Sunday, January 13, 2013

To Be Wanted . . .

It's such a weird feeling (for me) to be wanted.

What I'm most caught off-guard by during these residency interviews is just how much the program wants me (I suppose that makes sense, otherwise they wouldn't invite me for an interview).  Still, I'm left awkwardly speechless when an interviewer enumerates the various things I've done in med school and react amazed when I describe them.  It's almost embarrassing.

Up until now I've received little recognition outside my circle of friends and faculty advisors for the things I've done.  Everything I've done felt like it was being quietly conducted in the shadows outside the glowing praise of my institution at large.  I never received an award or anything of that sort, and I doubt I ever will - I simply don't have the overwhelming popularity to bring visibility to the things I champion.

But at almost every interview I've been asked to describe (in some detail) the community advocacy work I've done for the Asian and LGBT communities.  Some interviewers are more keen on hearing about the health literacy project I did in the Asian-American community, others are eager to hear about the cultural competency training I forwarded in LGBT health education, and still some want to hear about my involvement on a state policy level.

At one of my recent interviews, my interviewer asked me, "How are you able to do all this?"  And I began to reply that I was lucky and these opportunities fell into my lap in such a way that I couldn't turn them down.  He cut me off and corrected me that I instead "seized the opportunities."  I never thought of it that way, but I suppose he's right.

As these interviews wind to a close, I'm more and more certain of what I bring to a residency program.  This wasn't crystal clear at the beginning, but now I know.  Programs didn't choose me because of my grades or Step 1 score (verily, I'm positive that many programs rejected me based on those criteria), but rather the extensive community outreach and advocacy work I've done.  I'm glad that the 11 places that chose to interview me saw beyond the numbers to something more important that I can bring.
P.S. For anyone applying to residency programs, everything you write in your ERAS application is fair game for interviewers to ask you about - and they will ask you about them, so know your application stone cold.