Issue 7 - May 17, 2024

Sole Purpose 7
Answering Social Questions

One of my favorite aspects of residency interviews were the social inquiries. I found it enjoyable that, after tackling (hopefully acing) the cases, I could offer the interviewers a glimpse into who I am and what drives me. While I understand that residency interviews are still some distance away, I wanted to draft this piece early because I frequently encountered social questions while in the OR externships. Below, I outline how I approached these social inquiries and provide examples of my responses.

“So, tell me about yourself?”

I used to dread this question. I mean, what exactly do you want to know? Be specific! And try to keep your answer under 90 seconds—trust me, it's harder than it sounds, or maybe I'm just long-winded. Also, try to avoid stating general things that people can glean from a glance at your CV. Instead, explain what those experiences mean to you and how they relate to who you are.

For Example: “Hi! My name is Savannah Santiago, I'm a fourth-year student at Western University in Pomona, California. Originally from sunny San Diego, California, I grew up immersed in sports, which instilled in me the values of leadership, teamwork, and self-discipline from a young age. I had the privilege of competing in cross country and track and field at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs (UCCS). At UCCS, I pursued a double major in biochemistry and Spanish language and culture. Fluent in Spanish, I also obtained my translating license, as I'm deeply passionate about working with the Hispanic community. Balancing athletics with part-time work and involvement in research and club activities during my undergraduate years taught me invaluable time management skills. Following my undergraduate studies, I transitioned directly into podiatry school at Western, where I've spent the past four years. When I'm not immersed in studying or hospital duties, I enjoy a variety of activities, including trail running, surfing, hiking, reading, and baking.”

Yes, it's quite a mouthful, and I had to practice saying it until I found a good flow. However, I managed to convey where I grew up, where I attended school, and my various involvements, all while highlighting key characteristics about myself.

“So, why podiatry?”

By the third year of podiatric medical school, one would ideally have a clear understanding of their reasons for choosing this field. It's crucial to have a general idea of what you want to express and to maintain a positive tone in your response. Avoid mentioning motivations such as financial gain, parental expectations, or not being accepted into an MD/DO program as reasons for pursuing podiatry.

Example: “I love podiatry and have a myriad of reasons! Growing up with a mother in healthcare instilled in me a desire to help others, and my early fascination with medicine further solidified this passion. Additionally, spending time woodworking with my father cultivated a love for working with my hands. While exploring various medical specialties through shadowing experiences, it wasn't until I shadowed a podiatrist that I truly felt at home. Having been diagnosed with diabetes at age 19 and experiencing numerous sports injuries from my time in cross country and track, I found a sense of belonging within the podiatric community. This field not only resonated with my personal experiences but also offered a unique opportunity to work with a diverse patient population. Moreover, I was drawn to the balance podiatry provides between surgical procedures and clinical care, as well as the opportunity to explore various subspecialties within the field.”

"What is your favorite...?"

Always have a favorite book, movie, or music genre ready to share. Be genuine and try not to take too long to think of an answer. It might seem amusing to mention Watkins as a favorite book, but they want to see that you're a well-rounded individual beyond just podiatry.

For example:

My favorite book: "Little Women" - It's a classic, and I enjoy rereading it.

Favorite movie: "Nacho Libre" - While I'm not entirely sure it's my absolute favorite, it's the first one that comes to mind. Plus, I can quote the movie back if they start quoting it, so it doesn't feel like a lie.

Favorite music: “Taylor Swift” (duh) - Although I recognize that not everyone shares my enthusiasm for Taylor Swift. Therefore, when selecting music in the operating room, I typically opt for '80s rock. It tends to uplift everyone's mood, and coincidentally, it's what I listen to during my runs.

Favorite bone: “Navicular” - I have an accessory navicular, which was my first exposure to podiatry.

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“If you were a ____ what would you be?”

These questions can be challenging and seem quite random at times. However, try to respond in a manner that showcases a positive aspect of your personality or character.

For example:

“If I were a tree, I'd be an aspen tree because they thrive above 10,000 feet, much like my ability to flourish in challenging environments.

If I were a bone, I'd choose the first metatarsal because it can withstand immense pressure without fracturing.

If I were a color, I'd be yellow because, like sunshine, I exude warmth and energy.

If I were a fruit, I'd be an orange because of my vibrant personality and sweet disposition.”

You get the idea... and yes, I've been asked all of these.

Inappropriate questions

OOF. Dealing with inappropriate questions can be a challenge. I tend to lighten the mood with a joke when faced with such queries. For instance, I've been asked multiple times about pregnancy and whether I plan to have children (although not during residency interviews themselves). While I believe these questions were posed without any malicious intent, it's important to address them tactfully. I quip about how I am 25 and “just a baby” or make a humorous remark about not wanting to wear lead with the mini-C-arm. This usually elicits chuckles, allowing us to move on from the topic.

Similarly, I've been asked numerous times about my boyfriend and how his influence or his job might impact my choice of residency program. In response, I simply hold up my left hand and say how I have NO RING on my finger and emphasize that while he's wonderful, my priority is finding the best training program that aligns with my goals.

Once, I was even asked what I would do if something happened to my boyfriend during my residency due to the danger of his job. This question caught me off guard. While I hope nothing ever does happen, I responded with a smile, jokingly saying that I'd collect my giant government check, pay off my loans, and show up for work ready to go.

Although social questions can be daunting, they present a fantastic opportunity to showcase your unique qualities and strengths. Practicing with friends can greatly assist in preparing for these questions, and adopting a positive approach to your responses can help alleviate interview nerves. Best of luck to everyone!

Until next time!

Savannah Santiago
PRESENT Sole Purpose Editor
[email protected]


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