When should you start preparing to apply for a residency? When in the year do you need to have different steps completed? How can you use your time most efficiently to maximize your chances of success? I want to address all of these questions and more, so let’s dive in!
A theme that comes up time and again for those who choose residents is that it all comes down to personal relationships. Specialists call their friends at different institutions to ask about applicants. The applicants who get positions aren’t necessarily the most qualified, they’re the one who is the most ‘known quantity’ because they had some mentors and supervisors ‘vouch’ for them. So, you need to focus on personal relationships as well as academics. Here’s my suggested timeline for those interested in residency to develop those personal relationships and other factors:
Vet School Years 1-2: Find a research mentor, preferably a clinical one, preferably one in your discipline of interest. Do a research project, preferably one which leads to a publication on which you are an author, preferably one which leads to a publication with you as the first author. Do well enough in classes so that you are in the top third of your class.
Vet School Year 3: Learn what you can about clinical practice. Strengthen your medical knowledge foundation so you can impress people during clinics.
Vet School Year 4: Do a great job on clinics. Work hard on _all_ your rotations, not just the ones in your discipline of interest. Do externships at institutions with specialists in the field in which you are interested, so that more people get to see you do a great job. Submit for publication any research you have before the internship application deadline. See the advice for the internship application timeline and follow it. Apply for internships that have several board-certified specialists in your field of interest. For some specialties (e.g. ophthalmology), going to the conference for the specialty may be helpful.
Internship: If at all possible, do externships at other institutions with specialists in your discipline. Work hard with _all_ the specialists, not just the ones in your discipline of interest. Follow the same VIRMP timeline advice as for interns.
Specialty Internship: If you did not match for a residency the first time around, but are doing a specialty internship, continue to do a good job on clinics. Try to get a research project up and running and, ideally, submitted for publication before the match. Some specialty internships may allow/encourage you to go to the specialty conference.
You have to work hard on _all_ your rotations because you can absolutely bet that the dermatology residency to which you are applying will call the surgeon at your current institution whom they worked with during their own residency to ask about your performance.
This is a high-level overview of the residency path. There are many who have walked different paths and have been successful. This isn’t the only way. But I believe, in this highly competitive environment, this is the most likely to lead to success.