduate and medical school?
John Dougherty: I’m from Valparaiso, Indiana, and went to Northwestern for my undergraduate and medical degrees.
2. What residency program will you be joining and where?
JD: NYU Internal Medicine
3. Looking back on your medical school experience, what would you say to the young and naïve “first-year you”?
JD: Everybody finds studying success in his or her own way. Don’t put too much stock in anyone’s advice, until you get to Step 1…
4. What things did you do that you believe were valuable to succeed the first two years in the classroom?
JD: When it’s time to study for Step I, spend 90% of your time with First Aid and UWorld. The only other resource I used was Goljan, which I would listen to on an evening jog every day after studying. Shadow for yourself, but don’t think anyone reading your residency application will care. I found it helpful to have some sense of what fields I might be interested in. It’s helpful for interviews if your resume to has some continuity, so it’s always nice to know what you want to go into early, but most people don’t figure it out until third year.
5. What things did you do that you believe were valuable to succeed the second two years through clinical rotations?
JD: One of the biggest surprises about rotations was learning what residents really wanted out of medical students. For the most part, you will waste as much of their time as you save, so what they think of you often depends on other factors. Some residents are lonely, bitter people who want to make you stay at the hospital just because they have to be there. Some are so busy they want you to leave so they can get some work done. A few are good teachers that want you around for just as long as you are learning. Most just want to be around people that are fun to hang out with. Be adaptable. One of the most common mistakes I saw other students make was interrupting a resident or attending. Maybe not mid-sentence, but often in the middle of a line of questioning. A typical scenario goes as follows: you are following a patient, you present in the hall, and then you all go into the patient’s room. You start asking the patient questions, but you can’t read the attending’s mind, so you ask different questions than he or she would, or you ask them in a different order. They get impatient and take over. At that point, you should let them finish the interview. The conversation moves up the hierarchy, not down. If your attending constantly interrupts you even though you’re asking all the right questions, then it’s okay to gently mention it at the end of rounds.
6. What things did you do during your four years of medical school that stuck out or particularly impressed your residency program?
JD: I was amazed at how one interviewer would focus on one thing, and the next on something completely different. Most people ask about something because they have a common interest in it. Try to pick up on a theme of the questions you are being asked and target your answers to what you’d guess the interviewer’s interests are.
7. What was your level of involvement in research and other extracurricular activities, and your opinion on how important that involvement is?
JD: Published research is the most important part of your application after grades and Step 1. Other extracurricular activities make for good stories in your personal statement and during your interviews, but you don’t need to have a ton of them or devote that much time to any one of them.
8. What attracted you to your chosen specialty?
JD: I chose to go into medicine because for me it struck the right balance between direct patient interaction and an intellectual challenge.