Med students get advice for

Melanie Evans

Jon Pryor was patient. And three hours later, Pryor’s wait paid off.
As a medical student interested in the University of Virginia, Pryor remained on campus after an interview to chat with a faculty member about their residency program.
The extra time made all the difference in the world, said Dr. Pryor, who is now an associate professor in urologic surgery to third-year medical students Thursday. The interest he expressed in Virginia’s program made his application stand out above the rest, he was later told.
The 264 medical students jammed into the second-floor auditorium in Moos Tower. They listened to faculty members and classmates give advice and words of warning on applying for residency programs.
Landing a residency requires more than good grades and glowing letters of recommendations, Pryor said. Applications and rounds of interviews test students’ networking skills and bankbooks as well.
“This whole thing is a game,” Pryor told the students. “It’s a very strange game. It’s like two dogs sniffing each other,” he said.
Third-year medical students submit applications in September and prepare for a series of interviews that run from November to January. The process is competitive. Students should be primed to sell their best qualities, Pryor said.
“This is not the time to be bashful,” he added.
The interview process can mean an additional $6,000 to $8,000 debt, said Brett Stolzenberg, one of four seniors on hand to give tips. Stolzenberg and his classmates finished the residency selection process in winter.
Take the loans offered through the Office of Financial Aid, he advised. The extra cash is useful when defraying the bills accumulated from airline tickets, rental cars and hotel rooms.
“Now is not the time to be cutting corners,” Stolzenberg told the students.
Even landing an interview can be cutthroat, he warned. Return calls as soon as possible — interview slots in competitive programs fill quickly and few will add interviews to their rosters.
Selecting a residency is often a long-term commitment, Stolzenberg said. The network of professional and community connections built during residency become the cornerstone of a physician’s future practice.
Third-year student Kara Parker agrees.
“To me location is very important,” Parker said. “I’m probably going to do a residency in the place that I’d like to practice in,” she said.
Parker is considering the Pacific Northwest because of her love of hiking and camping.
Fourth-year student Blair Nelson will relocate to Scottsdale, Ariz., for his family practice residency.
Nelson returned from vacation to the medical school Thursday to give advice to his peers. He can remember how it felt to be inundated with the paperwork, deadlines and decisions involved with finding a residency.
“You sit and sweat and feel like you’re going to throw up half the time,” he said. “They give a year’s worth of information in two hours.”