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The Fourth Year of Medical School


Medical students in hospital

The fourth year of medical school is the time when we apply for residency positions. Residency is the post graduate training that all doctors have to go through, specific to the field that you choose. For me, I’ll spend 4 years training for PM&R. It can be a pretty stressful (and expensive) time of year. As it stands right now I have around 20 interviews in multiple states, scheduled over the next 3 months. I won’t end up having to go on all of the interviews, but nonetheless deciding which programs to apply to and interview at can be really difficult. Not only am I deciding where I want to do my training, but also where my wife and I want to live for the next four years. With plane flights, hotel stays, and long drives, it’s going to be exciting but stressful time of year. Thankfully I am either on vacation or taking online based electives the next few months so that I can devote the majority of my time to interviews.

The entire process starts with something called ERAS. It’s a national, standardized web platform that is the main hub for our application process. There is a single, standard application that everyone fills out, regardless of the specialty they are pursuing. You have to enter in all of your personal and biographical information, previous education, work experience, research experience, extra curriculars, and so on. It can be a really daunting task trying to not only remember everything you’ve done, but also enter it onto your application in clear and concise ways. You also have to write a personal statement and obtain recommendation letters from a variety of physicians. Once all of this is complete, you can select the programs you want to apply to and then at 9am on September 15th, everyone was able to submit their application.

What follows is an extremely stressful period of waiting. Programs will send out interview invitations at different times, and you can never know when to expect to get that exciting email saying you’ve been selected to interview. As a result, every student pretty much is constantly checking their email throughout the day. After getting interviews scheduled, you start making travel plans and get everything ready for the big day. Most programs have dinners the night before the interview, and these are actually a lot of fun and really enjoyable. They are usually only attended by current residents, so they are an excellent opportunity to learn first hand from the residents all about the program and what they like/dislike. The interview days themselves usually consist of some sort of presentation about the program, followed by tours of the facilities and the interviews themselves. In my experience, the interviews so far have been really laid back and conversational. In fact, it’s almost you interviewing the program as much as it is them interviewing you.

Overall it’s a really exciting time. After all, this the chance we get to try and figure out where we want to train and spend the next phase of our lives. It’s everything we have been working towards for the past 3.5 years, and I can’t wait to get it all started! In future posts I’ll comment some more on interviews and touch on my recent experience in my emergency medicine and radiology rotations that I completed at the end of the summer.

Until next time!


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.
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Brian Sutterer

I am currently in my fourth year and am primarily located at the Indianapolis campus. I spent my first two years at the Terre Haute campus, but relocated to Indy for the final two. My interest in medicine is the field of physical medicine and rehabilitat...