This is the second post of the series where I talk to (and about) people who have successfully matched and reached the culmination of their USMLE Journey. I have previously talked about a friend who had matched in Houston. Today, I will present the words of wisdom shared by another friend who has matched into, you guessed it right, Cleveland Clinic. She has graciously agreed to share her Facebook profile link so that you all can directly pester… err… I mean contact her, for further details. If you are someone who has matched or you know someone who has matched into the USMLE system this year, then please fill in or forward this link to them. I have taken the liberty to transcribe the narrative from the “google forms” form into (what I believe) is a linked write up. Hope this helps! Here goes…
I have matched into Pediatrics at the Cleveland Clinic. I am an IMG, and it goes without saying I am thrilled to have matched there. It is one of the best places to go to and has a brilliant environment. It is the production house for the Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine, which had a whopping impact factor of 3.4 in 2011!
One thing that I believe was instrumental in this USMLE run for me was my scores. I had 253 on Step 1, 257 on Step 2, and 229 on Step 3. My Step 2 Clinical Skills exam was also a good show, I believe. Although I just passed the Integrated Clinical Encounter component of the exam, I comfortably beat the margin in the communication and interpersonal skills and spoken english proficiency segments. I think a combination of good scores, with some research experience in my home country, and added US clinical experience (with decent letters of recommendations) were the key to my success.
I did have the required minimal US clinical experience under my belt. I had been a visiting student at the Department of Pediatric Allergy and Immunology at Northwestern University, Chicago for a month. I had also spent a month as a clinical observer in the Department of Pediatric Pulmonology at the University of Florida, Gainesville. This posting at Gainesville was post-application, during the period of interviews. Needless to say, the more USCE you gather, the stronger is your application.
I did have a bit of research experience in my home country in the form of two research projects, which were yet to be published at the time of my application. As it turns out in my case, this lack of publications did not significantly hinder me in course of my USMLE journey.
About the interview, I felt it went off quite smoothly. The interviewers really made me feel at ease, and made it easy for me to just be myself. Surprisingly, the interactions were remarkably common place. To me, it felt like any normal conversation I would have had with any random person who I met on the street or in a cafe or on a bus or flight… you get the drift. In hindsight, this comfortable ambience was probably one of the best things that could have happened in course of the interview!
I have matched into my top choice, and honestly speaking, I was a little surprised to have done that. It is a common belief that such places give a special preference to candidates who have already spent some time there as an observer or visiting student or research associate (for obvious reasons), but fortunately for me, they did not seem to have any such criteria for selecting us.
Whether one succeeds in their attempt to tame the USMLE beast or not, hinges on several factors that that are much bigger than just the scores and applications and clinical experience. One thing I strongly believe in is that being confident makes a difference. One fatal mistake is to fake your application, or copy someone else’s work. What is one man’s meat is another’s poison. One has to be true to themselves in order to pull through with flying colours. You have to be just like you sounded like on the paper (applications) – nothing more, nothing less. It is always a good idea to be well dressed. I believe it pays off to be interactive, and ask a lot of questions, because whatever questions they may or may not ask you, I guarantee you this, everyone will be asked this question: “Do you have any (more) questions?” This gives a great opening to show your interviewers your vision and forethought, as well as abilities to interact, communicate and sometimes, think on your feet – all hallmarks of a good doctor!
Let me digress for a bit here, before I launch into the “rapid fire assessment” section of this interview. I had a great little experience (not medically relevant, but makes for a wonderful life story!) when I shared the same Greyhound service with a bunch of ex-convicts. It was, in many ways, an exhilarating experience, but hopefully, it shall remain a “once in a lifetime” affair!
Coming back to the USMLE business then, the business end of affairs: money. One thing that has to be kept in mind is that the USMLE is, by no means, a cheap affair. If I was asked to make a ball-park estimate of my expenses during the whole course of my USMLE journey, I would, conservatively, put it at around 9000 US$. And one last thing, despite having matched at my top choice, if I were to do this whole process all over again (I am quite, quite glad that I will not have to do so! PHEW!), the only thing I would have changed is trying to add a few more stints of US Clinical Experience to my profile. I believe they are a crucial part of the whole business of matching at the right place. The fact that one does their US clinical experience stints in disciplines that they eventually want to end up in, is also an important factor. It pays to show on your application that you are geared up and focussed on one discipline, your discipline of choice.
In conclusion, it is very important to be honest and true to yourself, be confident, ensure you have good scores on your steps, and on the day of the interview, be presentable, amicable and involved. Hopefully, your journey will culminate in success as well. If you have any queries, please feel free to drop me a line on my Facebook Profile.
Wish you all the very best!
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