Well first off, YAY family medicine! I hope your rotations during third and fourth year don’t turn you astray ;). Like you, I knew pretty early on what I wanted to do specialty wise, so here’s how I found my program.
1. Start with Geography. I knew I wanted to stay in the south unless I could find a program that really amazed me outside that area, so I went to the AAFP's website and pulled up all the programs in about 9 states. They have a pretty great Residency Directory you can search that will tell you most basic info about the programs.
2. Considered my special interests. I want to do mission work, so I searched for programs that allowed international rotations and added those to my list.
3. Narrow by program type. Think about whether you want an unopposed program (tip: you do) or an opposed program (ahem, you don’t.). Benefits of unopposed programs include higher acuity patients (because they’re not being passed on to other specialty residencies or fellows), more variety, better continuity of care experience, and more respect from colleagues of other specialties. I’ve been in both type of program, so I can explain more if needed.
4. Narrow by curriculum. Family medicine covers a lot, and many programs are skewed a bit towards one area of interest or another. If you love geriatrics, you should probably go to a geri-heavy program with a geriatrics or palliative care fellowship option. If you love OB or sports medicine, search for programs with tracks that offer more training in these areas.
5. Narrow by extras. Check out the town. Figure out if you could actually enjoy your admittedly limited free time in residency. Check out their benefits options, schools, housing market, and job options for your significant other.
6. DO AWAY ROTATIONS. I scheduled aways at my top 3 programs on paper and ended up having to cancel one. My #1 program pre-rotation ended up being very low on my list because I didn’t like the location and didn’t think I fit well with the residents there. My #3 ended up becoming my #1. Away rotations are huge. Every program, like every Tumblr, has a certain feel or personality to it. Make sure your #1 actually fits you.
Not necessarily. Most are, but you can find unopposed programs in big cities too. Usually they’re at smaller hospitals in those cities though. Just know that the most complex cases in the big cities are going to go to the place with all the specialists.
It’s going pretty well so far (with the exception of this week, but whatever).
I had a pretty good idea of what family medicine was all about before I got into it. I did all my community medicine rotations in family medicine and did a few away rotations as well. I think the one thing I didn’t think about enough was that continuity of care—that thing I enjoyed so much and so looked forward to—can be quite burdensome. When you go on vacation, someone has to cover your patients for you, and then there’s tons of paperwork and crap waiting for you when you come back. And you’re pretty much always covering for someone else, too. That can get to be sort of tedious.
But overall, family medicine is pretty great. There’s definitely no other specialty I’d rather be in. Let me know if you have any more specific questions about family med!
For those who don’t know, unopposed programs are residencies in which no other specialty training program exists in their hospital. It really only matters in family medicine, where you are often seen as “competing” with other programs like internal medicine, peds, OB, and ER.
Yes, I was aware of what other programs were there. I wanted to go to an unopposed program, so that’s what I searched for. (PS it’s absolutely the way to go). The AAFP has a handy residency directory search tool. I found that if you search for “community-based, non-affiliated” programs, you’re much more likely to find the unopposed ones. They also have the option to exclude hospitals that have other residency programs. It’s not perfect, but it’s a great start.
**The first week of residency**
Uncle Oxy calls: Hey girl, how’s residency going so far?
Me: Pretty good. Just finishing up orientation. I’m ready to actually start doing medicine.
Uncle Oxy: So are you a real doctor now? Like you could treat me when I’m sick?
Me: Well, yeah, I’m a doctor, but I have to be supervised because I’m still learning.
Uncle Oxy: But you can write prescriptions right?
Me: Yeah, supervised.
Uncle Oxy: Does that mean you are like a PA and can’t write narcotics and stuff without a doctors supervision?
Me: No, I can write that stuff too.
Uncle Oxy: Oh… so you have a DEA number already?
Me: oh, I see where this is headed… um, it hasn’t come in yet. Also I don’t have a license in your state. Also we aren’t allowed to treat family members, especially with controlled substances. That’s illegal.
Uncle Oxy: Oh. Welp, uh, I gotta go. Have fun at work.
**From the Archives of My Brain, An Adventure of Wayfaring Med Student**
Stepdad: Hey look at my leg. It really hurts and it’s kind of red and swollen.
Wayfaring Med Student: Don’t ask me for medical advice. I’m not a doctor yet. Plus you never listen to me anyway. Go to your doctor.
Stepdad: You’re so selfish. You don’t care about people at all. You need to work on your compassion for other people. Just look at my leg!
Wayfaring Med Student: *takes a quick look and finds a red, warm, swollen lower leg that is very tender to the touch* Ok, now I’m going to say it again. You REALLY need to go see your doctor. Like right now.
Stepdad: Why? What is it?
Wayfaring Med Student: You either have cellulitis, which could get bad quick considering your diabetes, or you have a blood clot in your leg. Either way, you need to be seen immediately.
Stepdad: Nah, it’s not that bad. I’ll wait till next week.
Wayfaring Med Student: Ok. I’m just saying that if it gets worse, I told you so. Enjoy your pulmonary embolism or your gangrene.
Stepdad: You don’t know anyway. You’re not a doctor yet.
*Several days pass. Wayfaring goes back to medical school.*
Mom on phone: So he finally went to the doctor. He had an ultrasound of his leg and he definitely has a blood clot. They started him on blood thinners.
Wayfaring Med Student: I FREAKING TOLD HIM! That idiot. He better never ever ask me another medical question again.
I saw this lady in clinic recently who had neck pain. She said, “I feel like something’s wrong with my neck veins. There’s something pulling in my neck.” I was fairly certain she just had a muscle strain, but I listened to her carotids to assuage her worries about her neck vasculature. I mean, she was in her 60s, was a smoker with hypertension, and was obese. That warranted an exam, I thought. Sure enough, in addition to her muscle strain, she had bruits over both carotids, although it was much louder on the left. (Bruits are like heart murmurs over blood vessels…they are a shwooshing sound you hear when blood flow is turbulent from narrowing arteries). Her only symptom that could be attributed to the bruit in any way was frequent headaches. I told the resident that I found the bruit, and she listened and agreed. She noted that there was no record of it in her chart before. We sent her for a carotid ultrasound just to assess the degree of stenosis in her carotids.
For my non-medical friends, if your carotids become too narrow, you end up cutting off blood flow to the brain and get a stroke. A lot of times there are no symptoms beforehand; sometimes people present with transient blindness, speech problems, or facial weakness.
Anyway, today I got the following text message from the resident I was working with last week:
"Remember the lady you saw in the office last week with the carotid bruit? I just got a stat page. She had her U/S today and it found 80% stenosis on the left and she is going to vascular surgery immediately today. You really may have saved her life! Good job! I’ll let you know how it goes."
So yay me. It’s amazing the good you can do just by doing a simple physical exam!
UPDATE: After the resident mentioned above graduated, this patient was assigned to me (because of this very encounter as a medical student). On my first visit with her as her PCP, we discussed her carotid disease. As it turned out, she had refused surgery in 2011 because she believed that her carotid stenosis was not a problem (and actually, we don’t recommend surgery for asymptomatic carotid stenosis). The resident who was her PCP at the time continually tried to push her to have surgery, but with no success, so she maximized her medication therapy, hoping it would be enough to slow the progression of her stenosis.
During our visit, I asked her about several specific stroke symptoms. After inquiring about episodes of blindness, she said, “yeah, actually I get this brown sheet that comes down over my eye and stays there for about an hour and then it goes away. That’s my cataracts, right?”
I explained to her that cataracts cause slow progression of blindness with haziness of the vision, not a “curtain pull” effect, and that these episodes were indeed caused by her carotid stenosis. I emphasized the fact that since these episodes were becoming more frequent, she would most likely become permanently blind or would have a larger, more debilitating stoke in the very near future.
She finally agreed to see a vascular surgeon, and now, just over 2 years after our initial encounter, she has had her endarterectomy! When I got the report from the surgeon, I had a little celebration at my desk. This is why persistence, continuity of care, and good follow up with a PCP matter.
I’m currently a medical student applying to family medicine programs this year and reading your stories, I know you’ll be a great family doc and I hope to be like that some day. But, right now I’ve been writing and re-writing and editing my personal statement for residency programs and it isn’t that great. Do you have any suggestions or tips on what would help make it a good personal statement for family programs? -anon
Family med programs are looking for applicants who:
So it helps to show that you have these qualities in your personal statement without listing them out like on your CV. You need to show how family medicine (and not some other specialty) fits your personality.
Remember that your reader is probably a residency director who is tired of reading personal statements, so don’t write a research paper.
Weave stories and examples throughout your writing. Many people will also somewhat tailor their personal statement to the programs they apply to. For example, if you apply to a program that is geriatrics-heavy, you might want to mention your interest in geriatrics more in the PS you send to them. The same would go for OB or sports medicine or global health or any other side interest within family medicine.
Ultimately, your goal in a personal statement is to make the reader want to know more about you—and therefore invite you for an interview. Leave some mystery in it, but give them a taste of how awesome you are ;).
"I’d blow my brains out if I had your job. Your job sucks. When someone refers a patient to me, it’s a compliment. When they refer to you, it’s an insult." -sentiment from a surgeon
I was a bit offended by this doc’s comment to me. I like my job, and for the most part, I like my patients. He didn’t mean it as an insult to me, though. It was meant to be more of an observation about the state of the medical system in this country.
He has a point. When a local primary care physician refers a patient to a surgeon or specialist, it’s because that specialist has a skill or expertise that the PCP doesn’t have.
- captainmudphud said: Gracias. I appreciate the info. I’m probably missing something, but why do y’all do a surgical rotation?
We do a surgery rotation to get more experience doing small procedures and to learn more of the care of the pre- and post- surgical patient. It also helps you get a better grasp of which patients need a surgery referral. Honestly, that’s why we do subspecialty rotations. You learn a little for your everyday practice, and then you learn how much you don’t know and what you should refer out.
How is a family medicine residency different from an internal medicine residency in terms of what services you rotate through? -captainmudphud
The main difference is that Family medicine is going to be more outpatient-focused and is going to probably have more variety in rotations. FM residencies are required to have continuity clinics where residents see the same patients over the course of their 3 years (adding more each year). I’m not sure if IM has this requirement.
For a breakdown of intern year schedules,
Sample Family Med intern year:
**I am aware that this adds up to 13 months. A rotation is 4 weeks, so it makes room for a 13th month.
As the years progress, you have less of the “core rotations” in family med (the first 3) and more elective time. Over the 3 years we are also required to do a month of surgical subspecialty, 2 months of medical subspecialties, almost 3 total months of sports med and ortho; 1 month of geriatrics, psych, and practice management; an extra month of ER and outpatient peds; and 2 months of “ambulatory med” which encompasses our general clinic and subspecialty clinics.
Sample Internal Med intern year (from 2 friends in different Medicine residencies)
My friend says her program requires them to do Pulm, ID, Nephro, Rheum, Geriatrics, Heme/Onc, Neuro, and Cards rotations, and the rest is up to them.
Friend #2 says she has 4 months general wards, 3 mo med subspecialties, 1 mo ICU, 1 mo ICU stepdown, 1 mo ER, 2 clinic months (1 residency clinic, 1 VA), 1 mo geriatrics. Her program offers a “primary care track” that requires more outpatient blocks.
If we’re talking general adult medicine, then the most common things I see are: