Applying to Residency #9 (i think, i might have lost track!): Evaluating Residency Programs

4th Year Advising Tip - June 26, 2014
June 24, 2014

Dear class,

Before we get into the main subject for today--evaluating residency programs-- we want to remind you about the advising website which hosts lots of key information and links for you.  We have also posted a compendium of these various email monographs on the advising website.  

Link to advising website:

Link to residency application tips:

Now, as you begin to focus on applying to residency programs, there are a number of resources that you will need to tap into in order to determine which programs you will apply to. Unfortunately, this is NOT an easy process, and there is no magic list or source of information that will provide you will all the answers.  It will take a lot of work, and you'll need to leverage a lot of different sources to get a good picture of where to apply and how many programs to apply to. 

Step 1: generate a list of possible programs

The best resource for beginning this process is the AMA website FRIEDA online.  FRIEDA is a directory of every accredited residency program in the US.  you can search by specialty, region, and a few other parameters.  Programs also provide information to FRIEDA that can be very helpful.  Programs control how much information is published in FRIEDA, so you will find that this varies from extensively detailed background to fairly rudimentary information.  At the very least, you will find important contact information and links to program websites that should help you get more information.

Most people start with some fundamental geographic considerations ("I HAVE to be in New York City" or "I want to be west of the mississippi", or "I want to be close to my family" and so forth). Those of you applying in more competitive specialties can't afford to be TOO picky about geography, and all of you should at least consider looking broadly at first to maximize your options, unless you have very fixed limitations.  

Step 2: narrow the list to those programs at which you think you are competitive

This is harder than it sounds, but there are some general rules of thumb. 

  • unless you are the valedictorian you're unlikely to get into the ultra-competitive programs in any given specialty.

  • "university" programs tend to be more competitive than "community affiliates"

  • the west coast and the east coast and larger cities tend to be more competitive.

Unfortunately, there is no ranking of program competitiveness. This is a question that you need to work on with your specialty advisors and your advisory dean. It helps to generate a preliminary list and then vet the list with your advisors. Identifying programs where GW grads have matched in the past few years (see the legendary "guide to the fourth year" for the list of matches over the past several years) can also be helpful. Some of the on-line sites, like student-doctor network and others have some information, but you need to be very careful about what you read on these unscientific sites. 

Step 3: research the heck out of the programs

  • go to their websites

  • go to the websites of their affiliates

  • google things about the program

  • do medline searches on key faculty, what do they publish about?

  • go to the ACGME website and find out about their accreditation history. have they had problems recently (eg. were they on probation?)

  • contact GW grads or friends that are at the programs

  • talk to your advisors

As you do this, it is very important to think about special things that you may want out of your program. for instance, you may want a research intensive program, or a program with unique community service goals, or a program with global health opportunities, or a program that serves a particular type of population, or a program that has a particularly strong fellowship in a subspecialty that you are interested in, and so on.

We've attached a "program assessment" checklist created by Careers in Medicine (similar to the one we gave you in the legendary "guide to the fourth year").  Use these checklists to consider what is important to you about programs and to keep track of what you find out.

There will be more about this issue of assessing programs in future messages, but this is a start.

Your favorite advisory deans, 

drs. h, n, and s

W. Scott Schroth, MD, MPH
Associate Dean for Administration
phone: 202-994-2202 (dean's office only)
phone: 202-741-2222 (clinical office only)
fax: 202-994-0926