As part of the radiology residency interview trail, most interviews begin with a welcome presentation delivered by the program directors. I know. Your eyes may begin to glaze over as you think about these presentations. In fact, all of them blur together by the time you have reached your second or third interview.
But wait… Maybe there is more to these conferences than meets the eye. Although sometimes painful, these presentations are chock full of dense information that will become very important once you begin the radiology residency. And, believe it or not, the initial program director lecture content usually does summarize the residency programs well. So, instead of falling asleep in that comfy chair in a warm room with the program director droning on about the program, try your best to maintain awareness. Listen very carefully and take notes. Your future career is on the line. Ignore it at your own peril!
To summarize for today, my goal for you is to cue you as to what you should really tune into when you hear these lectures. Most quality presentations contain wide-ranging information from residency rotations to information about ancillary staff and even imaging equipment. But, what is it that you really need to get out of the presentation? I’ve divided some of the most important themes that you may not find elsewhere with the following subheadings: program theme, staff availability, teaching methods, program stability, and fellowship connections. We will go into all of these in more detail.
Every program has a general theme. Some programs are academic. Others produce community radiologists. And, even others, gear themselves to the interventional radiologist. Usually, the presentation develops one or more of these general themes. Most of the time you will not find this information on the website or on paper. For instance, I can tell you that when I give the welcome presentation I emphasize how our program is run as a private practice in an academic community setting. It doesn’t say that anywhere on the website or in the packets we give the applicants. You will really be hard pressed to find this information elsewhere. So, you really need to take notes and write down the kind of program you are interviewing.
Oftentimes, the welcome lecture summarizes how open the program is to input from the residents. Can you just ask the attending a question on the fly? Or, do you have to make an appointment months in advance to get the program director’s ear? From the interaction with the program director and residents during the welcome session, you can derive a sense of the general communication between the residents and the attendings. Again, you won’t receive this information easily from other sources.
Most presentations mention something about the styles that attendings utilize to teach the residents. Does the program emphasize multiple choice questions at conferences? Do they like to use the Socratic method of teaching how to read films? Or maybe, the residents are taught mostly by total immersion in the rotation. For some residents, this may be a crucial determiner of the effectiveness of their learning over the course of four years. I’m not quite sure how you begin to find this information unless you know the other residents or the program director well.
If you listen carefully, the program director may talk about the attending staff at the institution. Are they all really young? (Usually, that means there has been a recent collapse of the residency program) Or, as I like to say, do all the staff members stay around until they are in a “proverbial box.” and the average age of the staff is 70. (If you see a residency program like this maybe they churn their young attendings) This information can also be hard to come by using other means.
Usually, you can find out where the former residents went to their fellowships after residency online. However, the program director may drop hints about how they get their residents into these fellowships. That is just as important. Do the attendings have deep seeded connections at other institutions? Or rather, the program director may not talk about staff connections at all (A red flag!). Typically, the welcome presentation will divulge some additional information about these connections.
The Welcome Presentation- More Than Meets The Eye
As you can see, a welcome presentation is more than just a summary of all the information that everyone already knows about the program. Typically, it summarizes facts about a residency program that you may not be able to find easily elsewhere. So, my recommendation is to actually listen (as dull as some of them may be!). You may learn a thing or two that will help you decide where you want to match!