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Tales from the Road – Thoughts and Stories About the Interview Trail

While it sometimes traveling across the country for residency interviews can feel like a soul-defining adventures or living the rockstar life, it may not quite be as exciting as television, movies or novels quite describe. There are great successes out there as well potholes waiting to trip you up along the way. There are also a number of quirky stories, laughs and odd encounters, which is way for the rest of interview season, I am going to be having this regular feature here on the blog. the plan is to have interview stories, tips and tricks under this heading every Thursday. I have a few stories and I have picked up a few more to share, but if you have one that you want to share, make sure you send it my way. We would be interested in profiling it here.

There are countless stories about people becoming friends on the interview trail or hanging our with a number of your current classmates on the road or even frequently running into future residency classmates along the way. Little did I know I would do all of those together in one night.

My first stop was in St. Louis and I was lucky enough to have gotten an interview at both the Wash U and the SLU Peds programs on consecutive days. I like St. Louis and all (except this month…) but it was nice to be able to only have to make the drive once. When you are out on the interview trail, each specialty is different and each program within a specialty is different. Some of you will find that they put you up in a hotel. Others will find that you need to figure out your own accommodations. Many times they will take you out to a restaurant for dinner the night before, sometimes it is at a resident or faculty member’s home. Sometimes, they don’t have any kind of activity scheduled for your the night before. (We will get into some of these things and how to navigate them in a few weeks.)

For my interview with the Wash U program (some of which I have already detailed here), they put all of the applicants for that day up at the same bed and breakfast. I had never stayed at a bed and breakfast before and despite the fact that I am an introvert and my favorite thing about traveling for work is finding ways to be by myself, it was actually kind of nice to be able to meet and hang out for a bit with the other students who are going to be with you the entire next day. After checking in and getting myself settled into my room for the afternoon, I decided to head downstairs and see if there were any other applicants around. I seemed to be the first one there in the sitting room, so I took a seat and mindlessly stared out the window for awhile.

At some point soon, another student came down and took a place in the room. She seemed rather friendly and safe, so I fought off my usual instinct to hang out by myself and went over to introduce myself. I went over, stuck out my hand for a solid handshake and said “Hi, my name is Mike.” She responded in kind by shaking my hand and saying “Hi, my name is Jen.” Because I am an expert in interpersonal communication, I quickly moved to another safe topic by saying that “I am from the IU School of Medicine.” She stared at me a bit quizzically and then bemusedly said “I am also also from IU.” We each paused for a moment to ponder the absurdity of two students from the same medical school class having to go 300 miles away to another school to meet up for the first time and then had a good chuckle about it. Only at IUSM, I suppose!

We went on to become friends and residency classmates here at the IU/Riley Peds residency program. We were paired up as call partners on our first month of residency call and she even once wrote me a sweet prescription for “More Cowbell”. So be nice to your fellow applicants on the road. You never know whom you are going to meet. One day you might have a fever that only has one solution….

If you have a Tale from the Road that you would like to submit, send it to us here:

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The views expressed in this content represent the perspective and opinions of the author and may or may not represent the position of Indiana University School of Medicine.

Michael McKenna

Dr. McKenna is a graduate of IU School of Medicine, where he also completed a pediatric residency. He served as chief resident and was an Assistant Professor in the Department of Pediatrics and the Associate Program Director for the pediatric residency p...