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Starting All Over Again

Ben_3 Ben Bryner -- I'm finally on the home stretch for interviews. Only a few more left. As I've mentioned, the thing I like most about interviews is the chance to talk to the leaders in surgery, meet residents, and imagine what my future would be like in that program. Also, sometimes the food is pretty good.

My least favorite part of interviews is waiting for hours in airports or buses to get somewhere. I try to leave plenty of time for each trip. I tell myself that it’s OK to have some extra time at the airport, that I can get some work done at the gate or stretch my legs by doing laps along the moving walkways. But as soon as I get there I’m totally nonproductive, and it’s not relaxing either, waiting in a weird bench/seat and waiting impatiently for them to announce my “boarding zone.” Obviously anyone who’s traveled knows it’s like this, but what’s interesting is that I keep believing myself when I plan these trips. One of my dad’s friends has a personal motto: “If you’re not occasionally missing a flight, you’re spending too much time at the airport.” Maybe that’s the philosophy I need to adopt.

Once you get to the interview there’s still a fair amount of waiting. Like I say, I enjoy the actual interviews, but there are only so many people conducting interviews and a lot of applicants, so there is some downtime between interviews. A lot of my fellow applicants are the same from interview to interview, so it’s fun to catch up with them and see what programs they’ve liked, too. And often there are residents hanging around and answering questions. This is a good chance to get questions answered and hear opinions from residents at varying points in their training.

During one of these casual question-and-answer sessions recently, one of the residents pointed at my nametag and said, “Sorry about that.” I didn’t know what he was talking about, so I looked down at it:


Maybe a Bob Marley fan had been in charge of making the nametags. I didn’t care – it was still obvious what my name was, it wasn’t like they changed my name from “Dennis” to “Denise,” or changed my name to an obscenity or something. They probably just have a motto similar to my dad’s friend: “If you’re not occasionally leaving letters out of names, you’re spending too much time making nametags.” Which is reasonable enough – I’d rather the department plan a good interview day than worry about name-spelling. But some of the residents thought it was funny.

“That’s not bad. Maybe you should go by ‘Bejamin.’ It’s kind of cool, and nobody here would know.” They had a point. Unless you stay at the hospital where you did your medical school rotations (or you did an away rotation), everyone kind of gets to start over during residency. People there only know you by your application and your interview, so you could change a lot of your personality traits. Probably most people maintain the spelling of their first name, but you could decide to go out more (or less) often, reinvent yourself as an expert on some obscure topic, or affect a Cockney accent.

"Ello, guv’nor! I’ve jus’ seen a lovely documen’ary on centipedes, I ‘ave!"

So maybe you shouldn’t do it, but it’s kind of amazing to have this chance to reinvent yourself in a way that most people do only a few times in life, or, in Madonna’s case, every six months. It’s something of a leap of faith on the part of the residency. They’re agreeing to train you in a subtle, complicated art (or in orthopedics) without knowing you very well or demanding that you prove your skills to them directly. Obviously, it’s built on trust between established schools and departments, and by doing an away or “audition” rotation you are trying to prove yourself. It’s a pretty exciting time, in part because of the uncertainty and the possibility of starting over someplace new, which makes the waiting in the airport worth it.

January 15, 2009 | Permalink


This line made me laugh out loud: "They’re agreeing to train you in a subtle, complicated art (or in orthopedics) without knowing you very well or demanding that you prove your skills to them directly." I work in neurosurgery and while I love a good crani, a nice bloody femoral rodding can make my day too. :-) Best of luck in interviews - where are you hoping to match?

Posted by: Jessica | Jan 16, 2009 10:21:32 PM

its a funny post! the motto part is very hilarious and true...and the reinventing part...

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great post, Bejamin. haha. :)

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