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It’s that time of year again. If you are a 3rd-year medical student interested in applying for a pathology residency, chances are high that your application due dates are just around the corner. So, how can you ensure you’re applying to the right programs? We compiled this list of the top 9 tips for choosing the best pathology residency program.

1. Research the faculty

Get a good idea of who will be training you in the different disciplines. See what their specialties are, and whether they align with your interests. See if the faculty are interested in teaching their residents (vs. researching or lecturing around the world). Look into the level of collaboration among faculty and residents, the level of support provided to residents, and the availability of mentorship opportunities.

2. Identify how broad the training will be

Wherever you go for residency, choose a place that will give you a full breadth of experience in pathology with a wide variety of tools. Is there expertise in all subspecialties, or are there primarily generalists? Is there expertise in molecular pathology, informatics, and digital pathology?

3. Choose one with an emphasis on teaching residents

Some residencies work under the assumption that you’re lucky to be at (insert prestigious institution name here) and therefore don’t need to put any real effort toward your training. You will want a program that will pay attention to your education.

4. See if the program also offers fellowships

If you’re already considering a fellowship after residency, you may want to look into whether or not the institution you’re applying for also offers fellowships for the specialty you’re interested in. There is typically a higher likelihood of being accepted to a fellowship at the same place where you completed your residency. Having said that, some programs with many fellows don’t leave much interesting work or research opportunities for residents.

5. Look into the program’s track record

Research the program’s track record for job placement, board certification, fellowship placement, and graduates placing in positions like the ones you are hoping for.

6. Talk to current and former residents

Talk to current and former residents of the program, preferably away from any formal setting, to get a sense of their experience. Did they feel supported and adequately prepared for their careers? They will be able to offer you some of the best advice you will get, tailored to that specific program. 

7. Look into the program’s facilities and equipment

Consider the program’s facilities and equipment, including the availability of state-of-the-art technology and space for research and other projects.

8. Consider work/life balance

Ask about the program’s schedule and get a good idea of what will be expected of you if you are accepted. Realize, though, that your program colleagues will be relying on you to cover the service and not make their lives difficult. Focusing on your lifestyle might make them concerned about your commitment. Further, consider choosing a more rigorous program. You have a short window to learn everything you will need. Working harder for the first few years will allow you to be confident in your practice and ultimately give you a better work/life balance later on in life. 

9. Attend interviews

Attend interviews for programs you are considering to get a better sense of their culture, faculty, and resources. Use this opportunity to ask questions and get a better sense of whether the place is a good fit for your goals and career aspirations. Remember that they want to know how you will make their program better, so do some research to learn what experience, knowledge, or interests you have that can elevate their program.

By considering these tips for choosing a pathology residency program, you will be better set up for success. Good luck with your placement! For more residency tips and general pathology information from experts, check out our Ask a Pathologist podcast.

Interested in trying digital pathology after your residency? Look into our image management software package Viewer+.

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