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Succeeding as a Urology Applicant in the American Urological Association Match

If you are thinking of a career in Urology, the first step is to find a mentor within the urology department here at KU Medical Center. We can help by reviewing your interest, your fit and your academic readiness.

About Matching in Urology

If you are reading this as a first-year medical student and are already looking to your future career in urology, kudos to you for committing to a great specialty early! Now, save this article and get to work achieving high academic marks, finding a urologic mentor and becoming a well-rounded doctor.

If you are reading this as a second-year medical student or during a research sabbatical, again, this guide will be useful very soon, so keep up the good foundational work described above.

If you are a third-year medical student reading this, then you are the target audience and you have the opportunity to make many strategic moves to position yourself as a desired candidate.

If you are a fourth-year medical student reading this article, don't despair. Let this guide reassure you that you have a viable plan in place. Adjust as needed for your specific situation and stage of the process.

For anyone interested in urology, we highly recommend you first visit the American Urological Association's (AUA) webpage on the urology and specialty matches and familiarize yourself with the timeline of events. This can be very helpful when planning your third- and fourth-year medical school rotations. After familiarizing yourself with the match cycle, review the timeline below and adapt the recommendations to your stage of training. Please note: This timeline assumes a four-year medical school experience. With some modifications, this information can be adapted to M.D./Ph.D. programs, extended track students, foreign medical graduates or second-time applicants.

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Timeline

Academic Excellence

  • Commit to a plan for success on all clerkships. Utilize the entire clerkship to study. Don’t procrastinate and wait until the end.
  • Utilize the USMLE World question bank to work questions to practice for your SHELF exam. Talk to fourth-year medical students or residents on your rotation about the best reference texts for each clerkship.
  • Doing well on your pediatrics and psychiatry rotation may not seem integral to success as a urologist, but the better your overall transcript, the more programs that will be within your reach.
  • Develop a study plan and timeline for taking and excelling at the Step 2 of the USMLE. Taking this early enough for your score to be available for the application cycle is more important if your Step 1 score is near the national mean or lower. Some advise deferring Step 2 until later in your fourth year if you have an exceptional Step 1 score. This is an individualized choice that may be influenced by your medical school’s rules on when you must sit for the exam.

Research

  • Some programs value research more than others. You are more likely to get an interview at most academic programs if you have substantial research on your CV.
  • Most successful urology applicants have completed basic science, translational or clinical research in at least one urologic focused project.
  • Don’t neglect or abandon current research activities as these are still pertinent for your application. Urologic research indicates a commitment to advancing the field.
  • Contact your home department’s program director or research coordinator and politely inquire about getting involved in research.

Building Up Your Curriculum Vitae 

  • Most important items:
    • Third-year medical school grades and USMLE Step 1 Score
    • Performance on surgical clerkship
    • Leadership activities
    • Research
    • Extracurricular activities
    • Alpha Omega Alpha (AOA): very helpful, although not essential to matching. Historically, approximately 25-40% of matched applicants are AOA members.

Urologic Knowledge Base

  • Start reading the basics now. The American Urological Association has an excellent medical student curriculum with interactive modules and reviews on common urologic diagnoses and treatments. Aim for 100% coverage of this material by the end of your third year.
  • Attend your home department’s didactic conferences or grand rounds if possible. This allows you to get to know people in the department before your sub-internship. Research or even operating room opportunities can often manifest from your presence at conferences.
  • Download the American Urological Association Guidelines at a glance app for your smartphone and start learning evidence-based care of urologic problems.
  • Order Wieder’s Pocket Guide to Urology. This is the most concise pocket reference for the young urologist.
  • Master genitourinary and abdominal anatomy.
    • We recommend Netter’s Anatomy for fundamental review.
    • Utilize Hinman’s Atlas of Urologic Surgery to prepare for operative cases.
  • Begin reading Campbell-Walsh Urology. This seminal four-volume text is available in most medical school libraries. Focus on chapters dedicated to anatomy, genitourinary physiology, imaging, diagnosis and management of the most common urologic disorders.
  • Begin reviewing Smith’s Urology.

General Goals

  • Continue to excel as a third-year student.
  • Begin to plan meticulously for your urology sub-internships, away rotations and the interview cycle and match.

Visiting Student Rotations/Sub-internships (“Away Rotations”)

  • Things to consider when choosing where to go on an away rotation:
    • Number of rotations to take (most students do at least two).
    • Would I want to live here?
      • Do not go on an away rotation to a program where you would not want to attend for residency.
      • You have the highest chance of matching at either your home program, a program with which you have regional ties or one of your away rotations.
    • Region
      • Urology has a strong regional bias. If you want to get outside of your home region for residency, you should highly consider doing an away rotation in the region in which you are interested.
      • If there is a specific program that highly interests you, it is most likely a good idea to do an away rotation there.

Registering for the American Urologic Assocation (AUA) Match

  • Registration usually opens in June.
  • Check the AUA website for the updated timeline.
  • Registering for the NRMP match is no longer required.

Registering for the Electronic Residency Application Service (ERAS)

  • Registration also usually opens in June.
  • Check the AAMC website for the updated timeline.
  • ERAS acts as an electronic curriculum vitae to standardize applications for all programs.
  • Entering your activities, research, leadership and personal statement is time consuming.
  • Start early and do not wait until days or hours before the application opens in September as this program is known to crash due to high traffic during this period.
  • Talk to your medical school’s career and academic counseling office for more best practices.
  • The ERAS application typically opens in mid-September, and you will apply to your list of desired urology programs through this service.

Personal Statement

  • Start early and write multiple drafts. Again, do not procrastinate on this important piece of your application.
  • Have this ready and polished by the beginning of your sub-internship so that it is available for potential letter writers.
  • Prepare in advance and enlist a writing expert or consultant to help you craft this most crucial piece of your application. Remember, this document represents you to all prospective interview committees.
  • Keep your statement concise and focused. It should be well written and unique. Most statements are 500-600 words.

Home Rotation/Sub-internship

  • We highly recommend doing this rotation before setting out on away rotations if possible.
  • Generally, your home rotation will be more intuitive as you should be familiar with things you likely take for granted, such as getting around the medical center, navigating the EMR and the routine of your daily commute.
  • Use your sub-internship to further familiarize yourself with common urologic problems and treatments.
  • Seek out all opportunities to insert and manage catheters, perform small procedures, change dressings on rounds and more. This will pay dividends down the road.

Visiting Student/Away Rotations

  • Do at least two away rotations.
  • Every day is a job interview. Do not squander any days on your away rotation.
  • Things to do to succeed when on an away rotation:
    • Work hard. Impress the faculty and residents.
    • Make sure to prepare for cases exhaustively by reading up on the pertinent clinical information. Use Wieders, Campbell-Walsh Urology, AUA Medical Student Curriculum or other resources and the operation/anatomy references, Hinman's and Netter’s.
    • Reflect each day and take notes. Consider whether you like the program. Five to six years is a long time to spend somewhere based upon name alone. Ensure you enjoy the environment and culture.
  • Research opportunities while on away rotations:
    • Getting involved in research at a program you are visiting is by no means essential, but it may be beneficial to seek out research opportunities.
    • You can contact the urology research coordinator ahead of time to ask about opportunities.
    • Remember you will have a lot going on each day, and your clinical responsibilities will ultimately come first.
    • If you decide to undertake research, make sure to complete it with meticulous care. Establish a clear timeline with the principal investigator on when tasks should be completed.
  • Secure letters of recommendation from key staff, including the chairperson.
    • Find out who you should contact to set up a meeting with the chair or anyone else from whom you would like a letter.
    •  Schedule this meeting during the first half of the rotation and plan to meet with pertinent faculty during the second half of the rotation.

Letters of Recommendation

  • You should have three to four letters to submit for ERAS. All should be from urology faculty. Every other type is worthless in the AUA Match no matter how strong your relationship may be with the letter writer.
    • Never use a letter from someone who was not enthusiastic about writing the letter for you. A mediocre letter from a well-known faculty member is less valuable than a stellar letter from someone else within academic urology that writes you an outstanding letter.
    • Ensure that letters will be strong by asking the letter writer, “Would you feel comfortable writing me a strong letter of recommendation?” Any answer less than a resounding yes should give an applicant pause about using that letter.
  • Letters from Away Rotations
    • Ideally, you should have garnered at least one high-quality letter of recommendation from each visiting student rotation, including from the chair of the department.
    • You will get to choose four letters to submit with your ERAS application, but understand that you can, and should, personalize the specific four letters you submit to each program. We recommend tailoring this choice by region and/or by other known existing networks.
      • For example, if during your meeting with a chair at a visiting rotation, the chairperson comments that they know a specific faculty member at your home institution and admires him or her, perhaps this is a better letter choice than someone else. 
      • Use your own discretion.

Interview Offers

  • Interview offers will come via email. 
  • It is important to respond as soon as possible, as spots are available on a first-come, first-served basis. 
  • Set a unique alert on your smart phone for emails and set your email to "push" delivery so that the moment you get an interview offer, you can respond.  
  • Many interview offers do not come out until after Oct. 1. Do not worry if you don’t hear from programs on Sept. 16 after submitting your application on the prior day.

Contacting Programs After Submitting Your Application

  • Sometimes communicating with programs can help to get an interview or a spot off the waitlist. Call or send an email to the program coordinator indicating your interest in the program. Calling is probably more effective than emailing since it is hard to ignore. We recommend calling after the submission deadline has closed and about two weeks before offers to the program are scheduled to be distributed. 

Pre- or Post-Interview Social Gatherings

  • You have secured an interview! Now you actually get to visit the program.
  • Most programs have a social gathering with residents and some staff members usually the night before.
  • The absence of a large proportion of the resident complement, or residents who seem to be closely moderated by staff during the event, is likely a red flag.
  • You should try very hard to make this event, but it is not a necessity. Due to travel constraints, you may not be able to make it. Enjoy the time and learn about the program.
  • If you choose to imbibe, limit alcohol intake to one or two drinks. Use this time to gather information about the personality of the program to help discern if you are a good fit.

Interviews

  • If you make it to an interview, you have met the program's minimum requirements, and your application is finally in your hands - and words and actions - on interview day.
  • Practice and prepare, but don’t sound rehearsed. Utilize mock interviews at your medical school if they are offered. Have a mentor interview you before you depart for the interview trail.
  • Look up information about the program ahead of time and know the landscape regarding where faculty trained, what regional or national committees they serve on and what major research publications or guidelines they may have contributed to in recent years.
  • Review AAMC's most frequently asked interview questions.
  • Prepare questions to ask the interviewers.
    • One of the most common questions asked on interview day: “What questions do you have for me?” Some interviews consist of only this question. Be prepared.
      • Samples:
        • What brought you to this program and what has kept you here?
        • What qualities do you see in your strongest residents?
  • View other sample questions (PDF).
  • Be yourself, be kind and be humble. Programs want someone who is a team player and who they will enjoy working with for thousands of hours over the next five to six years.
  • If you have an updated curriculum vitae, take it along. Some faculty may be interested, but your application is usually sufficient. Take it and you will be prepared for the one interviewer who asks for a copy.
  • Keep track of your thoughts to help you with ranking programs. Make rubrics, spreadsheets or just trust your instincts, but take a few notes for each program.

Post-Interview Contact and Second Looks

  • Thank you notes
    • Although thank you notes are not required, applicants may write post-interview thank you notes if they choose to do so.
    • Programs cannot respond to thank you notes written by applicants.
  • Second looks
    • The Society of Academic Urology strictly prohibits requiring visiting rotations or mandating or offering second looks. Required rotations or visits and mandated second looks for consideration by a program to match with that program are over-burdensome for many applicants, unfair to all applicants and not in line with the SAU-AUA Match process.

Submitting Your Rank List

  • Remember the AUA Match timeline and deadlines.
  • Rank only programs that you can imagine attending. You have to live with this decision for many years. However, if you want to be a urologist, you have to match.
  • Submit your list and be confident in your ability to discern the places that would be best for your training.
  • Celebrate! That was the most fun you hope you never have again!

Questions?

Moben Mirza, M.D., Urology Program Director
Casey Kowalik, M.D., Urology Associate Program Director

School of Medicine

University of Kansas Medical Center
Department of Urology
Mail Stop 3016
3901 Rainbow Boulevard
Kansas City, KS 66160
Phone: 913-588-6146