Monday, December 15, 2008

The Interview Trail

My kid sister is on the interview trail, looking at getting into a US residency for internal medicine. Kinda like where I was 7 years ago. Which brings back many unpleasant memories.

You see, coming from Malaysia to the US for the interviews, you tend to still be thinking in Malaysian currency. At that time it was US$ 1 to RM 4 or something like that. And although I had been saving my salary for the past 4 months it does drain your bank pretty damn fast.

To save, LP and I travelled together most of the time. He was my buddy from KL who went to Calgary with me. And so we actually interviewed at pretty much the same hospitals; we overlapped probably 75% of them.

Which led to several interesting situations. For one, we didn't realize how it must have looked to have to Malaysian guys travelling together and staying in the same hotel room. Until 2 of our programs asked if we were going to 'couple's match'. Which is the most legal way they could ask if we were gay.

We took the bus pretty much everywhere. From Pennsylvania to Ohio to Illinois to Wisconsin and to Minnesota. 10-hour bus rides, napping on the benches at 4 am at Greyhound stations. When hospitals didn't pay for our hotels (half of them did) we stayed at the cheapest of hotels. I remember my room in Chicago had bugs scurrying around on the floor. And the worst thing, being so perpetually hungry. Just that deep, gnawing feeling in your epigastrium. We were miserable. Being in the -10C winter cold didn't help either.

I'm not kidding. You'd think that 2 doctors (we had already graduated) wouldn't feel like they were homeless and would actually be able to afford proper food.

Any guesses as to which city this was?

I remember that by the end of our 4-week journey, we were broke and had 2 more interviews to do in Minnesota. It was February by then. LP in HCMC and I at Mayo. We were so broke that we were eating instant noodles for most of our meals. And because we had no other way of cooking, we took turns using the coffee machine in the hotel rooms to half-boil the noodles, taking turns to eat directly out of the pot. Finally one day we were so miserable I got permission from my dad to use the credit card he gave me for emergencies just to have a meal of Vietnamese food. I've never tasted such a good bowl of $5 phò (it was my choice really, to be as self-reliant as possible. A matter of pride, as a new doctor I didn't think it was right to be asking for money from dad).

Mayo was my very last interview, and because I was so homesick by then I was close to just cancelling things, thinking there was no way they would take me anyway. But Nick, a buddy who was there, convinced me to go on.

Funny how things turn out, don't they? And so, with a sense of pride and hope, I watch my sister go through the same process (though she has it a lot easier, says me ).


Blogger adriene said...

looks like your perseverance paid off. congrats and happy for u.

10:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dr Vagus,

Perhaps u can share some tips about interviewing for residency in the US in another post?


8:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

LP = Lamping?

1:05 PM  
Anonymous peanut said...

hi doc,

a friend of my is forced to go to US because her husband will be getting a work there, at the same time she doesn't want to waste away her medical degree. We are graduating this coming summer. She was quite worried and would like to know is there anything like electives that she could do will she is there in US preparing for USMLE?

sorry but she is really desperate to know the available options. Hope you are free to answer. thanks for posting!

9:45 AM  
Blogger vagus said...

She probably will not be able to do an elective- you need to be a medical student to be able to get an elective attachment. Some hospitals do offer a visiting clinician program but a significant fee is usually involved.

11:06 AM  
Anonymous peanut said...

oh okay. got it.. thanx! :P

10:02 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you've already graduated from medical school, your options for a clinical experience in the US would be either (a) do an externship where you get to see patients and manage them but they would make you pay for your malpractice insurance, or (b) observership, usually free, but you only get to observe and not do anything, i.e. not as good as an externship.

4:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Am heartily glad you did that interview. I still remember meeting you and LP for the first time, and how relieved I was that Nick had cool friends.

The Lin

PS-you'll understand why I'm emailing at 3 am when you have kids.

3:14 AM  
Anonymous anne said...

quite tough xperience u glad u have what u want finally.congratulation!i wish u well.
Anne from Dublin.

12:11 PM  

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