Recruitment season has officially opened. By 6:30P last evening, we had 3182 applications: 2533 to the categorical program, 226 to the physician scientist track, 554 to the preliminary program, and 262 to preliminary-neurology. The mathematicians out there will note that some people apply to multiple tracks.
MSPEs don’t arrive until October 1, and we don’t make formal interview decisions until then, but there’s lots of work to do now. Fortunately, I have helpers. For neurology, if Dr. Moeller wants to interview a candidate, we’re on board. For the physician scientist program, both Dr. Wysolmerski and I review the files. Qualified candidates are then asked to choose a fellowship they’d like to pursue, after which we send their files to the Sections for review before decisions are made.
The pool for preliminary positions is the most disproportionate—hundreds of candidates for only 4 spots—although more positions open if neuro residents choose to do their preliminary year elsewhere. That’s why we have 7 neuro and 7 standard prelims this year. For practical reasons we focus on regional candidates, because it’s hard for many applicants to travel long distances for both specialty and preliminary interviews. However, we’re happy to accommodate interested applicants and also offer phone/Skype interviews as well as in-person meetings if they happen to be in New Haven. We also offer all candidates the chance to be considered for ranking even if they don’t interview, as long as they’re being listed for Yale Dermatology, Radiology, Radiation Oncology, or Ophthalmology.
Most of my work goes into choosing the ~450 candidates to interview for categorical slots. In the weeks ahead, I’ll be spending endless hours at the computer, poring over ERAS. I began yesterday with large scale eliminations: IMGs lacking US experience, students who failed the USMLEs, etc. The next step is to make tentative decisions, pending the MSPEs. Many are easy: for example, all the Yale students get invited. Similarly, many candidates have such obviously stellar records that there’s little chance the MSPEs will deliver bad news. To ensure I can move quickly on October 1, I’ll be spending the next two weeks reviewing Department of Medicine and other letters of recommendation, transcripts, USMLE scores, research portfolios, and extracurricular activities. I’ll also focus on ethnic, gender, and regional diversity; election to AOA and Gold Humanism; and hobbies such as music, art, dance, writing, and sports (scouting for the Beeson Beat, Arts Night, and the Beeson Bombers). I generally don’t read personal statements at this point- there are just too many to read before they visit. Finally, I place files into three bins: “likely invite,” “likely reject,” and “hold, pending MSPE.”
I can’t claim my system is perfect and I dwell over unanswerable questions: how to compare grades and rankings from schools that use vastly different systems? How to avoid penalizing students from schools that don’t have AOA?* How to weigh research versus educational efforts, or social justice versus quality improvement activities? Fortunately, the applicant pool is deep and rich, so it’s hard to go wrong. But the depth creates a problem too, because there are many more talented applicants than we can invite up front. For this reason, we keep a large waiting list of exceptional candidates to tap into throughout the interview season.
The bottom line is I’m not tinkering with the system. What we’ve done in the past always works, bringing us phenomenal interns every year. So from now until mid-February, it’s game on.
But it’s sunny out- so first I’ll go biking and check out “free scone day” at Fig, before the work begins,
*If you’d like to explore concerns about racial bias in AOA selection, check out this link (thanks to Nicolette Rodriguez for sharing): https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2018/09/05/643298219/a-medical-school-tradition-comes-under-fire-for-racism