Greetings, Dr Khalid. It such a pleasure to be talking to you! Many congratulations on your match in Internal Medicine at the Cleveland Clinic. This is incredible news for everyone of us at Alfaisal, and we couldn't be more proud!
Let's begin with a bit about yourself. How would you introduce yourself to the people reading this? We'd also love to hear about your hobbies and interests.
Thank you! I appreciate your kind words, and I'm proud to be one of the many graduates representing Alfaisal. I'm originally Syrian, grew up in the US, and moved to Saudi Arabia a little over 10 years ago. Each one of these countries has played a major role in shaping my life. I enjoy spending time with my family, cooking and trying new foods, reading, and I love cats.
How do you recall your experience of giving the Steps and then applying for the Match?
They were stressful times of course, but alhamdulillah, like all things they passed. You have to focus on what you want to achieve and push through till you come out on the other side
We don't get to interview a Cleveland Clinic resident every day! Please tell us more about what it is like to be at Cleveland Clinic.
It's great alhamdulillah! I'm really enjoying my time and learning a lot. Obviously the patient population we get here is incredible, with people of varying backgrounds and socioeconomic statuses from across the country and all over the world. We get a lot of education as formal lectures and as rounds teaching by some of the best clinicians in their respective fields. But above all, I really love the culture of support and the warm environment here, particularly within the residency program. All my co-interns are great to be around, and the 2nd and 3rd year residents I've worked with have been amazing teachers and supervisors. I've learned more from them than anyone else
How is your Internal Medicine residency coming along? We'd also love to hear about your future plans, particularly your incredible passion for oncology.
It's off to a great start alhamdulillah, for all the reasons I mentioned above. With regards to fellowship, I'm asking my seniors for advice and looking for mentors. If you're interested in a competitive fellowship, you need to work hard from day one. You should be an excellent resident of course, but also shine beyond just your clinical duties, either by research, teaching, and other forms of "extracurricular" achievements. And from what I can tell, a lot of people aren't completely sure what fellowship they want at the start of their residency, and that's okay. You can take time to explore different specialties, just make sure you're doing an excellent job throughout.
Is there something you wish you knew earlier regarding Steps and/or Match that would like to mention?
During my medical school time, I wish I had known a little earlier the importance of the USMLE and doing US electives. I might have been able to plan ahead a little better. I'm very happy with how things turned out, but during the interview season, in the uncertain period prior to the Match results, I realized there were things I could have done to maximize my chances, including reaching out to programs earlier to express my interest. I would also recommend applying to A LOT of programs. The more you apply to, the better your chances.
For ambitious medical students reading this (juniors and seniors), what advice would you share with them? This could be related to Steps, US residency, electives or even medical school.
The most obvious advice would be to do your best at each component of the application - Step scores, US clinical experience and letters of recommendation, GPA, research publications, etc. No one can be a perfect candidate, but the better you do in each of these, the higher your chances. For those who don't just want to Match, but are aiming for the top institutions, being a great all-round candidate isn't enough. You also need to stand out considerably in something that most other applicants don't have. Those could be through significant research experience, learning biostatistics and being capable at it, significant extracurricular projects or humanitarian volunteering work. There are thousands of applicants with good scores and letters. To make it to the elite places, you need to stand out. Keep in mind you don't NEED to match in a top hospital to have a great career. One of the many advantages of training in the US is that there are so many great programs that can provide excellent training, even in hospitals that aren't famous. Having a well-known institution on your CV is just a bonus, not a necessity.
And above all, enjoy the process, learn as much as you can, and do your best regardless of what you choose and where you go.