I’ve participated in the last four Graduate Medical Education Selection Boards (GMESBs) and would like to offer tips for people looking to match for GME in the future. We’ll cover general tips and those specific for internship and residency/fellowship:
- Money is getting tight for permanent change of station (PCS) moves at BUPERS. I think you can increase your chances of matching in GME by being local, or at least on the same coast, as the GME program where you want to train. Keep this in mind when you are picking your Flight Surgery (FS), Undersea Medical Officer (UMO), General Medical Officer (GMO), or post-residency assignments.
- If you want to give yourself the best chance of matching, you need multiple peer-reviewed publications. Any publications or scholarly activity have the chance to help, but having multiple peer-reviewed publications is the goal you should be trying to reach. Anything that is peer-reviewed counts, including case studies in Military Medicine which are, in general, pretty easy to get accepted for publication.
- Be realistic about your chances of matching. If you are applying to a competitive specialty and you’ve failed a board exam or had to repeat a year in medical school, you are probably not going to match in that specialty. There are some specialties where you can overcome a major blight on your record, but there are some where you can’t. If this is applicable to you, the residency director or specialty leader should be able to give you some idea of your chances. Will they be honest and direct with you? I’m not sure, but it can’t hurt to ask.
- If you are having trouble matching in the Navy for GME, you may have a better chance as a civilian. By the time you pay back your commitment to the Navy, you are a wiser, more mature applicant that some civilian residency programs might prefer over an inexperienced medical student. You’ll also find some fairly patriotic residency programs, usually with faculty who are prior military, that may take you despite your academic struggles.
Tips for Medical Students Applying for Internship
- Do everything you can to do a rotation with the GME program you want to match at. You want them to know who you are.
- When you are applying for internship, make sure your 2nd choice is not a popular internship (Emergency Medicine, Orthopedics, etc.). If you don’t match in your 1st choice and your 2nd choice is a popular internship, then it will likely have filled during the initial match. This means you get put in the “intern scramble” and you’ll likely wind up in an internship you didn’t even list on your application.
- Your backup plan if you don’t match should be an alternative program at the same site where you eventually want to match for residency. For example, in my specialty (Emergency Medicine or EM) we only have residencies at NMCP and NMCSD. If someone doesn’t match for an EM internship at NMCP or NMCSD, they will have a better chance of eventually matching for EM residency if they do an internship locally, like a transitional internship. Internships at Walter Reed or any other hospital without an EM program are quality programs, but it is much easier to pledge the fraternity if you are physically present and can get to know people, attending conferences and journal clubs when you can.
- You need to think about what you will do in your worst-case scenario, a 1-year civilian deferment for internship. Many of the medical students I interview do not have a plan if they get a 1-year deferment. I think every medical student needs to do one of two things. Either they should pick 10-15 civilian transitional year internships (or whatever internship they want) and apply to those just in case they get a 1-year deferment, or they should just plan to apply to internships late or scramble if this unlikely event happens to you. Most medical students do not grasp the concept that this could happen to them and have no plan to deal with it if it does. It is an unlikely event, especially if you are a strong applicant, and you can always just scramble at the last minute, but this is an issue that every medical student should think through. If you are going to just scramble at the last minute, that is fine, but it should be an informed choice.
Tips for Officers Applying for Residency or Fellowship
- You should show up whenever you can for conferences and journal clubs. Again, you want them to know who you are and by attending these events when you can you demonstrate your commitment to the specialty and their program.
- Always get a warfare device (if one is available) during your FS, UMO, or GMO tour. Not having it is a red flag.