What are Important Must-Haves in a Pathology Residency?

So, we’re about 1 month into our interview season for resident candidates for our 2014 PGY-1 cohort. Each year, answering prospective candidates’ questions over lunch forces me to re-evaluate what I was looking for when I was in their shoes and what opinions have changed since then. I’m always surprised at myself that some things that I thought were initially important are not so much now and vice versa. So I always tell the “prospies” (a word we used when I was in college) to try and figure out what is most important “must-haves” for them and at least make sure that the programs they are looking at have those characteristics and resources.

But as I’ve learned, as time passes, some of those things will change…while some will not. For me, coming from a research and public health background, it was important to me that I could do basic science, translational, and molecular epidemiology research during residency….and that I would have these types of opportunities and that my program and faculty would support me in these endeavors. I wasn’t as interested in the “brown stains” or case series type of research as much that I see coming out of virtually every program that also includes my own. Not because there is anything wrong with that type of research either but just that my exposure and interests weren’t along those lines.

One of the interviewees today said something interesting to me. He said that he read on the websites of the programs he is interviewing at how they supported resident research. But that when he specifically asked about it was discouraged and told that residents don’t really have time for research in between their service duties. To me that seemed contradictory to the branding that these programs’ website at least made an attempt to endorse which was interesting but not entirely surprising.

For me, “fit” was a lot more important than a prestigious name and I interviewed at some high-powered programs, too. But I wanted a program that worked with an underserved minority or immigrant population (most of my advocacy work has been with these groups), made changes based on resident feedback to improve their program (I don’t like or thrive in “top down” situations), and supported each resident’s unique needs and goals. I wanted a program that would support and didn’t limit conference attendance and participation in leadership roles, both within the program and within the profession…a program and faculty that would work with me to do those things that would benefit my professional goals and allow me these freedoms even if I was on a surgpath rotation and not try to fit residents into a “one size fits all” mentality. Don’t get me wrong, like all programs, mine has some very real kinks as well. But I think that I’ve found some great and supportive mentors, PD, and chair who allow me to create the non-traditional experience I seek.

So what did or do you are think are “must-haves” for a residency and did those ideas change over time? Leave me a comment if you like.

-Betty Chung

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