What are you looking for in a neurology applicant?
When our committee reviews applications, we look at applications as a whole (holistic review). There is not one particular characteristic that is required. We are looking to recruit a diverse group of residents with varied interests and backgrounds.
Overall, we are looking for applicants with a strong performance in medical school, particularly in the clinical rotations. If graduation from medical school is >5 years ago, continued clinical work during that time is strongly recommended. We want our residents to have a strong interest in neuroscience, demonstrated by either clinical experience and/or scholarly activity. For international candidates, it is preferable to have completed at least 3-6 months of clinical rotations in the US, with experience in both neurology as well as inpatient care. Due to the pandemic, we understand that not all candidates will have that exposure. We do not have an absolute score cutoff and are aware of the delays and postponements this year as well the alternate pathways for ECFMG certification. ECFMG certification is not required at the time of application.
For LORs, there is no minimum requirement for number of neurology-specific LORs. LORs from writers who can provide helpful information about your clinical and interpersonal skills are of the most value.
How many applications do you receive and how many applicants do you interview?
We typically receive approximately 700 applications and interview approximately 80 applicants for 7 positions. Due to the sheer volume of applications and our holistic review, we cannot pre-screen CVs or applications via email. We also cannot meet with or speak to applicants who have not received an interview invitation about their candidacy. Not everyone who meets the criteria stated above will receive an interview invitation; there are just too many applicants to do that.
For DO applicants, are COMLEX scores accepted? For a DO, is it possible to meet the licensing requirements?
Yes and yes! First of all, if you have taken COMLEX exams, you do not also need to sit for USMLE. We strongly encourage osteopathic medical students to apply to our program and have many outstanding DO residents and faculty. It is possible for our DO physicians to make minor modifications to the PGY-1 year curriculum in order to meet the criteria for licensure and we have a DO faculty advisor who helps with this process.
What about USMLE scores?
USMLE Step 1 result must be available for an application to be considered complete. USMLE 2 CK result is not required at the time of application, but we do need the result to be available prior to the rank deadline in order to rank the candidate.
When should I expect an interview invitation? If I don’t receive an invitation until January, does that mean I have less chance of matching?
Because of our holistic review, interview invitations are not all sent in one batch. We invite applicants for interviews through the recruitment season. We also may invite applicants on short notice if we receive a cancellation. An invitation received later in the season does not indicate anything about where an applicant will fall on our rank list. We receive a huge volume of emails inquiring about status of application or requesting that an application be reviewed or to be re-reviewed if no interview was offered. We are not able to reply to these emails. Applications submitted via ERAS will all be reviewed.
What should I expect during my interview day?
We are planning an all virtual recruitment season. Interviews will likely start at the end of October and run through the end of January. We will plan to have a virtual info/getting to know you session with the residents the night before interviews. You will be provided with links to attend our virtual case conference and grand rounds on Thursday morning as well. Interviews with faculty will occur on Zoom and there will be both morning and evening (EDT) time slots offered to account for our applicants’ different time zones.
Can I come back for a second look?
At this point, we are not planning any in person visits prior to match day. However, we will plan to offer several virtual experiences towards the end of the recruitment season for applicants needing additional information in order to rank programs. A second look has never been a requirement and we do not factor it in at all when making our rank list.
Do you have any advice for applicants on their interview day?
During your interviews, my main advice is to be yourself. And be interested. Our residents and faculty want to get to know you and we want to give you the opportunity to get to know us. Ask questions and make the most of your limited time to visit a program to see if it seems like a place that will encourage you to learn and succeed, to make lifelong connections, and where you will feel like you are part of a family.
How are your residents evaluated?
We have multiple evaluation tools that we use. We have rotation evaluations completed by supervising attendings, 360 evaluations completed by other health personnel, patients, peers, and even a bi-annual self-evaluation! Twice per year in clinic, the clinic preceptor will observe your history and exam and give feedback. There are also 5 patient encounters called NEX’s that are required prior to taking boards. We also have several simulation trainings that occur during our boot camp, including LP, mock stroke code, brain death/coma, status epilepticus management, and seizure exam. Residents are certified in NIHSS, MRS, bedside swallow screening, and patient handoffs. Every 6 months, our clinical competency committee reviews all of the evaluations and data collected on each residents, performs a detailed performance review, and completes a milestones evaluation which is required of every resident in an ACGME accredited program. The PD will have an individual meeting with each resident every six months to review individual performance, review milestones progress, and generate a learning plan.
What types of didactics are included in the program?
On the website there is a sample monthly calendar, which provides a good example of the many didactic and conference series that are offered to our residents, fellows, and faculty. Required didactics for the residency includes weekly Case Presentation/Grand Rounds on Thursday mornings and Tuesday afternoon resident lectures (noon-3 pm every week protected time with lunch provided). The Tuesday afternoon lectures incorporate curricula in every clinical subspecialty, neuroanatomy, evidence-based medicine, ethics, a journal club, and a series of board reviews prior to the in-service exam. There is also a series of outpatient neurology didactic sessions incorporated with the clinic sessions at UConn. Residents may also participate, but are not required to, in the many fellowship and division lecture series’ and journal clubs.
What kind of clinical supervision is provided?
All patient encounters are supervised by faculty. In clinic, the clinic preceptor will see every patient after the resident initial encounter and help with medical decision making. In the inpatient setting, a teaching attending rounds on the inpatients daily. There is always an attending available either in the hospital during the day, and available by phone at night, to discuss consult and newly admitted cases. Senior residents also assist and help to supervise junior residents. For our PGY-2 junior residents, the first few months of long call (5-8 pm) as well as the first night float blocks are with a senior “buddy.” We want our residents to always feel comfortable asking for help and to have several months of inpatient and consult neurology under their belts before starting overnight call.
What opportunities are there for research?
All residents are expected to complete a scholarly project during residency. Most residents choose to participate in a clinical research project, but scholarly projects can also be in quality improvement, patient safety, or medical education. Usually the residents will pick an area of research and a faculty mentor in the area that they are interested in applying to for fellowship. The projects should be selected by late PGY-2/early PGY-3 and at the end of PGY-3 year, each resident presents a department Grand Rounds discussing their project as well as preliminary data and results. Then there is a whole year left of residency to complete a manuscript and present at a national conference. Many of our residents who are interested in an academic career have presented multiple posters and published journal articles as residents. There are many faculty who will eagerly mentor resident projects and who can help residents to be successful.
What kind of mentoring is offered?
Each incoming PGY-1 is assigned a senior resident peer mentor. In PGY-2 year, each resident selects a faculty mentor to be their wellness mentor. Monthly check-ins and regular meetings are expected. Residents also choose a faculty mentor to assist in career planning and research projects. In addition to these mentors, mentoring occurs all the time. Residents are encouraged to get lots of advice from many faculty about fellowship and career questions!
What do you like about being a residency director?
As a resident and a chief resident, I always loved teaching as well as being able to make improvements in my own training program. Being a residency director has been an amazing experience—seeing each resident transition from a beginning intern to a full-fledged neurologist is extremely rewarding. Now many former residents are faculty and medical educators making a real difference in our field! I enjoy the process of making our program better all the time and adding rotations and experiences as our departments grow. Now that I am an experienced program director, I have become involved in leadership and teaching of other program directors. I am committed to help make positive changes in medical education!
One of my favorite parts of being a program director is meeting neurology applicants during recruitment. I look forward to meeting you, even though this year it will not be in person!
Dr. Erica Schuyler