Medical Physics: What's important to get a residency?

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Graduate grades, undergraduate grades, abr physics, abr clinical, letters of recommendation, abstracts in conferences, papers published, thesis vs. non-thesis, clinical experience, school-name, ability to bs your way through an interview, etc.

What's the order of importance?
 

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Choppy
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Almost all of the above.

There's no "one size fits all" ideal candidate when it comes to medical physics residencies. That's because different programs will be looking for different qualities.

Some residencies are essentially post-doctoral research positions tied together with clinical training. You advance a research project, they teach you the clinical aspects of medical physics that will get you a job: win-win. For these kinds of positions the more academic the candidates tend to be favoured. They're going to look for a relevant background in research, your publications (both quality and quantity), favour PhDs over MScs, etc. That's not to say that clinical skills aren't important though. They still want evidence that you'll be successful in your clinical rotations.

Other residencies are almost entirely clinical. Some of these are set up specifically for MSc graduates to help get them into the workforce and prepare them for work in the less-academic, more clinical centres. Some are looking for someone to do some heavy lifting on a major clinical project (say commission a new linear accelerator) and they will tie that to a rigorous clinical training program (again: win-win). Others are more like a set of rosters that you work through and that's about it. Your scientific publishing record tends to carry less weight for these positions. More weight is given to clinical training and experience, projects that you've done as a graduate student and performance in your classes.

Some residencies tend to prefer candidates from specific programs - in many cases from their own graduate programs because they've had a lot of experience already with those candidates who then present less of a risk. In other cases, there's just a familiarity dimension - the residency coordinators have had positive experiences with graduates from a certain program and therefore tend to favour other grads from the same program.

The other thing is that most programs are looking for someone that's going to be nice to work with. Medical Physics involves a lot of long hours, and often work that needs to be done under stressful and time-sensitive conditions. An attitude where you try to "bs your way through an interview" will get your application tossed very quickly.

Another big tip is to know something about the specific program(s) you're applying to and why you want to attend those ones. Someone who just wants to get in "somewhere" is rarely chosen over someone who can articulate why a specific residency is going to be a good fit for him or her.
 
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