Laura Stewart, M.D. (’06) is currently associate program director of Pediatrics at St. John Hospital and Medical Center in Detroit, Mich. Dr. Stewart completed all her clinical rotations and her residency at St. John. As associate program director, she assists in the interviewing of potential residency candidates.
AUC: What are you looking for when deciding what kinds of applicants to interview?
STEWART: The two key criteria are the Step I score and medical school grades.
AUC: What can applicants with less competitive United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE)® Step 1 scores do to enhance their application?
STEWART: Try to get as high a Step II score as possible. Also, try to have your scores in by the time you submit your applications. You want to show the programs you have improved from one exam to the next.
AUC: Do multiple attempts at Step 1 affect a student’s chances at obtaining a residency?
STEWART: Yes. It is a big red flag. However, some programs will still look at your score if you re-take it and score well on both the Step 1 and Step 2.
AUC: Once interviews have been completed, what do you look for in the applicants that you rank?
STEWART: Being on time and dressing professionally. Most importantly, I like to get an idea of how passionate they are about Pediatrics. They need to have relevant, thoughtful questions about the program. As in, “What kind of electives can I do?” or “What kinds of research opportunities are available?”
AUC: How important is having a letter of recommendation in the specialty that you are applying to?
STEWART: Get as many letters of recommendation as you can. The best letter of recommendation is a glowing letter from someone who knows you well.
AUC: Is there anything that you learned going through the residency application process that you wish someone would have told you?
STEWART: It’s OK if you want to do your cores in the UK, but make sure that you do your fourth year electives here in the US. Do as many rotations in the hospitals you are interested in. Get to know people in the hospitals you are rotating in. Make sure they know you. I wish I would have known what a big deal Step 1 and 2 are. Pick a study plan for your exams [Step 1 and 2] that works for you and stick to it.
More tips from Dr. Stewart:
Aim to ace the Step 1, not just pass it.
During clinicals, stay in touch with MEAS. Be aware of important deadlines.
Schedule your 4th year rotations as early as possible.
If you are rotating in the UK, stay in touch with your US classmates. They will be able to help you transition back to rotations in the US.
Be a team player. Show interest in every rotation, even if you know you do not want to pursue that specialty.
Always have an up to date CV.
Pay attention to detail.