One of the seemingly countless big steps in pursuing medical degrees and careers is landing a medical residency, the multi-year postgraduate training that individuals undertake after earning their medical degrees. During a recent week in October, several graduates of DMU’s doctor of osteopathic medicine (D.O.) and doctor of podiatric medicine (D.P.M.) programs jumped on Zoom to give students advice and insights about the daunting process of applying for residency positions and to assure them they’re ready.
They also had some practical life tips to share, from considering no-payment-down physician loans to cover housing costs to being well aware of one’s professional passions, interests and long-term goals.
The graduates are members of the University’s Alumni Sharing Knowledge program, or ASK, who’ve stepped up to mentor students on a variety of medical school and career topics. Student honor societies Sigma Sigma Phi and Pi Delta helped organize the recent ASK residency sessions.
“We are so grateful to our ASK members for sharing invaluable information and advice to our students, who clearly desire those insights and relationships,” says Krystal Kruse, assistant director of alumni relations. “Not only do our ASK alumni benefit students, but they also strengthen the DMU community. By generously sharing their time, we hope they inspire students to become ASK mentors after they graduate.”
Krystal encourages all DMU alumni to register for the program. The online registration form takes just a few minutes to complete.
In his session, Joshua Rehmann, D.O.’06, a family medicine physician and director of the UnityPoint family medicine residency program in Des Moines, advised students to choose the specialty they have a passion for. “Have an open mind and don’t pigeonhole yourselves,” he said. “I initially thought I’d go into surgery.”
For the residency application process, he suggested students begin drafting their personal statements early. “Have a group of people you trust who can review it for you and give you feedback. Share who you are and why you’re interested in that specialty,” he said. “In your application, list activities you’re willing and able to talk about, especially those that are specialty-related.”
Zach Strobel, D.O.’21, a first-year emergency medicine resident at Henry Ford Wyandotte Hospital in Wyandotte, MI, told students to do their audition rotations where they want to do their residency. Done in the fourth year of medical school, these rotations, though not required, allow students to “audition” for a residency position at a hospital or health care center. They offer opportunities to learn more about the residency program, impress potential residency directors, stand out among the other residency candidates and get a strong letter of recommendation.
Dr. Strobel also offered perspectives on emergency medicine. “It offers great work/life balance, but when you’re on, you’re on – there are no breaks,” he says. “Shift work is the best part and worst part of emergency medicine residency. You may have slow days in surgery or other specialties, but not in emergency medicine. You work holidays and evenings.”
He also suggested emergency medicine residents “use fellow residents as your family” – something he noted has more challenging given the COVID-19 pandemic, as people may choose to limit their social activities.
Matthew Hentges, D.P.M.’11, FACFAS, is a fellowship-trained podiatric physician and director of the podiatry residency program at Allegheny Health – Foot and Ankle Institute. He emphasized the importance of doing well during clerkships, the three- to four-week podiatric rotations in hospitals or ambulatory surgical centers that podiatric medicine students do in their third and/or fourth years.
“It’s where first impressions of a residency program begin, both for the program to evaluate you and for you to evaluate the program,” he said.
He listed factors students should consider in choosing a residency program, including its prestige, history and the level of training of its program director and attending staff; their involvement in national, regional and local professional associations; and the students’ own clinical skills and interests.
“Also consider the residents’ attitudes toward the program and to each other, and faculty members’ interest in the residents,” he added. “Do they care about seeing you achieve the best you can be?”
ASK member Rachel Egdorf Gerber, D.P.M.’19, a third-year resident at AMITA Health St. Joseph Hospital in Chicago, based her residency choice on factors including a healthy work-life balance, a program that “doesn’t give you busy work” and one that fosters strong women physicians. She also wanted to work with doctors who don’t say, “We don’t do that here” about various medical/surgical procedures.
“I wanted to choose my adventure and go where I was going to get a good education. I love asking lots of questions,” she says. That motivated her to apply for the North Jersey Reconstructive Foot and Ankle Fellowship in Lyndhurst, NJ, which she will begin next year: “I saw it as an opportunity to advance in my career.”
Also passionate about research, which she did as a DMU student, she wanted those opportunities to continue. “Most doctors have something they want researched. I’m actively working on six papers and a chapter of a book,” she said.
The ASK alumni strongly advised students to look for a good “fit” in considering residency programs, to act professionally and appropriately, show up early and stay late, be engaged and always seek ways to be helpful. “Always go above and beyond,” Dr. Gerber said. They also encouraged students to tap alumni and upperclass students for input.
“I’m a big believer in networking,” said Dr. Rehmann, who, like the other ASK alumni, provided their contact information to participating students and encouraged them to use it. And when it comes to applying and interviewing for residency, he added, “Enjoy the process. It’s stressful, but interviewing lets you see different programs and cities. You are well prepared.”
In addition to Drs. Gerber, Hentges, Rehmann and Strobel, these DMU alumni participated in the October ASK residency sessions:
- Jamie Esmon, D.O.’18, pediatrics, Lake County Health Department community health center, Zion, IL
- Tyler Folkerts, D.O.’20, family medicine, Broadlawns Medical Center, Des Moines
- Jen Gravos, D.P.M.’19, podiatric medicine, Sanford Health, Fargo, ND
- Hannah Hurst, D.O.’18, general surgery, University of Missouri-Kansas City
- Steven Marmer, D.O.’19, internal medicine, Medical College of Wisconsin-Madison
- Megan Simpson, D.O.’18, pediatric cardiology, Emory University
- Morgan Steffen, D.O.’21, obstetrics/gynecology, University of Nebraska Medical Center
- Erica Yamamoto, D.O.’20, family medicine, Monroe Clinic, Monroe, WI
DMU thanks all ASK members for sharing their knowledge with students!