AUC Graduate Lands Orthopaedic Surgery Residency
In 2018, 37,103 medical school seniors and graduates entered the U.S. National Resident Matching Program (NRMP) to compete for a post-graduate residency position. By the end of Match Day, just 742 had successfully earned a residency in orthopedic surgery, considered to be one of the most competitive and demanding specialties in the medical profession. A smaller share of that pie—just 13 positions—were filled by international medical graduates (IMGs), including AUC alumnus and Florida native, Dr. Jared Newman.
It was an incredible feeling. When you work so hard for something and then you get it, it’s just really satisfying.”
Dr. Newman began his 5-year orthopaedic surgery residency at SUNY Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn, New York last July. He is one of six residents in his class and 30 in the entire program. His ability to match into such a competitive residency has been motivating for current and incoming AUC students, many of whom aspire to enter similar specialties. To those individuals—those truly committed to a chosen field—Dr. Newman says to prepare: Prepare to work hard, to put yourself out there, and be ready to go the extra mile.
The Draw of Orthopaedic Surgery
While earning his undergraduate degree at the University of South Florida, Dr. Newman organized a shadowing experience with an orthopaedic surgeon at a nearby hospital. After seeing a handful of procedures, he was immediately hooked.
“I couldn’t see myself doing anything else,” he recalls.
The challenge of finding accurate diagnoses and treatments was appealing but what fascinated him most was the hands-on approach that orthopaedic surgery required. In this field, physicians have the ability to restore one of the most indispensable qualities of life: the ability to move the body without pain.
That drive and passion stayed with Dr. Newman as a medical student at AUC. When clinical rotations started, he came alive in the operating rooms amongst the teams of surgeons. He spent the majority of his time in New York and scheduled orthopaedic surgery sub-internship electives at Mt. Sinai, Lenox Hill Hospital, and SUNY Downstate Medical Center—the hospital where he currently works.
“It was the first time I looked forward to going into work every day,” he recalls. “Each day was increasingly more exciting than the last.”
During his fourth year at AUC, Dr. Newman entered the Match. He applied only to orthopaedic surgery programs and despite good grades, strong USMLE scores, and solid letters of recommendation, he received just two interviews and did not match. It was a disappointing day but he had been ready for it. The possibility of a no match was always there given the competitiveness of orthopaedic surgery. Just 693 residency positions were available that year for hundreds of qualified candidates.
Laying the Groundwork for a Strong Residency Application
Dr. Newman talks about this first Match Day openly and honestly, and with the perspective that comes from time and experience. After graduation, he shifted his attention to finding research and training opportunities to bolster his residency application. He eventually landed a research position with the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio where he worked on multiple clinical trials and research studies in the field of hip and knee arthroplasty (hip and knee replacement). That work led to a subsequent opportunity in New York doing research at SUNY Downstate Medical Center.
Trial by trial, patient by patient, he cultivated a unique understanding of orthopaedic surgery. Some research jobs were more fruitful than others but each exposed him to topics, procedures, and professionals in the field. More importantly, they reaffirmed his commitment and desire to pursue a career in orthopedic surgery, at all costs.
“I wasn’t willing to settle for anything less; this was the reason I went to medical school,” he says. “My path may have taken longer but I wouldn’t change a thing. I headed into the 2018 Match season more prepared, with more experiences, and with a deeper appreciation for the field.
It paid off. At 11:00 am on Friday, March 16, 2018, Dr. Newman received the single greatest email of his life: he had matched into orthopaedic surgery at SUNY Downstate Medical Center.
What Dr. Newman Learned that Can Help Future AUC Students
Reflecting on his experiences during and outside of medical school, Dr. Newman is keen to share lessons that can help future AUC students better prepare their applications for a competitive specialty. His three biggest pieces of advice? Be realistic, apply to research positions, and never underestimate the value of networking.
Lesson 1: Set realistic expectations and have a contingency plan.
Every year, IMGs and AUC graduates in particular break down barriers that have pervaded throughout the medical specialty selection process. As they do so, more and more specialties and programs have realized what we’ve long known: IMGs are just as qualified and capable as US medical school graduates to fill any medical specialty. But change takes time and Dr. Newman cautions students to be ready for programs to be selective and to ask questions about your decision to pursue an international education. Before you apply, make sure you are being realistic about your chances of matching into a particularly selective specialty. Do you have the grades, the standardized test scores, the right letters of recommendation?
With a strongly application, a USMLE Step 1 score of 242, and a Step 2 CK score of 263, Dr. Newman had the numbers to feel confident about his decision. Heading into the 2018 Match, he also researched residency programs that have a history of accepting IMGs and that therefore understand the caliber of students coming from institutions like AUC. Those programs, he believes, might be more willing to hire IMGs.
Another option for students is to consider a preliminary year, especially those pursuing a surgical specialty. The clinical experiences that you gain that first year can help set you apart for a PGY-2 position.
Lesson 2: Seek out credible research opportunities
On the residency interview trail, program directors commented on Dr. Newman's strong research portfolio, which included over 90 publications, 4 book chapters, and more than 60 scientific presentations and posters.
“They were impressed,” he recalls. “In some cases I had more publications than many of the surgeons. It showed a depth of knowledge and practice that I think program directors really respected.”
For students seeking more research experience, Dr. Newman suggests weighing the pros and cons of a gap year before entering the Match. There are a number of research institutions and programs that need qualified and motivated individuals. A position with a credible organization and a credible mentor, he believes, could increase your competitiveness in the Match. Dr. Newman was fortunate enough to end up with two mentors who really advocated for him.
As a part of this decision, consider the mean number of research experiences reported by matched and unmatched candidates for specific specialties. This information is available in the NRMP’s Charting Outcomes in the Match series, including the 2018 reports on U.S. allopathic seniors and international medical graduates.
Lesson 3: Network, network, network
During his post-graduate years, Dr. Newman became acutely aware of the importance of networking and connecting with leaders in orthopaedic surgery.
“It can be a really small world and relationships, I’ve found, matter,” he says.
Throughout the course of his research, Dr. Newman ran into several of the same people--some of whom ended up being mentors and others who are now his colleagues. Those relationships ultimately played a role in his ability to get in front of people and secure residency interviews.