Monthly Archives: September 2014

DOT Podcast 005: Gary Shlifer, DO (Part 1) – Internal Medicine


In this episode, we are joined by Dr. Gary Shlifer, DO, a resident in Internal Medicine, and discuss: 1) how to choose a medical specialty; 2) his struggles in choosing a specialty; and 3) a detailed account of why he chose Internal Medicine over Anesthesia (including the one experience that made all the difference). Gary provides valuable insight on topics about residency and life including the impact of his pre-professional career on patient care and his opinions on being true to yourself during medical school and the residency match process.

Enjoy listening and please feel free to leave any comments!


ERAS Application, Part IV: Board Scores

Board scores are a critical part of not only your ERAS application, but also for determining which specialties are available to you and which interviews you get.  Check out  Podcast Episode 4 for our conversation on why Board scores matter so much.

In addition,  check out these wonderful resources:

1. How I scored a 257 on USMLE Step 1  by Michael Frazier, MD shared on

This lists the classic 3 resources that I used during my USMLE Step 1 study.

2. Firecracker – A new learning platform for medical students that I have been interested in lately

3. Many people want to emulate successful individuals, however, our learning abilities and patterns are vastly different. If we try to learn from the person that scored the highest on the USMLE at our school we may fall into a trap. It’s quite possible that this individual is an anomaly. It would be better to look at how people fail and just focus on not doing what they did.

If you agree, then check out Why Med Student Fail USMLE Step 1 – posted by Picmonic, another great studying platform

4. NRMP Match Outcomes – 290 pages of pure match data that is also divided by specialty –  NRMP Match Data




DOT Podcast 004: How to Rock the Boards

usmle id

In this episode, we discuss such topics as:

  • 1) the truth about board score cutoffs for residency programs;
  • 2) how to analyze the data and bell-curves of board scores for individual specialties;
  • 3) how to optimize your chances at matching into any specialty;
  • 4) how to succeed and maximize your score; and
  • 5) WHY you really need to rock them.

We know that you plan to study hard for boards. Everybody does. And of course, passing your boards is another important barrier to conquer in medical training. But do you really know how important your score is to your future success? You’ll find out in this episode along with advice about how to make your board scores work in your favor for the residency match. Enjoy!

ERAS Application, Part III: Extracurricular Activities


Use this section to really shine on your application. There are lots of activities that many of us participate in that we may not think of as being all that important, unique, or even think should go in an application at all. However, if you have ever had an intriguing experience that’s worth sharing, why wouldn’t you include it?

By telling your story, you allow the reader (usually an interviewer) to get to know you better. In addition, you open yourself up for “softball questions” during your interview.  These are the types of questions that you want because they are soft, non-threatening, and prove that everyone just wants to have good time. They will also make interviewing easier and take some of the stress away on interview day. At the very least, it shows that you are passionate which is what you should be aiming for — program directors and interviewers are impacted by passionate people. You will really stand out in your interview and your overall residency rank will be positively impacted.

Let me clarify the above with some examples.  Men’s Health Magazine organizes a number of competitive Urbanathlons every year and I love competing in them. Many people do not know what an urbanathlon is, so I used this to my advantage. An urbanathlon is a 7-13 mile race within an urban environment with obstacles sprinkled throughout the course. In my applications, I was certain to include that I was an “urbanathloner.” This is a single word that I basically made up at the time, but at every single interview I was asked about it. This gave me a great opportunity to share my experience at the Chicago event running up Soldier Field to the top of the stadium, how both my calves completely cramped up with 2 miles left in the race, and how I hobbled the rest of the way until I crossed the finish line.

By including this in my application, it gave me the added bonus of loading my interview questions by providing content in a manner so that you influence your interviewer’s question. It also helped me build rapport while demonstrating that I can be both vulnerable and powerful at the same time. This should give you a good idea of how to master your application on a higher level.

Last year, an applicant contacted me for some additional help. He complained that his applications looked like his classmates and he did not have anything interesting to write about to make him stand out.  This applicant happened to be from Hawaii.  I prompted him to think about a hobby or specific interest that he is good at or loves talking about.  About 10 minutes into this brainstorming session, he informs me that he used to be and still practices as a fire dancer. Once I heard that, I got excited and told him he must include that experience in his application. This is definitely a statement that loads the questions because every interviewer would be interesting in knowing more about. More importantly than rapport, this interaction gives the interviewer something to remember you by.

This is the holy grail! If you can have such a great conversation (notice I said conversation, not interview) with your interviewer, you set yourself up for success. When the members of the admission committee are meeting to discuss the applicants and create their rank order list, you want one of your interviewers if not all of them to remember you and say something like, “Oh yeah, I remember him…he’s the fire dancer!” Its all about making a positive and lasting impression. Something that initially seems insignificant could be the key piece to making you stand out among the other candidates. Now start your own brainstorming session!

ERAS Application, Part II: Biographical Information


This post is part two of a series of multiple posts about the application process. For part one, click here.

This information really cannot be changed for obvious reasons. The school you went to and your class rank/grade are what they are. It’s simply too late to alter these realities. However, most schools do allow you to look at, review, and then make edits on your MSPE prior to submitting it on ERAS. I highly recommend that you do this. It can be a very informative and powerful document when specific wording is utilized to your advantage. I know from my own experience I did not like the wording of some of the statements that were included originally and requested that they be adjusted to include more active phrasing instead of the passive language that typically comes as standard copy. Most people allowed it to go unaltered, but the fact that I took the time to proofread the information in the document beyond just making sure it was correct showed that I was actively engaged. In my mind if someone was comparing my document to somebody else’s not only would they notice a difference in the information (hopefully) but also the manner in which it was presented.

ERAS Application, Part I: Overview


Some of the most common questions we get are about applications. Its important to realize that the very first impression programs get about you is actually from a stack of documents, each of which looks absurdly similar to all the others that they download and receive during application season. What I mean is that every application has the same basic components: school name, board scores, GPA and/or class rank, Dean’s Letter, letters of recommendation, CV (work history, extracurricular activities, research, etc), and personal statement.

So how do you separate yourself from the pack? How do you make yourself the needle in the haystack? In a series of posts I will discuss the key components of the application and how to maximize your chances of matching into residency for each one of them. Now lets go through it all…

Learn to Trust Your Gut


When it comes to choosing your medical specialty and ranking residency programs, trusting your instincts is crucial. Let me explain.

Choosing your specialty is the first major decision you will have to make in medical school. Studying for exams and boards are both a given, but what to specialize in requires a different kind of thinking. Before medical school you may have had a desire to become a particular kind of doctor. Maybe that idea came from an inspirational experience you had previously, a family member you’ve always looked up to, or even a favorite character from television or the movies. However, things aren’t always what they seem. Your past experiences are only a piece of the puzzle. You’ll need to gather new information during classes, rotations, extracurricular activities, and any additional opportunities you create for yourself to give you the best shot at making the right choice of specialty. And once you’ve done all this, how exactly do you decide? Keep reading to find out.

The second major task you’ll have in medical school is determining your rank list for the match. This is typically a very challenging exercise for most medical students. First, there are so many aspects of residency to consider. Second, medical students are highly analytical (possibly even to the point of being neurotic). The combination of these factors makes analyzing and ranking programs overwhelming. Again, you find yourself in a situation where you’ve done the work you’re supposed to by gathered all possible information available to you. You’ve researched the programs, interviewed, met the residents and faculty, and spent time in each location. You have everything you need to put together the right rank list, but you still find yourself constantly reshuffling the order. What do you do now?

You trust your instincts. You’ll know which medical specialty or residency program is right for you because it will feel right, whether or not you can even explain it logically. You will literally just know. Your intuition is more powerful than you probably realize. I know it sounds too good to be true, or too simple to actually work. You don’t have to trust me, but you should definitely trust your gut.