Exploring family medicine residency letter of recommendation samples can help you understand what’s expected and support a match to your dream residency program. Even though you are likely not writing them yourself, letters of reference are key to securing your place in a family medicine residency program. Knowing who exactly to ask and what information needs to be included is vital to your success.
This article provides helpful samples for writing letters for match services such as ERAS or CaRMS that emphasize the qualities important for family medicine and tips for who to ask for a reference when applying to a family medicine specialty.
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Sample Letters of Recommendation for Family Medicine
Clinical Family Medicine Residency Letter of Recommendation
Dear Program Director,
It is an honor to write this letter of recommendation for Mr. John Smith in support of his application to your family medicine residency program. We met during his third year of medical school, but we have remained in touch as he completed his studies. I worked very closely with Mr. Smith when he completed over 200 hours of clinical experience in my private clinic, where I have served my community for almost 25 years. In addition to being an exemplary medical student, Mr. Smith’s knowledge of family medicine procedures, focus on patient care, and excellent problem-solving skills made his presence in my clinic worthwhile.
While working in my practice, Mr. Smith displayed a high level of professionalism when interacting with patients and other staff. He was able to treat patients from many different cultures with ease. Many of our patients are immigrants to Canada from countries such as Haiti, Vietnam, and Israel. An elderly patient I have known for two decades who is not fluent in English made a point of telling me how impressed he was with the way Mr. Smith communicated his test results to him and alleviated his worries about his health, despite the language barrier. Mr. Smith had a way of getting a patient’s full attention when speaking to them, no matter where they came from or what issues they were facing.
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At the clinic, Mr. Smith was extremely organized and prepared for each and every patient that came through the door. His detail-oriented approach to family medicine proved to be rather effective, especially through his specific interest in autoimmune diseases. This was particularly evident when he was able to connect slight abnormalities in a young woman’s bloodwork to the seemingly random chest and muscle pains she suffered from. He created a list of several potential causes, varying in severity, which eventually led us to a diagnosis of Systemic Lupus Erythematosus. In any follow-ups with this patient, Mr. Smith assisted with treatment and comforted the patient with utmost care when explaining what the possible next steps would be.
In 25 years of practice, Mr. Smith is within the top 10% of the most skilled students I have ever had in my clinic. I truly believe his caring personality, ability to absorb new information, and aptitude for patient interaction will make him an asset to any team he is a part of. He is sure to be a perfect fit for your residency program.
Robert Jones, MD
Academic Family Medicine Residency Letter of Recommendation
Dear Program Director,
It is my pleasure to write a letter of recommendation on behalf of Ms. Elaine Bautista for her application to your family medicine residency program. I have 15 years of experience as a clinical faculty member at the University of Ottawa Faculty of Medicine. I worked with Ms. Bautista closely in class and while supervising her third-year clerkship. During her time in class with me and over an 8-week rotation focused on family medicine, she set herself apart with her superior medical knowledge, clinical abilities, activism, and empathetic nature.
For as long as I have known her, Ms. Bautista has always put advocacy at the forefront of her medical practice. In addition to her familiarity with class material, she often posed questions after class about residency opportunities for international medical graduates and how immigrants can have better access to both medical education and care in Canada. In class, she always brought a unique perspective to whatever discussion we were having, as she had completed an undergraduate degree in political science before eventually pursuing medicine. After spending time with her, it is clear that her experiences studying law and politics influence her passion for the medical field and vice versa. Part of her admirable goals within the medical field are to improve the health care system for the Filipino community as well as other immigrants.
Ms. Bautista has demonstrated her strong understanding of medical concepts through her interactions with patients. When assessing a patient’s file, Ms. Bautista always followed up on previous notes or symptoms to juxtapose them with the patient’s current condition. In her patient-centered approach, she correctly identified the onset of type 2 diabetes in a child who was a regular at the clinic, carefully explained the disease to his guardians, and recommended treatment options.
While Ms. Bautista is an exceptional learner, she has also been fully capable of passing on these skills to others in her charge. When first-year students visited the clinic, she would take the opportunity to provide them with guidance, stories, and information as they began their journeys in medical school. She would often ask students how they would act in various circumstances regarding patient interaction or what types of medication they would prescribe for specific symptoms. She would then provide them with helpful feedback on their responses. When I saw those students in class later on, they were quick to inform me that they were very appreciative of Ms. Bautista’s mentorship.
Ms. Bautista is a highly dedicated and passionate medical professional that I am grateful to have had as part of our program. I have no doubt she will make an outstanding impression on all those she meets during her residency. She will become an excellent family physician and leader in the community. I give her my highest recommendation.
Emily Hsu, MD
Submitting Letters of Recommendation
Uploading an ERAS letter of recommendation for American applications and using CaRMS in Canada is a whole process in and of itself that you must be acquainted with to fully take advantage of. These residency match services are meant to make the process as convenient as possible for those applying for residency. For ERAS, once you are done entering all of your letter’s information, each reference will then receive a letter ID and request form. Your letter writers use these request forms to upload your letter to the portal. Don’t forget to waive your right to view the letter, as not doing so can be seen as a red flag by program directors.
As for the CaRMS reference letter, your writers will also be submitting them directly, but through an online account dedicated to CaRMS. There is no request form needed. References can be initially prompted to send in the letter once you have listed them, but it is recommended that you speak directly to your writer beforehand to confirm their participation and provide them with all the information they need. This way, you will allow them to deliver a strong letter of recommendation without any miscommunication.
What Qualities to Emphasize in a Family Medicine Residency Letter of Recommendation
In a letter of recommendation, residency program directors want to see what specifically makes you qualified to become a doctor. What is it about your work ethic or your countenance that makes you a great candidate to become a resident doctor? Do you have what it takes to be successful in a future medical career? Persuasive letters from professionals currently in the field or professors who are well-acquainted with you that answer these questions are more likely to result in an acceptance. These application documents are meant to be evidence to prove your credentials and also give others the opportunity to vouch for your dedication to the profession. They are very important to consider, not only as you learn how to prepare for your residency application, but throughout your entire journey as a medical student.
What makes these letters persuasive? When thinking about reference letters for a residency program, it is crucial that the letters you submit reflect the qualities necessary for the medical specialty you chose. Strong letters of recommendation can differentiate one student with similar credentials from another when residency program directors are deciding who to match with. If you apply for one specialty, but your reference letters evoke very different qualities that perhaps do not fit that discipline, you risk not receiving a match for that cycle. While there are viable ways to improve your residency application after going unmatched, this is a situation that no medical graduate wants.
While recommendation letters will support your overall candidacy for residency, each specialty has its own preferred qualities and qualifications. If represented effectively, your embodiment of these qualities can make you stand out from the crowd of applicants and prove yourself as a future medical practitioner in that field. The right letters, along with your family medicine residency personal statement, will clearly express how you embody some of these characteristics. In the case of family medicine, these can include:
Who Should Write Your Family Medicine Residency Letter of Recommendation?
Many upper-year medical students applying to residency are familiar with acquiring medical school letters of recommendation for their past programs. The process for residency letters of recommendation is quite similar, although now you will have more clinical experience from rotations and professors to pull references from. As discussed, your letters will also need to be tailored to the particular specialty you are applying to.
The best way to get a strong letter of recommendation is to put your best effort into everything you do. When you become aware that you will need them to apply for residency, always keep in mind who could potentially be reference writers and foster relationships with these individuals. If you are a great colleague or student who makes a good impression and conducts themselves professionally, this will likely translate into a persuasive letter of recommendation for you. Knowing how to write your own letter of recommendation is also wise. You can provide a draft of the essential points to your letter writer, who can then follow your structure to personalize the letter and fill in additional details.
In terms of who to ask for a letter, diversity is key. You will want to submit letters from supervisors or professors that can truly speak to your aptitude and suitability for the medical profession, but they should come from different spaces. Identify individuals from a variety of environments who know you on a personal level as well or see you work day-to-day. Only using letters from professors at school will show your academic prowess but will not address any clinical or volunteer experience. Try to have a balance of professors, research advisors, clerkship attendings, and extracurricular or volunteer supervisors. This will show many sides of yourself and provide a holistic view of you as an applicant.
A key feature of your letters of recommendation to remember is that, for you to have the best shot at acceptance, at least one letter must be directly related to family medicine if you are applying to that specialty. It will be most persuasive for program directors to hear from someone within the specialty you are pursuing. A mentor, department chair, or attending physician currently working in the field will be the best person to write this particular letter. They can best vouch for your work within family medicine and confirm that you display the qualities necessary to be successful as a future doctor.
Most medical students know the importance of letters of recommendation and have mastered the art of asking for them. This is no different when applying to a residency in family medicine. Connecting with your supervisors is simply part of the process of becoming a doctor. When you enter a career as precarious as medicine, you need to really be sure of your choice. Those around you will be able to tell if you are truly ready for the endeavor you are taking on.
Your status as a resident will ideally be your official introduction to full-time medical work post-graduation. Having health care professionals currently justify your candidature will surely help induct you into the next generation of doctors dedicated to helping their community. That being said, the journey to being a licensed physician is not easy, and no one does it alone. If you are hesitant about your application, seeking residency help from an academic consulting firm can be the solution you need to get to the next level.
1. How many letters of recommendation are typically needed to apply for residency?
It depends on whether you know how many residency programs to apply to. While you will only be allowed to assign up to four letters to most of the residency programs you are applying to (with a minimum of three), it is always better to have more options to choose from. Therefore, having five or six is ideal to make sure you will have enough to deliver a well-balanced application.
2. Who should write my letters of recommendation?
Each program might have its own requirements for who letters come from, but what is most important is identifying individuals who know you the most on a professional and personal level. As a result, these people will provide strong letters that can detail your specific qualifications for family medicine. Letter writers can be pre-clinical professors, research advisors, volunteer or extracurricular supervisors, attendings you interact with, or department heads.
3. Who should I not ask to be writers for my letters of recommendation?
If you do not have a strong relationship with the person or you only met them in passing, it would probably not be best to ask them for a letter of recommendation. Avoid individuals who are hesitant when you ask them for a reference, as it is less likely they will produce a strong letter for your application.
4. How should I ask for a letter of recommendation?
In person is always the best way to go, but email can also be suitable. You should just ask them privately and directly if they would be willing to write a strong letter of recommendation on your behalf. If you have done the necessary work to build that relationship, you should be met with a passionately positive response.
Provide any information that could be useful for the letter writer to know, such as the letter request form, your residency personal statement, biography, USMLE or COMLEX scores, transcript, or any other relevant documents.
5. When should I ask for letters of recommendation?
At the very minimum, ask for the letter about two months before the deadline. However, the earlier you ask, the more prepared you will be.
6. I am an international medical graduate. How should I go about getting letters of recommendation?
If you are an international medical graduate looking for a residency match in North America, it is best to get a few letters of recommendation stemming from Canada or the US, as writers from your country of origin will not be as much help unless they are internationally renowned. This will increase the credibility of your letter. The references you choose are also more likely to give you a strong letter if they know what the residency programs want to know. This is one of our tips for how to get into residency programs as an IMG.
7. Are DO schools a better option if I want to specialize in family medicine?
You can always check out medical schools with the best match rates to help make your official decision, but even when you compare DO vs. MD, family medicine is still one of the least competitive specialties to match with. Many osteopathic medical school graduates have better match rates overall and do concentrate on primary care disciplines, such as family medicine or internal medicine, but that does not necessarily mean that DO schools are inherently better options for you.
8. How can academic consulting help with my residency applications?
Companies such as BeMo Academic Consulting can provide the best residency application consultant to assist with any part of the residency application process, including choosing who your references should be. They can also give you expert feedback on your residency CV or personal statement to ensure they are as well-written as possible. Through academic consulting, you can also learn about the most effective family medicine residency interview questions and answers and participate in realistic simulations to perform your best when you reach the interview stage.
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