This year, applicants have asked the following question more than ever before, “What do I look for in a radiology resident?” And I will answer this question with what I like to call “the perfect resident triad.” But first, I thought it would be interesting to discuss why I believe this question has become more common coming from medical students.
The Psychology Behind The Question, “What Do Radiology Program Directors Really Want From Their Residents?”
On the surface, some folks may say I am putting too much thought into why applicants may be asking this question. But, I believe this question says something about medical students applying to radiology. There is more to it than meets the eye.
First, I believe this question reflects current medical student cultural differences. Distinct from generations past, this question requires applicants to worry more about goals and expectations than any class before. And I think this difference is a function of what today’s educational system has demanded of all these students.
Moreover, I believe that schools have gone “ga-ga” with grading. From my own experience with kids, students today are continually bombarded with grades and tests, more so than I had ever experienced. In essence, the increased frequency of this question with the implied inherent message of “how do you evaluate me?” makes a lot of sense given today’s student culture environment.
Regardless of all the hidden meanings behind the question (that could be a whole psychological blog in itself!), I figured this would be a great forum to provide you an associate program director’s perspective and answer to this common question. And, maybe it will help you to figure out how to become a better radiology applicant and resident. So, here’s a summary of the perfect resident triad, the three characteristics that I want from incoming residents!
The Perfect Resident Triad
First and foremost, we need to know that a resident can make it through the radiology residency program. And, nowadays, unfortunately, the best piece of evidence that allows us to assess if a resident can pass the boards is the USMLE Step I. Studies have correlated excellent performance on this examination with the core examination, So, we need to take this data point seriously. To do so, we have made a cutoff score that will lessen the chance of having residents fail the exam.
Second, we need to see that you have done well in medical school. Our best assessment of this comes from the Dean’s letter. This document tends to be the only one that will say anything negative about the applicant. Therefore, we need to use it as a means of distinguishing resident academic qualifications. Also, from our experience, this measure correlates well with how much a resident will study during residency. And, radiology residents need to read a lot!
Although you might not think personality should matter much in a radiology resident, nothing could be further from the truth. Faculty members can sit with a radiology resident for hours at a time. The ultimate burden that a faculty member needs would be to dread that a particular resident is going to be there on any given day. Additionally, program directors do not want a “rabble-rouser” that will create problems every other day for her fellow residents.
The bottom line is, personality counts. And, to assess personality, there are only a few bits of information that we can use, interviews, and the Dean’s Letter. We rely on our interviews to make sure that the applicant responds reasonably to a conversation with questions. And, we utilize the Dean’s Letter to look for patterns of behavior that may cause our lives to be miserable!
Finally, we do not want to have to tell our residents what to do at every given moment. Sometimes, you have to take the bull by the horns. So, we expect not to have to tell them to get involved with as many procedures and cases as possible. And, we don’t want to be on top of them all the time to make sure that they find a research project. And so on. Residents are adults, and we expect them to act like mature learners that can take charge of their education.
We assess this characteristic based on the interview, previous research, and academic performance. Although not perfect assessment tools for this trait, they do provide us with some quality information.
What Do Program Directors Want?
So, that’s what I want from my residents and what I believe most program directors would wish: the “perfect resident triad”: To summarize, we want the following: 1. A team member that does well academically. 2. A resident with a personality with which we can work. 3. And, someone who maintains a bit of an independent streak. If you are that sort of medical student or resident now, you will be an invaluable member of any radiology residency team. Come aboard!