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Tips for Students - Preparing for the ASHP Midyear Clinical Meeting: An 8-year perspective

Friday, September 21, 2018   (0 Comments)
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David E. Zimmerman, PharmD, BCPS, BCCCP
Assistant Professor of Pharmacy at Duquesne University
Emergency Medicine Clinical Pharmacist-UPMC Mercy
I remember my first ASHP Midyear Clinical Meeting (MCM) as a student in my last professional year at the University of the Sciences. I was excited to talk to residency programs that I had been researching, see the student and clinical programming, but also very nervous after I realized how competitive positions are. I am no expert on the MCM, but I will be attending my eighth meeting (3rd at Anaheim) so I thought I would provide some advice that I picked up from being a student, resident, and now a faculty member/clinician attending the meeting. 
The first piece of advice, just relax and be yourself! I have created the below timeline and included some pieces of advice that I have picked up over the years. Also, check out the useful resources that ASHP has on residency and preparation for the MCM. 
You should already have a Curriculum Vitae (CV) started but now is the time to get input from mentors, preceptors, faculty members, and friends. You do not want any mistakes on your CV as that can be a red flag to residency program directors (RPD’s) and reviewers. There is no single format that is correct so you will get differing feedback. But realize your CV is yours and yours alone. You should design it in the way that best reflects you. 
This is also the best time to start researching programs if you have not started already. Check out the ASHP Residency Directory to get started. Here you can search for PGY1 and PGY2 programs by state and specialty. Make sure you also click on the program links so you can go to their website and find additional information. There are many ways to keep track of programs but I would recommend an Excel list so you can compare important factors that you are looking for in programs. Examples include: size of the program, a certain rotation or two that you want to make sure the program offers, teaching certificate offering, on-call, and staffing schedules, research projects and how they are selected or assigned, etc... You can also create a column for questions that you want to ask at the residency showcase. Make sure to book your hotel and flights around this time as well (there is nothing wrong with rooming with some friends to save some money).

Your CV should be in the final stages of editing and printed out prior to the MCM. It’s good to have some copies (maybe 10-20) but note that not every program will take CV’s (imagine having to carry them all back on the plane ride home). There is nothing wrong with being prepared though. You should definitely have business cards that look professional (I am a fan of the simple, classic look) as this is a main way of introductions and keeping track of who you have met. One simple trick is after receiving someone’s business card, write down where you met the person and what you chatted about. That way in the future you can go back and include information to make the communication (email, letter of intent, etc.) more personal. Speaking of that, it is never too early to start drafting your letters of intent as application deadlines are not that far after the MCM. I have found better quality letters of intent with those that have put in the effort and reviewed and edited multiples times versus those that were done last minute. Make sure to ask the people (preceptors/employers/mentors) who you would like to write you a letter of recommendation prior to the MCM. The more time they have, the better their letters and evaluations will be.
Before heading out, it is a good idea to create a list of programs that you are interested in and which showcase they are in. This goes along with planning out the rest of your schedule with talks you would like to attend, meals (and caffeine breaks), and networking events. There will be long lines for meals/coffee, so just be patient as you never know who is in line with you that you can spark up a conversation with. As an aside, Anaheim typically has food trucks outside the convention center and is something I look forward to.
When traveling to and from the meeting, keep in mind that RPDs, preceptors, or residents from programs that you are interested can be right behind you. Always make sure to be professional in conversation wherever you are. The MCM has some great programming on Sunday for students to learn more about residencies and the Match process. Take advantage of networking events whether it is your School of Pharmacy’s or another event you are invited to. The networking opportunities at MCM are one of the best aspects of the meeting. I always look forward to catching up with former classmates, residents, or individuals I have met throughout the years. I can honestly say some opportunities were created for me and more importantly friendships gained by simply networking at meetings. There is not a whole lot of time following MCM and application deadlines, so make sure to finalize your list of programs and set-up via PhORCAS for those writing your letters of recommendation.
I hope these words of wisdom will help and wish you all the best of luck at the ASHP MCM!

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