Which Residency? How Does One Apply? DMU Alumni Offer Tips During ASK Sessions

How does a medical student decide on a specialty as a career? What’s most important in residency applications, and how does the process work? What are red flags to watch out for when evaluating residency programs? And just how horrible are the hours? 

DMU’s osteopathic medical students asked these and dozens more questions of recent graduates, now residents, during recent virtual sessions of the university’s Alumni Sharing Knowledge Program, which periodically offers such opportunities for students to learn from alumni. The sessions were organized and moderated by members of the DMU chapter of Sigma Sigma Phi, the national osteopathic honor society, in conjunction with Alumni Relations. 

While the discussions varied by specialty, all the graduates reassured participating students: You got this. 

“Never lose faith. Never lose hope. You will get through this,” said Shayla Shojaat, D.O.’23, M.S.B.S.’19, a first-year resident in pediatrics at the University of Iowa Stead Family Hospital. “Things work out how they’re supposed to.” 

Common themes emerged on what matters in a residency application. 

“Find something you enjoy and have a passion for, but go into third-year rotations with an open mind” on which specialty to choose, advised Alexandra Hubbell, D.O.’13, a family medicine physician and associate director of the family medicine residency program at UnityPoint Health in Des Moines. “Find physicians you would like to model and shadow physicians whenever you can.” 

Melanie Kim, D.O.’22, a second-year family medicine resident at CoxHealth in Springfield, Missouri, encouraged students to be “hungry, humble and kind” during rotations and residency.  

“Know that you’re not going to know everything, and be eager to learn,” she said. “During fourth-year audition rotations, remember you’re always interviewing, so always be on your “A” game. Be yourself, and ask for feedback.” 

When choosing which residency programs to apply to, students should weigh factors including location, setting, size of the program and where its residents go after completing a program. The most significant factors, the alumni agreed, are a program’s current residents, supervising physicians and staff. A “red flag” for a residency program that Tope Banwo, D.O.’22, initially considered was the limited interaction she had with its current residents.  

“The people just weren’t friendly,” she said. Now a second-year resident in obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, Banwo shared how her specialty choice emerged during her third-year rotations. 

“OB/GYN was literally the last specialty on my mind,” she said. “Then, my first week of my OB/GYN rotation changed my mind very quickly. I fell in love with it, and it was in line with my values…Even though the hours are long and emotionally taxing sometimes, I love what I do every single day.” 

Knowing one’s passions and values is key, said Brian Lifschutz, D.O.’22, M.S.B.S.’22, a second-year resident in general surgery at Jefferson Abington Hospital in Abington, Pennsylvania. 

“Being able to offer an operation or procedural intervention to impact a person’s life is something that drew me to this specialty,” he said. 

Other alumni who participated in the recent ASK sessions were Dylan Hengst, D.O.’23, a first-year internal medicine resident at Mercy Medical Center, Des Moines; Kasia Marciniec, D.O.’22, a second-year emergency medicine resident at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics; and Tyler Rutherford, D.O.’22, a second-year resident at the University of Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. 

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