Category Archives: FAQ

Match Day 2015

Match Day Algorithm
No, this isn’t a day celebrating those perfect little wooden sticks that make fire. Match Day is the day every medical student finds out what kind of physician they will be for the rest of their lives, and where they will train for residency. It’s official; I matched into a general surgery program, and I could not be happier!

As of now in the United States, there are actually two Match Days, one for DO students in February, and one for MD students in March. There is talk of merging these momentous days into one, but it likely won’t occur until around 2020. In case you did not know, the American Osteopathic Association (AOA), the governing body of DO education across America, has recently agreed to come under the governing power of the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME), the governing body of MD graduate medical education. This is a huge step for physicians-to-be. Beginning this year, and hopefully being completed by 2020, all DO and MD students will be able to apply for any residency program they want to, whether that program is an AOA or ACGME program. Previously they were largely segregated. The details of this “merger” are still playing out, but hopefully there will be a single, unified Match Day in the near future. More info about the merger can be found here.

Matching into my top choice general surgery residency program was the best news I have received since my acceptance into medical school. It was not easy to choose which speciality to apply to, since I did not have any bias towards any field of medicine prior to starting medical school. I decided to pursue the field of general surgery after my 3rd year rotations in surgery. Although I enjoyed my surgery rotations so much, it scared me to think of the strenuous, long hours that residents work in general surgery. However, every rotation I tried after surgery had me wishing I was downed in the operating room. I look forward to the five years of residency, not as strenuous, but as exciting opportunities to grow.

I hope you will also figure out which field of medicine to go into by experiencing your medical school rotations with an open mind. Surgery is certainly not for everyone, and you will find that within medicine, prestige and respect come in many fields of medicine. Fear is the worst motivation one can have. Use logic when planning your life, but always follow your passion.

A Summer to Better Your Medical Career

What will you do this summer to beef up your resumé?

I will have 2.5 months of “free” time this summer. I plan to find a research project to work on or perhaps teach in a lab for that time. I also need to study at least a couple hours per day for Step 1 of the boards, so I guess it won’t be complete freedom. As far as I know, this will be my last summer I’ll have off until I retire, as it’s the summer between my 1st and 2nd year of medical school.

If you’re in undergrad now, summer is the perfect time to better your resumé for medical school. It’s a good time to start looking for summer research or TAing, a volunteer missions trip abroad, and volunteering/shadowing in a hospital. Keep in mind you may want letters of recommendation from the professors, scientists, or physicians you’ll be working with, so make sure to impress them with your best behavior and knowledge.

If you’re taking the MCAT this summer, hopefully you’ve purchased your resources already and have your MCAT Study Schedule planned to fit your needs.

Summer is an exciting time for all of us! Best of luck with whatever you do, even if it’s just hitting the beach :).

Most Competitive Medical Residencies

I was doing some research to find out which residencies are the most competitive. I haven’t decided on a residency for myself yet; I am trying to keep an open mind until I do my rotations. I have to add that these rankings are subjective, because the selection process can vary greatly. This is what I came up with in order of most to less competitive residency fields/programs:

1. Plastic Surgery
2. Dermatology
3. Neurosurgery
4. Otolaryngology
5. Orthopedics
6. Radiation Oncology
7. Anesthesia
8. Diagnostic Radiology
9. General Surgery
10. Internal Medicine / Pediatrics

Also, these numbers here are two years old but a guide line, courtesy of AAMC:

USMLE Step 1 Scores of Matched Applicants

Unfortunately it’s getting harder to secure a great residency each year even though there will be a significant physician shortage in the near future. Currently, there is a shortage of 13,700 in physicians. By comparison, in 2020, there will be 759,800 physicians (in all specialties) yet a demand of 851,300 physicians, essentially a shortage of 91,500 doctors, according to the AAMC. As paradoxical as this sounds, it’s true. This is especially true for primary care physicians, but also in other specialties.

While medical schools are expanding, upping the number of graduates, residency slots have remained the same. Proposed cuts in Medicare, the primary source of graduate medical education funding, could further worsen the situation.

The reason for the discrepancy right is simply the amount of money that a physician will earn depending on the specialty. While primary care is challenging and highly stressful, it unfortunately offers only roughly 25% of the pay that might be earned in neurosurgery. Medical students, usually deeply buried in debt, often naturally choose a specialty that will free them of their debt sooner rather than later.

Medical Billing and Coding

The ever expanding field of medicine offers many different routes and careers. Have you ever thought about medical billing and coding? Hospitals and practices are often overwhelmed and outgrown by their paperwork, so skilled medical billers and coders are extremely important. Every time a patient enters a hospital, a medical record is updated or created. Along with the medical record, a medical biller codes and submits a claim. Doctors are in dire need of employees that understand the profound complexities of medical billing. Additionally, with the new transition into completely electronic medical records and patient databases, more training is required to work within the health care system.

The Allen School Online offers an accelerated program that only takes 9 months on the contrary to 15 months, enabling its students to get their degrees faster, and thereby join the medical profession faster. This is a great way of giving students an edge, because too many schools and colleges offer degrees that take forever to complete, thus making them uneconomical. The benefit of such a program becomes evident to anyone who is part of a long-term program because it’s almost impossible to devote quality attention to multiple areas. Holding a job, raising a family, being a spouse, etc. on top of schooling is an insane challenge. Thus, I have found that it’s best to do schooling as fast as possible, with all the necessary commitment and devotion.

Quick and Practical Memory Tips

So many people have said to me, “I have a terrible memory – I just can’t remember anything!” The truth of the matter is that most folks have a fine memory – it’s their attention that is often lacking. We must attend to what we wish to memorize prior to actually memorizing it, and so consciously focusing on our subject of interest is always the first step in memorizing material.

Be sure to study at a time and in a place that is not only conducive to ingesting relevant information, be aware that we can actually remember seven (7) plus or minus two (2) bits of information at a time. “Tricking” your mind by chunking info can go a long way in transferring data from short-term to long-term. Think about the difference between trying to remember “2-5-8-3-9-7-5-8-2” as opposed to chunking the numbers “258”-“397”-“582” as you would typically do with a telephone number-much more effective when your brain thinks of this as only three bits rather than nine.

Rote rehearsal is ineffective. One of the oldest mnemonic (“memory”) techniques known to mankind, however, is the Method of Loci system in which you use imaginary locations of a familiar place as a framework for information retrieval. Simply stroll down memory lane, in your minds’ eye, by storing important facts in visual locations. Whether it’s your body, such as imagining each fact being written on each of your toes; or actually constructing a home in your mind and “seeing” the facts along places in the hallway, the bedroom, the kitchen, etc., this technique can be very useful. It’s amazing how specific details come to you as you “visit” the various locations in your mind. Memory for this typically involves implicit memory-one does not have to make a conscious effort to remember locations-it just happens.

We tend to pay attention and recall events, facts or data that incorporate action and connection of some sort. The imagination is virtually limitless-so don’t hesitate to use it! Construct a chain of related events that could only exist in your wild mind. Do you realize, for example, how easy it is to memorize and recall a series of, say, fifty (50) totally unrelated words simply by constructing bizarre, colorful, totally outlandish scenarios and connections from one to the other? Imagining the words “latex, syringe, stethoscope” as A BRIGHT ORANGE LATEX BUNNY ATTACKING A HUGE PULSATING GREEN SYRINGE THAT VOMITS A STETHOSCOPE; seriously we don’t pay attention to the mundane – it’s outlandish, unusual, dangerous, provocative stuff that makes it into our memory processing system.

The peg system is allied with this but a little more advanced. One pre-memorizes a list of words that are easy to associate with the numbers they represent. The objects you choose form the “pegs” of the system; for example: 1-arrow; 2-door; 3-shoe, etc. Visualize the first item being shot like an arrow, the second coming through a door, the third being placed in a shoe. Long lists come easy when you use pegs and it works great! There are many other techniques and systems one can use to enhance the memory process; these simple and effective strategies have proven quite effective. There is no substitute, however, for time, interest…and maybe a little coffee. Don’t CRAM, because regular, planned-out and limited study sessions are the only way to hold on to the data you need for med school!


HSpecial thanks to Dr. Bob DeYoung, who was a licensed Forensic Psychologist for 16 years who now has a part-time counseling practice. As an expert witness on many occasions he was called upon to not only provide testimony, but to critique that of others. He was also consulted to provide Forensic Hypnosis in situations where witnesses repressed facts potentially relevant to crucial cases.