Friday, February 20, 2015

Why Residency? My PGY-1 Pharmacy Residency Letter of Intent

Like I mentioned in previous blog posts, I applied to 7 residency programs and was invited to an on-site interview by 6 of those programs. Some of my friends/classmates applied to 12-20 programs, and only got 2-4 interviews out of all those applications. That means I did something right :-) 

A pharmacy residency application (submitted through a centralized application service called PhORCAS) consists of multiple components and often makes the candidate feel as if they are under a microscope, as the program looks at so many different factors and arenas of one's professional as well as personal life. 

This is how the homepage of PhORCAS looks, which highlights the major components of the residency application.

Your GPA, choice of didactic courses, choice of rotations, leadership experience, and pharmacy work experience (all logically, neatly, and professionally written in a good looking, well-organized Curriculum Vitae) are important components of the residency application, however, residency programs are also looking for good, strong letters of recommendation from your rotation preceptors / employers (most programs require 3 letters) as well as a strong and well-written RESIDENCY LETTER OF INTENT.

These are the minimum areas that PhORCAS suggests for the candidate to address in their letter of intent:

Since I got a lot of interviews (meaning I had a strong application), I wanted to share with you an example of my letter of intent. Of course, each letter of intent has to be different and individualized based on the program that you're applying to. So YES, I wrote 7 Letters of Intent. But the good news is, most of the LOI stays the same (your goals, your qualities, why you want to pursue residency), and you just have the personalize the part that addresses why YOU are a GOOD FIT for that particular program and why THAT PROGRAM is a good fit for you (how it will help you to meet your long-term goals).

So here is one of my letters (of course, using false names for privacy/security purposes). 

This also helps you, my regular readers, to get to know me a little bit more closely from the professional/pharmacy side and get a deeper understanding of why I WANT TO PURSUE A RESIDENCY.


Agnes [LastName]
123 Xanax Cir.
PharmVille, IL 12345
(111) 222-3333

[Residency Director's Name], PharmD, BCPS
Pharmacy Residency Director
Advocate Christ Medical Center & Hope Children’s Hospital
9999 W. 99th Street
PharmCity, IL 54321

Dear Dr. [Residency Director's Name],

I am writing to inform you of my strong interest in pursuing the PGY1 pharmacy practice residency at Advocate Christ Medical Center & Hope Children’s Hospital. I have had the pleasure to interview with ACMC at Midwestern University’s Career Expo on October 15th as well as speak with your current faculty and residents both at the Career Expo as well as the ASHP Midyear Clinical Meeting in California.

I have spent the past four years working toward my long-term goal of becoming an expert clinical pharmacist as well as a didactic and experiential educator. My ideal practice setting is an academic medical center that is affiliated with a school of pharmacy, since this would allow me to combine clinical practice with teaching experience. I have always had a passion both for healthcare and for education and have been fascinated by the impact that a compassionate healthcare provider can have on the lives of his/her patients as well as the positive influence that an extraordinary educator can have on his/her students and on the profession.

More specifically, my goals consist of completing a pharmacy practice PGY-1 and a specialty PGY-2 residency, acquiring a teaching certificate, becoming BCPS certified, and obtaining a position where I can serve as an integral part of a multidisciplinary team while precepting and lecturing students. In order to pursue such a career, I realize that it is necessary that I complete a residency program that will augment and expand my educational foundation, enhance my skills, and help me to achieve my clinical as well as academic aspirations. My deep passion for healthcare and education combined with the experiences I had on my critical care, internal medicine, NICU/Pediatrics, and academic teaching rotations are only some of the factors that helped me to decide that a pharmacy practice residency will be a crucial pursuit in my life.  I am fully aware that only through a pharmacy residency will I be able to undergo unique, challenging, and sometimes even intense experiences that will shape me into an excellent clinician and educator.

I am drawn to ACMC’s residency program because of its ability to provide me with a myriad of hands-on opportunities that will augment my pharmacy practice and critical thinking skills and at the same time allow me to serve as an educator to my patients, other healthcare professionals, and future pharmacists. ACMC has several aspects I am looking for in a program, including a strong focus on and a wide variety of rotations in critical care and pediatrics.  These are currently my areas of strongest interest and the fact that ACMC also offers advanced rotations in these two areas of practice further adds to how important it is for me to obtain the ACMC PGY-1 residency. Other elements that add to my interest in ACMC are the facts that it has an outstanding Children’s Hospital, a level I NICU and level III Perinatal Center, and as I found out during my interview at Midwestern University, ACMC will possibly be starting a PGY-2 in NICU/Pediatrics. Considering all of that and the fact that ACMC’s program consists of strong and caring preceptors, a challenging yet supportive environment, and opportunities to precept pharmacy students and educate healthcare professionals, I feel that your program will assist me in becoming a highly knowledgeable, highly skilled, and confident practitioner. Principally, your program will prepare me to be both an exemplary clinician and an exceptional educator.
I firmly believe that I possess the skills and qualities that will make me a successful resident at ACMC’s program. Your program consists of a good balance of pharmacy and clinical practice, teaching, service, leadership, and research; and as reflected by my CV, I have had experiences within each of these arenas. As a fourth year pharmacy student, I intentionally selected rotations that not only reflected my interests but also ones that were known to be rigorous, challenging, and pushed me to develop my critical thinking and problem solving skills. These rotations also further cultivated my professional values and strengthened my desires to become a clinical pharmacist, preceptor, and educator. They required the ability to conduct literature searches, provide evidence-based, patient-centered medication therapy management, demonstrate project management skills, participate in medical emergencies, and provide medication and practice-related education. During these rotations, I have consistently shown my dedication to patient care and the profession of pharmacy, enthusiastic work ethic, but also honesty and humility.  I have utilized these skills and qualities to not only meet the requirements of my APPE rotations but to exceed my preceptors’ expectations; and I hope to continue to strengthen these during residency rotations. Additionally, I believe that my high level of motivation, love of learning and teaching, and continuous striving for self-improvement makes me an excellent and well-rounded candidate and a valuable asset to ACMC’s residency program, the healthcare team, and the pharmacy department in general.

Thank you for considering me as an applicant for your pharmacy practice program. I look forward to discussing my candidacy. If you have any further questions, please contact me at or (111) 222-3333

Best Wishes,

Agnes [LastName]
PharmD Candidate, 2015
Midwestern University Chicago College of Pharmacy
Match Applicant Code Number: #####


And now...with 4 interviews behind me, and 2 more to go (in fact, I'll be leaving to drive to Indiana for an interview in a couple of hours), all I can do is:

I will soon post about the interview process, how my interviews went, and how I will rank my programs of interest in the Residency National Matching System.


Thursday, February 12, 2015

7QT #49: Snowmageddon, Residency Interviews, Graduation Anticipation etc.

#1 Survived Chicago's SNOW DAY 2015

Me shoveling the driveway on Sunday afternoon (yeah, thou shalt not labor on holy days). ....but this was a unique situation because I had to be able to get out of my driveway on Monday morning at 5am and drive downtown for a residency interview.
 I'm sure God understood. And it snooooowed all afternoon, evening, and most of the night. Greg and I went back outside at 11pm and cleaned off our cars since we were both leaving home super early in the morning. I ended up taking my husband's large pick up truck and he took my teeny passenger car...and THANK GOD for that decision because I am sure I would have gotten stuck in the snow in at least in 3 different spots. The streets downtown were baaaaad and there were so many cars stuck in the snow and everybody was asking everybody for shovels. I got through the snow and parked fine with the large truck...but if I took my regular car I would not even make it into the parking lot, which was still 60% covered with snow because a lot of overnight hospital workers were parked there and the snowplows couldn't go through. I also had to wear my large boots (along with my suit) to make it through the snow...and then had to change my shoes while inside the hospital, prior to the interview. Such was my adventure.

#2 Survived 2 Residency Interviews (so far)

So my first interview, like I said, was the day after snowmageddon and so I left the house at 5:30am just in case the roads were so bad that I'd be stuck in traffic for 2-3 hours (not unheard of around here, especially when there is snow). I prepared for my presentation the day before and I prayed to Jesus to HOLD ME in HIS HAND and to the Holy Spirit to speak through me and to fill in the blanks for me in case I had trouble. And as always, I felt a lot better and a lot more confident after praying and handing the day over to God. 

The roads ended up being pretty good even before 6am and there was almost no traffic because all of the schools were closed on Monday...and so I got to the hospital area before 7. The hospital is actually about 4 blocks away from the school where I did my pre graduate (pre-pharmacy) studies and so I went to sit at the Starbucks where I used to go as a pre-grad student. I ordered a coffee, put my headphones on, listened to music (good, relaxing music...none of the current pop culture crap),  practiced behavioral interview questions, looked through my CV one more time, and refreshed my past projects in my head in case they ask about them.

The interview was very good. Yes, it was a long day and I had a total of 10 pharmacists interview me. (A bit intense, huh?) Each pharmacist had about 2-3 questions and I spent 20-30 minutes in each room (2 pharmacists per room). The pharmacists, residency director, and current residents were all so very happy to be there and so very pleasant and friendly. It was a full day (9am-4pm) but it flew by and overall I really enjoyed being there. I got a very good overall impression from that residency program and that hospital in general. Plus it's a Catholic Hospital filled with wonderful Catholic things everywhere...which is a huge plus. 

My second interview was today. 
And it was AWESOME. 
I don't even know why I should go to my remaining 4 interviews. I feel so strongly about these two programs I interviewed at so far. They're both just so awesome and so full of happiness and they're both so FULL OF CATHOLICISM. They're Catholic and they mean it. Pictures, statues, crucifixes, chapels, priests everywhere...It made me feel at I was among family. I almost feel that it would be a wiser use of my time to NOT go to these other 4 all-day interviews at the other institutions. But WHAT DO I KNOW? God only knows why He is putting me through these 6 traumatic and mentally draining days of interviews. The opportunities were given to me from heaven and I shall seize them! It never hurts to learn from these experiences, at the least :-)

This is the back of the pharmacy residency director's business card. Isn't it great? Aaaand she told me she can have a career, and her husband can have a career (he's a psychologist) and she can have a family (has 3 little kids - all under 6 years old), and she is able to practice in a hospital with great Franciscan values and mission. Yep! She is a Catholic and a practicing one at that! When I had my 25 minutes at her interview station (I was interviewed by 6 different pharmacists x 25 minutes each), after she asked me a few basic questions, we spent the rest of the time talking about gardening (she is a pro), her kids, the churches we go to (she goes to St. Anthony's and I go to St. towns about 20 minutes away from one another), buying Paczki's (poonchkis) for Fat Tuesday, and  about what we're doing with our husbands for Valentines Day. It was the best and most chill interview ever. And The Residency Director is just such a joyful, bubbly, lovely person. I love her and I would not mind working with her for year of residency.....aaaaand at least 20 years thereafter :-)

Interview # 2 of 6

Oh...I guess I forgot to mention one other thing that made me feel good today. One of the current residents , when questioned about how many programs she applied to, stated that she applied to 20 programs and out of those got 4 interviews. In my head I was like WOW, 20 programs!!!! First of all, that must have cost like a thousand bucks (I paid over $300 for the seven I applied to). Second of all, that's a lot of programs to apply to, interview at, and keep track of. But she only got 4 interviews out of perhaps if she didn't apply to this many she wouldn't get any interviews. The other resident applied to 10. I applied to only 7 programs and got 6 interviews. All but one program invited me. Made me feel like a champ :-)

Now, bring on next week God...3 back-to-back interviews, followed by one last one the week after.

#3 Cat picture of the week


#4 Currently reading:

Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis
Story of a Soul by St. Therese of Liseoux

And I swear they go hand in hand. Their messages are so very similar, almost identical, yet unique. And they're making me fall more and more in love with Jesus and less and less with the world. They give me courage and strength to live out my faith and to make little sacrifices for Jesus, just out of pure love for Him. I'm planning on making a document with all the quotes I underlined/highlighted (that spoke to me) so I have those amazing messages on hand when I need them. They're so very inspiring, especially for lent, since I plan on undertaking some resolutions that will require self-discipline and self-sacrifice.

#5 Graduation is __98__ days away.

#7 Pharmacy Humor

The pain scale they had posted in the lunch room at the pharmacy on one of my hospital rotations.
They're all really funny...but particularly the ones on the bottom.

And this tired but super joyful and grateful pharmacy student goes to sleep now....


Yours in Christ, 

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Reflections From My Journal #11: January 31st 2015

Another post from my Reflections from my Journal series...simply because I was feeling inspired to share it.

January 31, 2015                                                            12:13am

It's Friday night and I just came home from work at 9:30pm and going right back at 9am...and as much as I don't want to work on this presentation for my very first residency interview (Monday)...I make this sacrifice for You Lord. I am following what I believe to be Your Will. I could be in bed right now cuddled up with my husband (and my cat)...but instead I'm going to sit here in my office by myself and read medical journal articles. I'm a little stressed but only because I don't know what to expect and because I only have Sunday to prepare and still sooooo much to do. I don't know which program has a place for me but I know that You have prepared a place for me oh Lord. I will do my best at all six of my interviews and hopefully You will bless me with the grace to properly discern which program to rank #1, #2, #3 etc in the residency match ranking system. Right now I equally like all 6 so I hope that the interviews will help me to eliminate, choose, and rank them in my head and in my heart.

Once again dear Jesus, my lover, my teacher, my friend:

honestly, sincerely, truthfully.

I place myself, my marriage, my future into Your Hands completely. Do with me as you please. For nothing satisfies but to know that You are satisfied with me. Nothing pleases but to know that You are pleased with me.

NOTHING matters.
NOT money.
NOT comfort.
NOT fame.
NOT people's words.
NOT reputation.

I can be poor
and I can be hated by people
nothing makes me RICHER than Your Love.

Jesus, My Dear Sweet Jesus,
I ask You only to have patience with me. I will get there. I know I keep failing You but I am making improvements, albeit small, but I keep moving forward. I'm trying to take small steps to live a life of holiness and virtue...and some days are better than others. But I will not stop trying. I WILL NOT GIVE UP. Inspired by the words of advice that Saint Therese of Lisieux told one of her novices, when the novice was having trouble overcoming her imperfections:

"You make me think of a little child that is learning to stand but does not yet know how to walk. In his desire to reach the top of the stairs to find his mother, he lifts his little foot to climb the first step. It is all in vain, and at each renewed effort he falls. Well, be like that little child. Always keep lifting your foot to climb the ladder of holiness, and do not imagine that you can mount even the first step. All God asks of you is good will. From the top of the ladder He looks lovingly upon you, and soon, touched by your fruitless efforts, He will Himself come down, and, taking you in His Arms, will carry you to His Kingdom never again to leave Him. But should you cease to raise your foot, you will be left for long on the earth."

Please just don't You give up on me my sweet Jesus. You are all I have and I live for none else but you.

You're so beautiful...
so pure...
so holy...

I wish I could touch You
hug you...
hold your hand...
just get lost in Your Embrace for eternity...
I could just sit and stare at Your forever, oh Beloved.
I can live on Your Love alone. 
You are my food.
my drink.
my place of rest. 
my Only One. 

[in Latin]:

(I'm a little obsessed with learning little prayers in Latin lately..and especially writing them in my journal. Latin is such a beautiful language. And praying in it makes me feel like I am connected with all the faithful on Earth, in the past and present, who use[d] that same language to praise the Lord).