April 2021

Members & Publications

A Future Sports Medicine Fellow’s Take on the Virtual Interview Cycle

Tracey C. Isidro, MD

Tracey C. Isidro, MD
PGY4, Baylor College of Medicine PM&R Program

What a year 2020 was! Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) promoted the transition of interviews to a virtual platform1. But how was the first virtual interview season?

Being a sports medicine applicant during this unique cycle and having been involved with admissions committees at the university, medical school and residency levels for almost a decade, I was curious to see how programs restructured interviews and adapted. With 25 interview invites, I thought it would be helpful to share what I learned first-hand from the 23 interviews I completed.

Dr. Tracey Isidro's Virtual Interview Cycle Experience

It was quite a virtual interview season, and there were definitely pros and cons.

From the applicant’s perspective, we saved money and had less stress related to travel, food and hotel/lodging. Thus, applicants could have applied to more programs they may not have initially considered if geography and/or financial reasons were a concern. Programs also saved money, since they did not have to pay for food or incur other costs traditionally spent during in-person interviews. As an aside, one program sent a GrubHub coupon for dinner, and two programs mailed goodie bags, which were creative and thoughtful alternatives. In addition, almost half of my interview days lasted less than three hours. It could have been perceived as a positive that the interview day was efficient, but others may view this as not enough time spent with the program.

However, there were disadvantages to a virtual cycle, like the ability to have in-person interactions, meet more people, get a true “feel” or “vibe” of a program and explore the city and program’s facilities. Luckily, the PM&R sports medicine applicants created a WhatsApp group to keep in touch throughout interview season. There were technical issues and increased screen time, which led to Zoom fatigue, but programs did invest additional time to train staff on how to do virtual interviews and to create content, like video tours or recorded information sessions. Another challenge for some applicants was creating a virtual backdrop and finding a quiet place in one’s home or office without distraction from children, roommates or pets. The time difference made it difficult for applicants on the West Coast interviewing at East Coast programs. A 7:45 am (ET) log-in time for interview day was 4:45 am (PT).

Overall, programs and candidates adjusted well. We shall see, pending COVID-19, whether programs will fully return to in-person interviews, continue with virtual interviews or offer a hybrid option.

After virtually traveling around the country for interviews and meeting incredible people, I am happy to share that I will be the 2021-2022 Sports Medicine Fellow at Weill Cornell Medicine and NewYork-Presbyterian! Many thanks to my family, friends and mentors who helped me through this process. I’m excited for this next chapter and sending positive vibes to you all on your journey!

  1. AAMC. Conducting interviews during the coronavirus pandemic. 2020. Available at: https://www.aamc.org/what-we-do/mission-areas/medical-education/conducting-interviews-during-coronavirus-pandemic