Monday, June 8, 2015

A Fourth Years Perspective: Interviewing for the Osteopath

Elizabeth Karr is a 4th year osteopathic medical student who matched in the 2015 EM Match to an allopathic program.  This post is the third in a series on a 4th years perspective. 
Part 1 was on what a third year students needs to know right now.  
Part 2 addressed applications and interviews.
Here in Part 3 Elizabeth addresses advice specific to osteopathic students navigating the match process.

The big question as an osteopathic student is whether or not to apply to AOA programs as well as ACGME, or to forgo one or the other.  As an osteopathic student, I have classmates that only applied AOA or only ACGME, and others like myself, whom applied to both. I think that you can do either, and then just wait and see how many interviews you end up with.

However, if you are applying to AOA programs there are a few things that should be kept in mind.  AOA programs have an allegiance to osteopathic medicine and other AOA programs.  If you want to get interview offers at DO programs, it is best to do an audition rotation at a DO program, and have a letter of recommendation from them.  AOA programs can write SLOE’s, however, SLOE’s are not required by AOA residency programs like they are for ACGME programs. Therefore, if you are only planning on participating in the AOA match, you could just ask for a general letter of recommendation instead of a SLOE.  

Ideally, an AOA rotation should be as early as possible in fourth year, as the AOA application process opens in June.  Many AOA programs have already filled the majority of their interview spots by the first of September, and it is not likely that you will be offered an interview much after mid-October.  Therefore, it is almost too late to submit your applications to AOA programs at the same time you submit ACGME applications in September.  It is best to have your AOA applications submitted by July, and then, if you would like, submit your ACGME applications in September.  

If you are applying to both the AOA match and the ACGME match, with the intention of doing the ACGME match if you end up with enough interviews, the advice I would give would be to plan out your AOA interviews for as late in the season as possible.  If you are offered an AOA interview and the only time you can interview is in September, then take the opportunity.  However, if you can choose a date in late October or better yet, in November or December, I would recommend doing this.  That way, if you have already been offered a good number of ACGME interviews  before your AOA interview dates approach, you can cancel your AOA interviews and rest assured you should match ACGME. This will save you money for your ACGME interviews; hotels, flights, rental cars, etc. can all add up. It is perfectly acceptable to cancel interviews as long as you give them ample time to fill your interview spot.

As for those who would like to do the ACGME match, there are a few things to think about. The advice I was given was to only apply to programs that were “D.O. friendly” and had graduates from osteopathic medical schools. However, I did apply to a couple of programs that only had one D.O and some that had none at all.  I chose to not count these in the number of programs I needed to apply to in order to get the number of interviews to ensure an ACGME match (which is usually in the 30-40 program range, to get 10 interviews). These were my long-shot programs that I was not expecting to be offered interviews at.  What I found though, was that some of these places did offer me interviews.  One program said they interview D.O.s every year and rank them highly, but never seem to match them.  Another program, who normally matches several D.O.s, had not matched a D.O. the prior year, yet told me that 16 out of 20 of their top applicants were D.O.s. Who knows why this happened.  Maybe it is because we are told that EM is so competitive that we should enter the AOA match, or maybe, the applicants didn’t like these programs as much.  It is a mystery.

All in all, the thing to think about at the end of interview season is what programs you liked the most and how many of each (AOA vs ACGME) programs you interviewed at.  For D.O. students, statistics show that people who interview at, and rank, 7 ACGME programs have an 80% chance of matching, whereas ranking 12 programs moves that up to a 95% chance.  Overall, it comes down to which program you liked best.  If your top program is AOA, then rank it and enter the AOA match.  However, if you have 3 AOA interviews and 7-10 ACGME interviews and your top three programs are ACGME, the odds would be in your favor to enter the ACGME match and forgo the AOA.