Preparation for Family Medicine Residency Application

This is the first in a series of blogs directed toward medical students who are interested in a family medicine career. I offer a perspective on the residency application process, including personal statement and interviewing guidelines.

Soon, fourth-year medical students will begin their applications to family medicine residencies. Hopefully, most will have started preparing for the process in their third year. There are two specific items that can and should be addressed during the third year.

The first is to identify authors for your letters of recommendation. Usually, three are required; one should be from a family physician. Choose individuals who can paint a compelling narrative of you as an individual. This involves more than comments of your procedural skills. The richness of a letter stems from the bond established between teacher and student and how you will step into the responsibilities of an intern from a character-driven perspective. Once you have identified these individuals, contact them early during your third year and inquire if they would be willing to write you a letter of recommendation. This demonstrates you are considerate of their time and provide them with ample opportunity to write a quality letter. Notify them with personal and professional updates as you progress during your third year. This will serve as a gentle reminder of your request.

The second item is to select a demanding fourth-year elective. It should make you sweat and raise your perceived ceiling. The most difficult transition you will make in your professional career is from going from a MS-IV to a PGY-I. The fourth year elective should be one in which you will be charged with the full responsibility of an intern, not an AI or sub-I. Once you have identified the rotation, I suggest you speak with the attending, fellow, or senior resident, and outline your objectives for the rotation. The goal is to function as an intern so there will be no culture shock during your first day as an intern. The particular discipline is not as important as the level of responsibility.  This is a time to work closely with the supervising physicians and made a concerted effort to articulate trains of thought and to construct models of decision making while seeking daily feedback. At the conclusion of this specific rotation, you should come away with a sense of accomplishment AND a healthy respect for the arduous road that lies ahead.

Author: Ronald Fong, MD, MPH

Dr. Fong's opinions are his own and do not represent UC Davis. He can be reached at

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