About the Specialty
“These multidisciplinary specialists practice preventive medicine, deliver new lives into the world, and perform life-altering surgery. Half of their patients are healthy young women who come for prenatal care or annual physical examinations. However, with the longevity and desire for a healthier life, the rest of the practice consists of physically active mature women who are concerned about ‘life surrounding and after menopause.’ More than just experts on the pelvic region and reproductive tract, obstetrician-gynecologists must handle problems that require highly technical medical and surgical skills, and, at the other end of the spectrum, be sensitive observers who can give psychological support.” – Freeman, B. (2013). The Ultimate Guide to Choosing a Medical Specialty. 3rd Ed. Lange Medical Books/McGraw-Hill: New York. p. 297.
Answers to Common Questions
- Attributes of a Competitive Student
What factors typically make a student competitive for this specialty?
Obstetrics and Gynecology is becoming increasing competitive over the past several years and the average candidate who matches has a Step 1 score of 230. Many programs use the Step 1 score as the initial factor when evaluating candidates for interviews.
Beyond the Step scores, strong letters of recommendations and well-rounded applications are seen favorably. It is important to see that the student has had a meaningful thought process in choosing the specialty either via research, interest group activities, professional organization involvement, conferences, etc.
Ob-Gyn is not a field that people choose by “process of elimination” – it is a rigorous specialty that ultimately meets at the intersection of a surgical specialty and a primary care specialty.
When interviewing, the student who demonstrates poise, passion, a strong work ethic, and a commitment to women’s health are seen favorably and ranked highly.
How important is research experience in your specialty? If important, does it need to be in the specialty itself?
Overall, any research experience, regardless of the department, is better than no experience and it is not required to be within the field of Ob-Gyn. Research experiences can bolster an application, particularly if the application is weaker in other aspects such as Step 1 scores or GPA. If you have an interest in research opportunities within the department, please contact Matthew Carlson, M.D.
How can students identify opportunities for shadowing?
Shadowing opportunities can be limited given the volume of clerkship and post-clerkship students. On occasion, shadowing opportunities can be arranged in the private practices. Consider contacting the student interest group leaders for additional information.
What electives would you recommend to a student who is interested in pursuing your specialty?
Both selectives, Obstetrics and Maternal and Fetal Medicine, are excellent opportunities for learning and exposure to the rigors of residency. It is recommended that each student complete one of the selectives offered by the department. Additionally, there are other electives which provide additional exposure to sub-specialty pursuits such as sonography/genetics, gynecologic oncology, female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery (urogynecology), and reproductive endocrine and infertility. The post-clerkship period is also a time to explore and is the last opportunity to have broad exposure to other specialties. Students should consider exploring other opportunities during their senior year as it’s not mandatory that their entire post-clerkship curriculum is solely from the Ob-Gyn department. Some electives to consider: SICU, anesthesia, radiology, dermatology.
Based on your experience, what tips do you have for students to shine on your electives?
Active engagement in patient care activities and collaboration with the residents will help the student succeed on an elective. Students who are prepared with notes for rounds, organized in their presentations, and active participant in the team dynamic will thrive on electives.
- Away Rotations
Does your specialty recommend doing away rotations?
It is not generally recommended to do an away rotation, simply to “do an away rotation.” It will not necessarily bolster an application just because an away rotation was completed. Away rotations can be helpful if there is a particular program you are strongly interested in, but may be more of a “reach” either academically or geographically, or if you are seeking a specific geographic region i.e. California, the Northeast, etc. In this case, this can be considered. If you work hard and really “shine,” this may help you obtain an interview and be considered more favorably than without the rotation. However, take into account that an away rotation could also be a double-edge sword. If you don’t live up to their expectations, an interview may not be extended and it doesn’t necessarily improve your chances on obtaining an interview from other programs in that city.
If your specialty recommends doing away rotations, how many “aways” do you recommend?
If away rotations are necessary, when should they apply and when should they be completed?
- Interview Timing
Which month do you recommend taking off to interview?
Many Ob-Gyn programs will begin extending offers to interview within the first few weeks that ERAS is open. The majority of programs will have five to six interview days over the course of the season. These can start as early as the late October through January. The majority of the interviews will be in November and December.
- Letters of Recommendation
How many letters of recommendation are needed to apply to your specialty?
Nearly all programs (I only know of two programs that want four) need three letters of recommendation.
Does your specialty recommend that all letters of recommendation be written by members of your specialty?
One of the three letters will be written by the Chairman of the department and meetings to discuss the letter will be arranged through the department in late summer. It is preferred that the remaining two letters also come from the Ob-Gyn department, if possible. These can be obtained from selectives, post-clerkship electives, or even the clerkship rotation. If a strong letter can be obtained from another department, this is also acceptable particularly if the writer can speak to your clinical and surgical skill. In the past, students have also had letters come from their PI’s or other research mentors if they have a well-established relationship with the student.
If letters can come from other disciplines, do you have a recommendation as to which disciplines are more highly valued?
If a letter is coming from outside the department, surgical specialties would be preferred over non-surgical specialties.
Does the academic rank of the letter writer matter?
Not necessarily. A more senior faculty may have more experience with letter writing and working with students, thus they may be able to better attest to your qualities in comparison to the many students they have worked with in the past. However, if this more senior faculty didn’t work with you very closely, they may end up writing a more generic letter. In this case, you may want to consider a letter from another faculty who could speak more personally about you as a clinician/surgeon, your skills, personality regardless of their faculty status. Sometimes a more personal letter speaks volumes in comparison to a more generic letter from a “big name.” Consider these things when asking for a letter and make sure that the faculty agrees that they could provide you with a “strong letter of recommendation.”
Does your specialty require a letter from the chairman?
Yes, see above.
- The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology
- Association of Professors of Obstetrics and Gynecology