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Internal Medicine Residency Interview
Questions

28 Questions and Answers by Ryan Brown

Question 1 of 28

Do you believe telehealth is an effective form of healthcare delivery?

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Internal Medicine Residency Interview Questions

  1. 1.

    Do you believe telehealth is an effective form of healthcare delivery?

      Although telehealth or telemedicine has limitations, including the ability to do a physical exam and get vitals, it is a useful way of reaching out to some patients who otherwise would not be able to get care. For this reason, it is important that we embrace telehealth platforms yet recognize they are not ideal. Your answer should provide the pros and cons of telehealth as well as an example.

      Ryan's Answer

      "I believe it is. Although we are unable to do a physical exam or get vitals, we can sometimes reach patients who would otherwise not be able to access care. In my psychiatry rotation, for example, I had the opportunity to assist in a counseling session and provide a medication refill over a telehealth platform for a young patient who did not want to travel outside due to concerns of getting infected with COVID-19. Without the telehealth platform, we may have lost this patient to follow up. It was important to discuss with her, however, the risks of using telemedicine including providing her a prescription refill without being able to do an adequate physical exam or assessment of her vitals."

  2. 2.

    What are your thoughts on the relationship between physicians and the pharmaceutical industry?

      While medical students are generally dismissive of interactions between physicians and pharmaceutical companies, due to the tendencies of these companies to financially reward physicians for using or prescribing their products, it is important to realize that sales representatives of pharmaceutical companies are an important ally for physicians and provide essential information.

      Ryan's Answer

      "While I recognize that financial incentives provided by pharmaceutical companies to physicians are not acceptable and should be restricted, I do see value in pharmaceutical sales representatives as useful sources for more information about a new drug including data from clinical trials, for samples for my future patients, and for information about the manufacturer’s programs to help make their drugs more affordable for patients who are struggling financially, particularly ones that don’t have health insurance."

  3. 3.

    What patient characteristic do you find most difficult to work with?

      Pick a quality that doesn’t reflect poorly on you. For example, answering “complex patients or very sick patients” may reflect on you as being lazy or unable to handle difficult cases. Instead, choose a quality that impairs the ability of even the most competent and hard-working doctors from delivering high quality care, for example, lack of patient insurance or homelessness.

      Ryan's Answer

      "I am challenged in my ability to make a difference for patients who are limited by socioeconomic circumstances. Treatments needed for patients are typically given with the assumption that the patient’s basic needs including housing and a reliable source of food are met. In reality, it is understandably hard for a patient to pay the copay of a medication for their heart when they struggle to afford food, childcare, or other basic necessities. In these situations, I try to provide the most cost-effective care (e.g., prescribing low-cost drugs and being upfront about costs associated with different types of care) and work with a social worker to help the patient get connected with important resources."

  4. 4.

    What does a perfect day look like for you?

      This is a question to assess if you have a significant personality outside of medicine and to ensure you have interests that will protect you from being burned out. Don’t talk about studying, doing work, or anything objectionable, such as expressing political views. It is best to keep your answer brief and straight to the point.

      Ryan's Answer

      "I love to run with my dog in the morning and doing so gives me a lot of energy throughout the day. I am a big fan of drinking coffee afterwards by the beach and listening to classic rock music. I love going to restaurants with my friends by the beach and would also try to catch a live comedy show."

  5. 5.

    What are your thoughts about living in this city?

      If you have lived or visited the city or adjacent cities you should mention this fact. You should also pick traits that are unique to the city that would intrigue you and explain why an applicant who has spent his entire life in California, for example, may be open to living in the Midwest.

      Ryan's Answer

      "I have only visited Las Vegas once, but I am excited to live in the entertainment capital and think it will provide me with the unique experience of treating international patients who fly into Las Vegas. I also love to hike and appreciate that mountains are close by."

  6. 6.

    What will you bring to our residency?

      This question can be thought of as “Why should we choose you?” It helps to approach this question by thinking of qualities that would be desired by internal medicine residency programs such as good communication, diversity, and unique education (e.g., an MPH or MBA).

      Ryan's Answer

      "As someone who is fluent in medical Spanish, I am excited to interact with the largely Spanish-speaking patient population at your hospital. I believe I can identify and address concerns that are frequently lost with the use of medical translators. I am also excited to learn more about health problems and concerns specific to the Hispanic community."

  7. 7.

    What animal would describe you?

      This question is asked more often senior residents who may interview you than faculty. It is best to answer this question straightforwardly and concisely. Pick an animal that has a quality or characteristic that is present in great doctors and one you want to show the interviewer that you possess. You may also include a brief example to emphasize your point.

      Ryan's Answer

      "I think I am most like a bee. Bees are very focused on a single mission, producing honey, and work hard to achieve this goal. When I set my sights on a goal that is important to me, I tend to be very focused and not get distracted easily. One example of this is when I hiked to the top of the Rocky Mountains with my brother."

  8. 8.

    Tell me about a time you received criticism from an attending or resident.

      The unstated question here is “How did you handle this criticism?” Choose a criticism that does not highlight a significant or persistent deficit in your ability to provide care. The means by which you handled this criticism should show your devotion to providing optimal care and willingness to use the criticism to shape how you approach patient care.

      Ryan's Answer

      "One criticism I received during my anesthesia rotation as a medical student was that I was spending too much time with patients in the preoperative rooms. As a result, I was causing delays in starting surgical cases. I was not aware of hospital benchmarks to improve case turnover until an attending told me. I asked the attending if it was okay for me to call patients the night before to ask my questions about their medical histories and remind them to not eat or drink after midnight, and he said that would be okay. For the remainder of the rotation, I always called my patients the night before instead of trying to get a history before a surgical case that was about to start."

  9. 9.

    How do you feel about the 80-hour work limit for residents?

      A lot of people are opinionated about this topic, including likely your interviewer. For this reason, it is important that you focus on the pros and cons but do not take a very strong stance on this topic.

      Ryan's Answer

      "I understand this system is in place to prevent poor resident performance due to exhaustion. I have also read about a study that showed patient care decline more from changes in shifts than physician exhaustion from long hours. As I have not yet lived the resident lifestyle, I can appreciate the merits of both arguments but cannot definitively say I have a strong opinion for or against this time limit at this point in my training."

  10. 10.

    Who is your hero?

      Describe a single person and explain why they are your hero. Only focus on one or two characteristics they possess. Do not provide a laundry list of characteristics. These characteristics should be attributes you find valuable that are critical to working as a physician (e.g., communication, teamwork, leadership, empathy, organization).

      Ryan's Answer

      "One of my heroes is my cousin. He is a phlebotomist and does a great job comforting his patients, particularly kids, during blood draws. I hope to treat my patients with that same degree of compassion and validation of their concerns."

  11. 11.

    If I asked your friends, what would they say are your strengths and weaknesses?

      For your strengths, state something that is unique to you and applies to the field of medicine. The common strategy that you may have heard in explaining your weakness is to say something that is really a strength (e.g., “My weakness is that I work too hard”). This is often a very transparent tactic to interviewers. For this reason, it is imperative you provide an example of a legitimate weakness but something you have worked on improving with concrete steps, and no longer consider a weakness. You can list 2 strengths and 2 weaknesses, 1 strength and 1 weakness, or 2 strengths and 1 weakness, but don’t list more weaknesses than strengths.

      Ryan's Answer

      "My strength is that I prioritize clear and timely communication with everyone I work with. During my rotations in medical school, I worked closely with social workers to ensure that patients had placement in a nursing home or other facility set up so that they could have a smooth transition out of the hospital when their clinical condition improved, with physical and occupational therapists to ensure early rehabilitation following surgery, and with the nurse and patient to ensure any questions or concerns about care were addressed in a timely manner. My weakness is self-criticism. I will frequently reflect on my words and actions and will wonder if I should have said or done something different. With patients, I have learned to call them to provide new information on important issues that I may have neglected to discuss during their appointment."

  12. 12.

    I see that you struggled with 'X course or rotation' in medical school. Why was that?

      The interviewer is often looking at your transcript or MSPE as he or she asks this question. Don’t try to deny or deflect a statement made about you in your MSPE. Instead, accept responsibility and provide a sincere explanation. Keep the explanation brief as you want to focus on what you have learned from that experience or how you have changed from the experience to ensure that similar problems will not happen again.

      Ryan's Answer

      "During my first pediatric rotation, I didn’t realize that even when treating an adolescent, it is important to provide updates to the family at bedside. I was only engaging with the patient. After getting this feedback from my attending, I realized that it is important to discuss the concerns of everyone in the room, not just the patient. I now build repertoire with families of patients who visit the hospital by introducing myself to them and learning their names. Whenever I enter the patient’s room, I ensure I have asked the family members, in addition to the patient, if they have any questions or concerns before leaving the room."

  13. 13.

    Do you consider yourself organized?

      The only right answer to this is yes. In fact, you should use this an opportunity to talk about ways in which you prioritize organization and thus may be more organized than your peers. Remember, managing 8 or 10 patients on wards requires you to be extremely organized and not make sloppy mistakes.

      Ryan's Answer

      "I have always loved to organize things. This came in handy during my first two years of medical school, as I was presented with large amounts of information each block, and during my rotations in my last two years when I had to keep track of multiple patients. I used several tools including charts, different colored pens, and notecards to help me stay organized and ensure I didn’t miss deadlines or even small details."

  14. 14.

    How do you perform under pressure?

      You should provide an example of a time when you were challenged by a difficult workload. This can be a time when a resident and you were managing several critical patients or a time when your workload was difficult. Discuss how you reacted in that situation, what you learned from this experience, and if you would do things differently next time.

      Ryan's Answer

      "One time in medical school, our block exams were moved to an earlier date in the middle of the block. In order to be ready for the exam on time, I had to seek out my peers for recommendations on study materials to better understand difficult concepts. Fortunately, I was able to prepare for the exam on time, but in the future, I realized it is important to know what resources you have, even if you don’t plan on using them, as unexpected challenges arise in both medical school and patient care."

  15. 15.

    Tell me about a time you had a conflict with one of your peers.

      The unstated question here is “How did you handle the conflict?” You should describe a simple scenario briefly, focusing on your response to the challenge rather than on describing the details of the conflict. When you discuss how you handled it fairly, be sure to emphasize that clear communication was instrumental.

      Ryan's Answer

      "One time, while working a group project, there was a miscommunication about who was going to produce a report close to the deadline. This arose because we did not clearly outline a plan at the start of the project and did not maintain regular communication about project updates. Fortunately, we all understood the importance of completing this project well, so we decided to share the responsibility of completing the report. In the future, I will prioritize laying out a clear understanding of division of responsibility and setting a timeline to provide for regular updates. So, if any issues arise, including from miscommunication, we can address them early."

  16. 16.

    What are you looking for in a residency program?

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  17. 17.

    Why do you want to pursue a career in internal medicine?

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  18. 18.

    What is the biggest challenge you faced in medical school?

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  19. 19.

    What do you like to do for fun?

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  20. 20.

    What aspects of our program interest you?

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  21. 21.

    Why did you want to go into medicine?

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  22. 22.

    What worries you most about residency?

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  23. 23.

    What are some challenges in the field of internal medicine?

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  24. 24.

    How would you deal with a disagreement among colleagues or seniors?

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  25. 25.

    Do you have any questions for me?

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  26. 26.

    Tell me about yourself.

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  27. 27.

    Where do you see yourself in 5 years? 10 years?

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  28. 28.

    Tell me about a time you had a difficult patient. How did you deal with that?

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