As you start to prepare your applications for , reviewing orthopedic residency interview questions will aid your efforts tremendously. Residency interviews have a significant impact on your ability to match with a program, so it’s important to use to complement your review of important questions.
In your preparation, you will need to target the right attributes and experiences in your interview answers to engage with the parameters of the questions correctly. In this article, we show you how to navigate this aspect of the matching process by providing with sample answers.
1. Tell Us About Yourself.
I grew up in a very sheltered conservative community in the GTA. I say sheltered because, I’ll admit, I was very privileged to grow up in a place where there’s plenty of access to jobs and education; our homeless population is also quite low, and so are our crime rates. We have a good amount of wealth that gets transferred back into the community into social welfare programs; we have a lot of selfless volunteers that keep our community clean and functioning. “Sheltered” may have a negative connotation in some contexts, but to me it just describes my reality.
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I was never very good at subjects like science and math, and these were the classes everyone thought you needed to be good at to do anything meaningful in a career and in life. It was sort of a self-fulfilling prophecy I fell into – because I thought I could never do well, I never tried. This cycle perpetuated until high school when I went in for after-school help for my science class in 9th grade. My teacher showed me that with a little effort, I could succeed and actually enjoy the subject matter; I was also rather fond of dissecting frogs and other things. My hobbies underwent a drastic change that year, and instead of passively waiting for some sort of passion to strike me like a bolt of lightning, I realized that if I applied myself, my interests would flourish – and they did. I joined the robotics club and read countless books on planes and spacecraft with a dream of working for NASA.
In my first year of undergraduate studies in aerospace engineering, I decided to join some of my peers on a trip to Argentina. I was initially skeptical because their purpose for going was to gain some exposure to other health care systems, as they were premeds; my motivation for joining them was just that I wanted to experience another culture – to separate myself from the “sheltered” environment I grew up in. The trip was not what I was expecting. I shadowed local medical professionals; I helped perform check-ups on patients of varying ages; I also assisted in other ways as needed, like cleaning instruments and escorting patients to waiting rooms. It quickly became much more than the cultural exposure I was initially vying for. I was, however, truly immersed in another culture entirely different from what I knew; Buenos Aires is a bustling city with great food and happy people (that love music and dance). I think everyone ought to see the city at least once in their lives if they can.
Fast-forward to medical school, I had trouble finding a way to apply my background in aerospace engineering, until my third year, when I started an orthopedic clerkship in an outpatient setting. I started learning about orthopedic biomechanics, particularly of the hip and knee. We learned, among other things, musculoskeletal dynamics and the biomechanics of total knee replacement designs, which were surprisingly similar in their complexity to spacecraft design and controls. I began to see the human body through the eyes of an engineer; I was able to apply my knowledge of physics and engineering to the human body while I learned about the basic concepts of musculoskeletal imaging. To this day I still build robots and read engineering books, but only as a hobby – but I will say that it has enriched my appreciation for intricate “design” and the human form.
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2. Why Orthopedics?
I don’t have a very compelling backstory for why I chose this specialty. I’ve never broken a bone or had any serious injury, like some of the other orthopedic residents I’ve met. One of my interests, perhaps the most consequential one, is human anatomy. Starting in high school, I was taking advanced classes in kinesiology, where I had to memorize all the bones in the human body. I remember everyone dreading that activity; everyone except me. There was nothing I looked forward to more – well, that and getting to tinker with the anatomy model we had in class.
Frankly, my research endeavors have always somehow carried me like a current in the direction of orthopedics. During my premed studies, I shadowed a forensic pathologist who was analyzing the bone structure of a body for evidence of physical impairments. Seeing a cadaver up close was not only fascinating (and also unsettling to some extent), but it also gave me an appreciation for the complexity of this system and how it operates. From there, I joined a quality-of-life improvement study assessing the outcomes of joint replacement surgery. It wasn’t until medical school that I started to deliberately seek out research assignments that would satiate my craving for more knowledge. I started on two distinct epidemiological studies for osteoporosis screening for fragility fractures and predictors of complications of total joint arthroplasty. So, to answer your question – my primary motivation is and always has been the division of research associated with orthopedics.
3. What Do You Do in Your Free Time?
I’ve always been an avid reader, so at any given time I’m reading a book. Most of my reading interests consist of the classics – Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, Virginia Woolf; recently I’ve become interested in learning more about history, because I feel like it’s one of the most important subjects that I’ve overlooked in my studies. Having at least a cursory understanding of historical events I think would encourage more people to be more appreciative, while also critical of our current occupancy on the historical map. As they say, those who don’t learn history are bound to repeat it. I don’t know how true that is, but I act as if it is.
Currently, I’m reading a book on the history of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, mostly because I think it’ll help me appreciate the diversity of religious beliefs. I grew up in a religiously passive household, so in some ways I missed out on learning about how spiritual beliefs can manifest, and I want to be able to apply that sensitivity to my patients in my future practice.
4. What is the Most Essential Trait for an Orthopedist to Possess?
This may be a somewhat uncommon answer, but I think the most important quality an orthopedic doctor should possess is an interest in medical advancements. I learned quickly in my medical school clerkships that there’s no way to reconcile disinterest in research and developments in the field with a desire to enter this specialty. For instance, I had the enormously intriguing opportunity to observe wide-awake hand surgery on a patient who had carpal tunnel. What was interesting about this new surgical technique was that the surgeon was able to assess the efficacy of the treatment in real time. The surgeon could also communicate directly with the patient, which can help alleviate discomfort and stress. Recovery with this technique also tends to be a lot easier, because of reduced bruising and swelling. This also means that less postoperative pain medication is required, which is an important prospect, especially for elderly patients.
And this is only one example of new developments in the field that are having a positive impact on the way orthopedic medicine can improve recovery rates. Biomechanical engineering is perhaps one such field that evolves the quickest; with so many new advancements, I think orthopedic doctors need to be open to learning new methods and participating in the research backing those innovations. Patients deserve the highest quality of care, so I think interest in research and openness to new techniques are among the most advantageous qualities for an orthopedist.
5. Why Our Program?
My main priority when it comes to orthopedic residency programs is productivity in orthopedic literature. I’m very bent on learning from eminent contributors to orthopedic research, as I’ve been given many opportunities throughout my medical school training to engage with and learn from mentors. Among other things, they taught me the importance of developing a strong research question and suitable experimental parameters to yield statistically significant results. My research experience as a medical student was broad and included topics such as spinal metastasis, fracture healing, and elbow arthroscopic surgery. There were aspects of each project that resonated with me, but for the most part, I enjoyed doing the research for the sake of it.
The current research opportunities offered at your institution coincide with the research experience I have; the trajectory of those interests, from my current standing, converge on the category of arthroplasty. From reading the publications and active research of your dedicated faculty members, I can see that topics such as implant tribology, arthroplasty outcomes, and lower extremity trauma have been a priority. I would be honored to work alongside Dr. Jonna who is at present exploring a knee arthroscopic study, along with the other researchers whose interests extend into areas like sports medicine and general trauma.
6. Describe an Instance in Your Life When You Acted as a Team Player.
During my fourth year of medical school, I was working at a clinic when an elderly patient arrived complaining of knee pain. She was experiencing a great deal of pain and a reported decrease in her ability to function day-to-day. We discovered from the radiographic assessment that she was suffering from degenerative joint disease. My job was to conduct the patient assessment and review her medical history. For the small but important role I played, I learned that the treatment options she had been prescribed, namely injections and activity modifications, simply hadn’t been enough to reduce pain and increase functionality. At that point, the question of surgery came up; I discussed with her the risks and benefits. Because she was an elderly patient, the other physicians and I identified the possible complications of oral narcotics, which we agreed should be limited. In this case, I think my role as a team member was not quite as palpable as it might seem to an outsider, but I think without it, the potential for complications or human error would’ve certainly increased.
7. Where Do You See Yourself in 10 Years?
In ten years, I see myself moving back to the town in which I grew up, working at my own private practice as an orthopedic surgeon. My family has a history of arthritis; my mother and my uncle both had surgery this past year, but they had to travel to one of the hospitals two hours away because there were no surgical treatment options near them. I think opening my own practice would do the community a lot of good; back home, I know that there’s a fairly significant network of physical therapists and sports facilities, which I think would benefit from having a private practice specifically for surgery. I imagine this would also greatly increase the awareness of treatments and education about various diseases of the bones, joints, ligaments, etc.
8. What Would You Do if You Couldn’t Be an Orthopedic Doctor?
One of the aspects I love about orthopedics, and probably one of the biggest factors driving my choice, is the diverse patient population. During my clerkships, I saw many athletes who suffered a broken bone and required extensive rehabilitation. Children are also more prone to fractures than sprains because their ligaments tend to be stronger than their bones – I worked in a pediatric orthopedic clinic during one rotation where we saw patients who suffered accidental trauma primarily in the form of fractures: supracondylar fractures, wrist fractures, and tillaux and triplanar fractures were among the most common. There were also elderly or middle-aged patients who needed joint replacement surgery or rehabilitation for dislocations. So really, orthopedic patients are like a box of chocolates – you never know what you’re gonna get.
Given that patient diversity is a defining aspect of this specialty, a reasonable alternative for me would be family medicine. I think family medicine also shares another aspect of orthopedics that I would enjoy: continuity of care. Particularly for patients who undergo significant surgeries or rehab at the behest of an orthopedist, a relationship founded on trust and understanding will be important for improving treatment outcomes.
9. To What Do You Attribute the Success of Our Institution?
The most noteworthy characteristic of your institution, and particularly the orthopedic residency program, is the ability to maintain research and clinical excellence without compromising on either. Compared to most residency programs, yours starts immediately with hands-on clinical experience to develop the technical skills required to transition more quickly and effectively into surgery. There’s also a clear and actionable rubric for feedback so that residents can get the most out of their learning; I also believe that the competency-based medical education platform has driven a lot of the program’s success. This is also part of the reason the curriculum can begin with the surgical skills preparation course early in PGY1, where residents learn basic surgical skills like handling tissue and bone drilling. The variability of training sites also allows residents to learn in different clinical environments where they are exposed to an assortment of patient profiles that engage each surgical skill.
10. What is Your Greatest Strength?
The soft skill that I think is baked into my personality is my altruism; I don’t mean altruistic in the sense of being charitable or innately prone to giving, because I think a lot of what society deems altruistic is instead a disguise for self-interest, such as when people publicly advertise their charitability to boast their reputation. The type that I’m referring to, that I believe I possess, is a benevolent curiosity about human nature.
In completing my undergraduate in psychology, I learned a great deal about motivation and behavior, which I’ve used as a tool to enhance the quality of my patient interactions. For instance, I had a patient during a rotation who was defensive when we brought up the possibility of her having a neck fracture. Initially, the reaction seemed absurd; she was in pain, and clearly she wouldn’t have come to us if she didn’t think there was something wrong. However, upon reflection, I understood that the underlying reason for her standoffishness was perhaps due to a variety of invisible factors, and speculation was both beyond me and irrelevant. Instead, my propensity for nonjudgmental interest in her character allowed me to proceed to ask open questions in a way that empowered her to, in some sense, come to her own conclusions about her condition.
1. What sort of questions should I ask the program director at the end of the interview?
You can ask them questions about the program structure; good questions should show that you’ve researched the program and that you’re looking for more detail regarding its components. Consider these questions: what is one thing you would change about the orthopedic residency program? Are there options for attending orthopedic department meetings? What is the cultural profile of the patient population at X clinic/hospital?
2. How can I talk about my greatest strength without sounding boastful?
Use examples from your rotations; make sure you use an objective tone and avoid any self-praise or fixation on a particular accomplishment.
3. What are the best traits for an orthopedic resident to possess?
You should exhibit an acute readiness to learn and demonstrate that you have a flexible outlook, that you’re resourceful, that you can be a leader, and that you have a strong interest in learning or developing new technical skills.
4. How do I compare residency programs to inform my application choices?
Some things to look out for in a program include the following: program setting (community hospital, affiliated hospital, university hospital), average working hours per week, compensation, location, and presence of an optional or mandatory dedicated research rotation. Check out the to get an idea of what to look for in a program.
5. Is there anything I should avoid saying in the interview?
Avoid being critical of the program you’re interviewing for; try to devise answers that exhibit knowledge and passion for the specialty, and never lead on that you’re hesitant or not entirely committed to the program.
6. How should I prepare for the interview?
7. I’m having a hard time thinking about where I will be in 10 years or so. How can I develop a clear vision?
Think about the clinical environment you find the most stimulating. Generally, you should have an idea of the setting in which you will thrive or at least enjoy. Then, consider whether you will want to pursue research in your career and what topics you might want to explore.
8. Should I read the publications of the faculty members in the program?
Reading recent faculty publications can certainly show that you’re enthusiastic about working with and learning from faculty members; having a familiarity with their research interests and what they’re actively working on will also give you an opportunity to show that your research background aligns with the parameters of their research rotations.