Family practice is a broad branch of medicine that encompasses delivering comprehensive health care to patients regardless of their age, gender, or type of problem. Family medicine physicians are often the first line of care in a primary care setting and are expected to play a central role in health care’s new landscape
If you’re reading this, I probably don’t have to tell you the importance of step scores and clinical rotation evaluations. In order to put yourself in the best position to match, you’ve got to try and do the best you possibly can on both and that’s it.

Beyond scores and evaluations however, there are other important and less talked about factors that go into matching. There are some pitfalls to avoid, that can seriously hinder your chances at matching into FM. Here is a list of the top 5 things you can do help maximize your chances to match into a Family Medicine residency!

Apply to the right programs

There are currently 477 accredited family medicine programs in the U.S. It is not practical, nor economically feasible to apply to every program. At the same time, you don’t want to limit your chances and apply to a few programs and not match. You’ve got to apply broadly and smartly.

The first place to start is your medical school’s previous year’s rank list. This list will provide you will the programs that have a track record of accepting graduates from your school. Many programs have developed a good history with certain schools and often times give serious consideration to candidates from that school. For Caribbean grads in particular, you want to take a look at the match list of all the Caribbean schools you can. If a program has never taken a candidate from a Caribbean school, then the chances of getting invited to an interview are low. Many people may not want to hear that, but this is a game of maximizing probability.

Contact program coordinators after you apply

Given that all it takes to apply to a program is a click of mouse, it’s difficult for programs to decipher which candidate truly desires to be in a particular program and which candidate is simply applying to every program.

One way to help clear that up is for you to tell the them! You can contact the program coordinator and let them know that you are very interested in their program and would love an opportunity to interview. Be sure to be as program specific as possible. For example, explain how you grew up in the region or you are familiar with research papers published at the institution. The point here is make you stand out as an individual and not just another application number.

Also, don’t be afraid to talk to the program coordinator at the hospital you are currently doing clinical rotations in. You can express to them how much you’ve enjoyed working at the hospital and how well you’ve integrated with the attendings and residents. A hospital that knows you is more likely to give you an opportunity to interview.

The most important aspect about contacting program coordinators is toeing the line between pestering and being too passive. Program coordinators get countless calls and emails during interview season, and you don’t want to get on their bad side. Always be respectful, express to them how much you value their time, and don’t repeatedly contact them if they don’t respond to you. It’s OK to periodically check in to find out the status of your application and emphasize your interest, but daily calls or emails are over the line.

Optimize your personal statement for FM

It’s important for your application to be FM focused. You have to show to show interest!  Personal statements are a vital part of your application. Most interviews will at some point during your interview refer to them. Program directors actually read them and consider what’s written seriously. Some candidates who apply for IM also apply to FM– do not simply recycle the IM statement! Program directors can see right through this. Ensure that your personal statement is specific to family medicine. Include aspects that are unique to FM such as its emphasis on preventive medicine, being the focal point of patient centered healthcare model, and having the ability to treat nearly any patient you encounter.

Your personal statement is the impression interviews have of you before you through the door and you need that to be a positive impression. Have your statement proof read by your close friends and get their feedback. Each specialty has its own personality, so to speak. You have to make sure your statement “feels” like a FM statement and not that of another specialty.

Do the right kinds of extracurricular activities

In terms of your application, your step scores and rotation grades will certainly be a filter for programs. Once your application gets past those initial filters you don’t want your CV to be bare. You have make the best use of your time and participate in activities that you are interested in and will help you the most. Research is always desired, but it can be difficult to publish during medical school. There are other options though!

You could start by joining national FM organizations, such as The American Academy of Family Physicians. For medical students they usually have reduced or no dues at all. Being a member and even attending a national or regional conference shows you are genuinely interested in the profession. These organizations are not time consuming at all, and yet clearly demonstrate your interest in FM. You will also get access to the most current news and journal articles in the field. These are great talking points for an interview.

Also, a large portion of FM practice is preventive medicine. There are numerous health fairs in every major city that promote preventive medicine and awareness. Try and volunteer at one of these fairs periodically. The fairs are almost always on a weekend and again demonstrate where your interests lie.

The important message to take away here is that you must make at least some effort to show you have an interest in FM outside of simply stating that you do. These are two simple examples of doing such.

Prepare for your interview properly

This is your time to shine! You must get across to the program director why you want FM specifically. Your answer shouldn’t be interchangeable with what someone might answer for another specialty. You also have to emphasize why you want to be at a particular program. Program directors in FM know that candidates apply broadly and they want to know if you would be a good fit or if you simply applied to their program for the sake of applying. Do your research on the program and make sure you know what makes the program unique.

Family medicine is an expansive, rewarding, and wonderful field. I hope this post was helpful and you are able to take something useful away from it. This is a difficult and stressful time. You will, however, get past this and come out better for having gone through it. I wish you the best of luck through the application process!

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