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Vascular Surgery

Vascular Surgery Residency Questions

What advice would you give about getting letters of recommendation in your specialty?

Things that make a letter stand out include:

  • Letter from a department chair or division chief.
  • Letter from someone who is known in the field.
  • Letter from someone who has worked directly with the student and is able to address suitability for training.

What is the value of doing audition rotations in your specialty?

  • A rotation on the service in the specialty at the institution where the student hopes to match serves as a weeks long interview. The student has the opportunity to build a relationship with the residents and faculty. A positive impression makes a big difference. On the other hand, a lackluster impression is an opportunity killer.
  • Things that make a positive impression include being on time or early for every scheduled activity, being prepared for every activity (rounds, conference, OR, etc.), and being helpful (figuring out how to make the residents’ job easier, e.g. rounding on patients independently to provide updates on status and active issues).
  • Too many “audition rotations” (i.e. more than two) will reduce the number of other clinical electives that the student can take. This can adversely affect the overall educational experience, as broad clinical exposure in the fourth year can be advantageous.

To what extent does research, publications, or presentations affect one’s ability to match in your specialty?

  • In many specialties, documentation of scholarly activities (beyond showing up for class) has become expected.
  • While there is no specific activity that is needed, it is critical to demonstrated a track record of performance. This can be with research, publications, or presentations, or it can be in service, employment, or other areas.
  • There needs to be documentation of ability to work effectively, prioritize, manage time, complete projects that require sustained effort, leadership, etc.

Is a Step 2CK score needed before you will invite someone for an interview?

  • I cannot speak for all program directors, but for many programs, applicants with a score of less than 225 would only be invited for interviews if they distinguished themselves in some other significant way.
  • The personal statement becomes an important way to address shortcomings in the application or scholastic record. Some people have life events that affect their test performance. This can be considered, but if low test scores corroborate low grades and lackluster recommendations, don’t bother to apply for competitive specialties.

What does the perfect applicant look like in your specialty?

  • Track record of success in several areas of life
  • Team player (organized sports, performing arts)
  • Discipline (practice and development in areas of interest, e.g. music, competitive sports)
  • Scholarly achievement (shows ability to learn and excel)
  • Congenial and affable (this is where “audition” rotations, interviews, and letters of recommendation may be critical)
  • Demonstrated aptitude (activities requiring hand-eye coordination, 3-D spatial reasoning, etc.)

Does having a below average Step 1 score doom you in your specialty?

  • More likely than not. Now that many medical schools do not give grades, standardized testing has become the predominant means to distinguish those with high or low knowledge.
  • The shortcoming of testing are well known, but success in a surgical specialty requires the same things that the tests require: knowledge, disciplined preparation, reasoning ability, performance in high stress situation, etc.

Would you ever take someone with a Step 2CS failure?

  • Some programs might, but only with knowledge of the applicant and confidence that the failure was related to some extenuating circumstance.

Does a student need to Honor in your specialty in order to match?

  • Honors performance in multiple core clinical rotations is expected, but many programs will consider the “whole person”.

The students have significant elective time during their 2nd and 3rd year for career exploration.

What electives would you recommend to a student who knows they are interested in your specialty?

  • In preparation for vascular surgery: cardiology, nephrology, neurosurgery, critical care, orthopedic surgery (in addition to vascular surgery)
  • For vascular surgery: cardiology, interventional radiology, cardiothoracic surgery (in addition to vascular surgery)

What electives would you recommend to a student who is undecided but considering your specialty?

Immerse yourself in a challenging rotation at your institution in surgery. Take call frequently like the interns or upper level residents. Make sure you like it after that.

Is there anything else I haven’t asked that you feel an applicant to your specialty ought to know?

This list is a good start.