• Residency FAQ

    The Department of Otolaryngology and Communicative Sciences has provided answers to frequently asked questions about its residency program.

    How is your program different from other programs?

    We allow each resident to reach their own potential rather than attempting to mold them to our design. We have a close-knit friendly group of faculty and residents who genuinely care about their colleagues.

    What qualities are you looking for among applicants?

    We have a variety of personalities among our residents who originate from all over the United States. The consistent qualities we seek are a strong work ethic, cooperative attitude and a sense of humor.

    How difficult is it to match in otolaryngology?

    Last year, 81% of U.S. seniors interested in otolaryngology obtained a residency slot. This number has ranged from 77-83% over the last few years. This is highly dependent on a number of factors, which we can discuss together. We have typically been quite successful in matching our students at programs around the country. If you are in the top half of your class and have a Step I USMLE score greater than 220, you have a reasonable chance of getting a residency position. We have been able to successfully match students below this level on multiple occasions, however. Obviously, the higher your score the easier it is to get interviews; the average score was 243 for those who matched. Matching with a spouse or significant other can create some challenges, but we have successfully done this a number of times. It is advisable that you take both USMLE Step 2 CK and CS as soon as possible so those scores will also be a part of your application.

    You can go to www.nrmp.org for all of the match data and reports on successful applicants.

    How many applications did you receive last year?

    We received 178  applications and interviewed 37 students for three positions. This year we will once again be accepting three PGY-1 residents.

    How do I apply for an otolaryngology residency?

    Otolaryngology participates in NRMP and ERAS. You register with the NRMP via their web site http://www.nrmp.org. Registration for ERAS can be done at http://www.aamc.org/students/eras/start.htm. Both are in coordination with the Office of the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs. When it comes time to select programs to which you wish to apply, please talk to our faculty members for guidance. Most programs have websites which usually are very informative. You may get program addresses from http://www.acgme.org (Reports: Programs by specialty) or http://www.ama-assn.org (Freida online).

    A few otolaryngology programs may directly contact you for additional information once they receive your application. ERAS automatically creates a CV from the application information so you should not be asked to provide an additional one.

    Do I need a research project?

    It is not essential to do a research project, but it may be helpful. A publication or research project is one of many factors considered in granting you an interview. If you have significant research exposure in any area in the past that may well be adequate. If you have no exposure, you may want to consider doing a project with us either as a separate block or during your rotation.

    The residency directors are simply looking to find the most motivated and curious students. Research work is one marker for this. By no means does the lack of a research project exclude you as we have successfully matched a number of students without any research background. There are only a handful of programs in the country that would deny you an interview on this basis alone. However, the topic comes up frequently during interviews, and you may feel more comfortable if you have done some type of project. We will be happy to get you involved with a mentor if you are interested. Dr. Pitman coordinates this effort.

    Do I need to do an externship?

    As a rule, you do not need to do an externship. However, there are several reasons you may want to consider doing one. If you absolutely need to go to one city for some reason, you should do an externship there to make sure they know you well. If your class rank and USMLE scores are borderline, an externship may allow you to show your best side in action, which might overcome your paper record. On the other hand, if you are a top student, you can only look worse or as good as you do on paper. Finally, some students enjoy doing an externship to simply gain a more global view of otolaryngology. Otherwise, you do not have to do an externship to match at most programs.

    How many programs should I apply to?

    The key to this entire game is getting interviews. If you get less than five interviews you are unlikely to match. If you get nine or more interviews, it is almost certain you will match unless you throw up on the interviewer's desk or something like that. Most students find that interviewing at eight to twelve places is adequate. It actually gets old after a while and can be quite expensive. Preferably, you want to end up in the position of being able to turn down interviews.

    So how do you get to this situation? The average student applied to 46 programs this past year. Many "experts" suggest that this is too many because it does not change the total number of interviews granted. This is true since the number of programs is stable, as are residency slots. However, a large number of applications, in my opinion, increase your exposure to a greater number of residency directors. If you limit your number of applications, the program that might fit you best may not review you. So, except for all but the very top students, I recommend applying to at least 20-30 places. You can always turn down interviews, but you can't get them after the fact very easily.

    Which program should I apply to?

    Obviously there are many considerations, including geographic preference, spouse's needs, and type of city where the program is located. Also remember not to be overly picky about applying, as you can always turn down an interview. After you have reviewed these issues, please come talk to us so we can give you a more personal view of each program. See "Where Did They Go?" for a list of programs that have accepted our recent UMMC students.

    The basic requirement for training is five years of otolaryngology with the following rotations required in the first year: up to three months of otolaryngology, neurosurgery, critical care, emergency medicine, anesthesiology, and at least five months on at least three services consisting of general surgery, thoracic surgery, vascular surgery, pediatric surgery, plastic surgery and surgical oncology. Rare programs offer or require an additional entire year of research. Instead, most programs have a several month research experience during your residency.

    Finally, you may wish to talk to our faculty, residents and recent graduates to get their perspective.

    What if I don't match?

    If we have done our job well, this will be a rare event. You will need to have a backup plan and you must decide if you truly want to do otolaryngology. You will be required to make decisions very quickly during match week. If you still want to do otolaryngology after failing to match, we have two basic choices: a one-year slot in surgery or research and try again. Here are the pros and cons of each. The idea behind applying for one year slots in general surgery is that you might be able to move into a vacancy that occurs in an otolaryngology program at the close of the PGY-1 year. If none opens up, you will be repeating several months of a general surgery internship if you do match in otolaryngology the following year.

    The value of a regular surgery year has become somewhat more questionable due to the fact that the PGY-1 year will now be in otolaryngology. Regular surgery years may not qualify as meeting the requirements of the PGY-1 year in otolaryngology due to newly specified requirements during that year. You might end up having to repeat the PGY-1 year if you match after that year or doing some extra rotations during your otolaryngology residency. Also, when you reapply to otolaryngology, your application looks very much the same other than a few months of general surgery. Still a general surgery year prepares you for entering other surgical fields if that is a possibility for you. Alternatively, you may be better off doing a research year to improve your application. Here may be some common scenarios in case you don't match:

    • Scenario 1 (I want to do otolaryngology no matter what) We recommend that you do not apply to any back up programs in other specialties because you are committed to them if you match. Instead, we recommend that you get a year in a lab. Remember it could be an unpaid year; it all depends on what is open.
    • Scenario 2 (I might be interested in another surgical field but still want to keep otolaryngology as a major option). We recommend that you apply for preliminary surgery years as well as otolaryngology.
    • Scenario 3 (I am interested in another specialty almost as much as otolaryngology) We recommend that you apply for another specialty as well as otolaryngology. This is not a favorite option of ours. Most programs will figure out somehow that you are applying in something else and it makes you look less committed.

    Final caveat: Just because you apply to other programs or preliminary years doesn't mean you have to rank them. We may have a better idea right before the rank lists are due as to what your chances are. But once you rank a program, you are committed to that program if you match with them.

    This has become a very complicated and controversial issue, so come talk to us personally about it.