Recruiting for the future

Among the many elements that recruits cite as helping them rank our residency program in the Match is being able to hear from the residents themselves. For the last few years, interns and second- and third-year residents have drafted diaries describing what “A Day in the Life” looks like for them. Some go diary-style and give hour by hour updates on a dayshift in the MICU, others take the time to explain how the “Y-week” works in our “4+1” schedule. These snapshots give an authentic voice to the experience of training in our department, painting a specific picture. Their details like the warm and encouraging faculty members or the relief of being able to hand over their pager for an hour during noon conference may not be the one deciding factor for a potential recruit, but these vignettes form a tapestry that helps them see what life at Iowa is like. If they can picture it and if they like what they see when they do, they can commit to it.

It is no secret that the challenge of virtual recruitment during a pandemic requires more reliance on digital elements like those resident diaries. If we are unable to sit face to face with them in our conference rooms and offices or they cannot tour the halls and work spaces of our hospitals and clinics, how we come across through video conferencing and how we engage on social media become critically important. One look at our current intern class, though, and it is clear that last year’s virtual recruitment was a complete success. I know the Education Leadership team and our stellar Chief Residents have not tinkered too much with last year’s formula. The schedule, the lineup of interviewers, the extra effort to connect a candidate with a particular interest to a faculty member working in that subspecialty—it’s all a well-oiled machine at this point and I am certain that by March 2022 our department will be just as celebratory as we were in March 2021.

If the recruits seem to appreciate the glimpse into a typical day of a potential peer, I thought that those of you not directly involved in the interviewing process may be curious about just how all that Zoom time gets managed. In other words, what does a typical Interview Day look like for one of our recruits? I don’t think we’re revealing any secret sauce at this point, because what you can see in the schedule is what anyone could probably guess. I join the first Zoom session to give a personal welcome to all of our recruits and to set their minds at ease. We then emphasize the basics, provide an overview of what the three years here will look like. This is followed by one-on-ones with a couple of our Associate Program Directors, a noon conference with a dynamic and interactive case-based presentation prepared by our Chiefs, and lots of time throughout to catch their breath. It is quite impressive, frankly, to see a session in progress, with multiple Zoom screens and breakout rooms organized, as interviewers, presenters, and recruits are moved seamlessly from station to station throughout the day. All credit goes to Cindy Batzkiel and Abbey Gilpin for their expert-level execution and organization of these multi-media and digital logistics.

If there is one secret we risk revealing here, it is the benefits of those “breaks.” Recruits can turn off their camera and mic, they can use the restroom, but they can also hang out in a breakout room and chat with a couple of our members as well as each other. It is here that they see the strengths of Iowa up close. They learn about our commitment to diversity, not because it is a line in an overview but because it is threaded through everything we do. They learn about our commitment to individualizing a training program that aligns with their professional and personal career aspirations. They learn about our camaraderie because they can see it, the same familiarity and friendly closeness between an APD and a PGY-2 as between two interns. Recruits hear first-hand from current residents just how supported they feel both by our faculty, by program leadership, and most important, by each other. Authentic happiness cannot be faked, even through a screen; when recruits see that, they know, even just after part of a day, that Iowa could easily be someplace to call home.

What kinds of things do we tell these recruits about what they can expect at Iowa? We tell them about what our graduates go on to do. We can point to former Chief Residents of Quality & Safety Dr. Matt Soltys and Dr. Carly Kuehn, now the Educational Director of Quality & Safety. Each of them have been instrumental in helping our residents make some of their first big-stage presentations at conferences like Midwest SGIM. We can point to Dr. Andrea Weber, graduate of our Med-Psych residency, and winner of this year’s AMP Roger Kathol Award, who will lead the introduction of addiction medicine curriculum to our medical and physician assistant programs, a critical recognition of the world our trainees must be prepared for. We can show them former residents who are thriving in subspecialty fellowships here and elsewhere. What is remarkable is how easy it is to simply look back over the past two or three months to find many examples of the successful trajectory of our trainees.

Education weaves through everything we do. Potential recruits see it and want to be a part of it. APD Dr. Katie Harris recently reported that the CCOM Internal Medicine Interest Group, for which she and Dr. Manish Suneja are faculty co-leads, currently has more than 50 members. She says 36 of our medical students intend to apply to categorical positions in internal medicine. Last year it was 20. I will just let that statistic speak for itself. Clearly, we are doing something—a lot of things!—exactly right.

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