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SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University

College of Medicine

C.A.R.E. logo

The SUNY Downstate Career and Residency Exploration (C.A.R.E.) Program is…

Career Exploration

Career Advisement

Medical Student Career Advisement Office

Director: Ms. Dawn Froome
Career Mentor Coordinator: Ms. Dionne Davis-Lowe
Student Affairs Liaison: Dean Sophie Christoforou

Choosing a career goal is one of the most important decisions that every student must make. We are fortunate that SUNY-Downstate provides many resources to expose student to various fields including:

  • Elective and required clinical courses
  • Campus clubs
  • Career Mentoring Program
  • Alumni Career Day
  • AOA Forum
  • AAMC Careers in Medicine publication distributed to all
  • CEO's: Career Exposure Opportunities (Dr. Eisner)
  • Departmental specialty advisors
  • Clinical Assistant Deans
  • Working with residents who have recently made career decisions


It is the mission of the Medical Student Career Advisement office to serve as liaison to these programs and people, as well as to develop faculty and senior residents as career advisors. We hope to make sure that every student receives all of the information and individualized attention required to make the appropriate choices.

Students are encouraged to provide feedback on the process and to contact Ms. Froome by e-mail to share their experiences and questions. The office is located in the BSB, Rm. 1-112. Please contact Ms. Froome by e-mail ( if you would like to set up an appointment. Appointments can also be made with Dean Christoforou (

Careers in Medicine

A career development program to assist you in choosing a specialty and plan for residency.

Faculty Mentoring Program

The Faculty Mentoring Program is designed to provide support and friendship to first year medical students. First year students are matched with a clinical faculty mentor or alumni mentor, and second year student peer mentors. Mentors can answer questions about the specifics of being a physician and may provide students with an exposure to patients and clinical practice. Students will also be introduced to Careers in Medicine, a web-based career advisement program developed by the Association of American Medical Colleges for all medical students.

Downstate Alumni

Content for this section.

Clinical Assistant Deans

There are ten (10) Clinical Assistant Deans who serve as advisors, who provide students with general advisement on their senior course schedule, and who prepare the "Medical Student Performance Evaluation" (MSPE) used in the residency application process.  Your clinical assistant dean may be consulted to discuss career plans, general residency information, and other matters of personal concern. The MSPE letter follows a standard national format for all students; so do not be concerned about any differences among the deans in terms of drafting the MSPE. 

Each third year student will be assigned one of ten clinical assistant deans.

  • Dr. Laura Dattner, Department of Pediatrics
  • Dr. Marcia Gerber, Department of Medicine
  • Dr. Nira Goldstein, Department of Otolaryngology
  • Dr. Steven Kang, Department of Pathology
  • Dr. Jason Lazar, Department of Medicine
  • Dr. Scott Lehto, Department of Radiology
  • Dr. Jeanne Macrae, Department of Medicine
  • Dr. Alexandra Reznikov, Department of Neurology
  • Dr. Ketan Shevde, Department of Anesthesiology
  • Dr. James Willis, Department of Emergency Medicine

You may submit a preference in your clinical dean assignment, by emailing by December 12th of your third year.

The class is distributed among the ten (10) deans. Assignments are made, taking into consideration your preference, if you submit one. 

Please note: You do not have to pick a Clinical Assistant Dean based on their specialty, as your residency advisement will come from the department, and the faculty Specialty Advisors.

Student Affairs Deans

Sophie Christoforou, MS.Ed. Associate Dean for Student Affairs serves as the liaison to the Medical Student Career Advisement Office and serves on the Medical Student Affairs advisory committee. Dean Christoforou has been in Medical Education for over 25 years and has a special interest in career selection and the residency process. She does multiple presentations throughout the four years on career exploration and the residency application process. She works closely with the Clinical Assistant Deans in preparation of the annual Medical Student Performance Evaluations. She also advises students in academic difficulty, "life" scheduling (also known as the Wedding and Family Planner!) and general issues of concern for students.

Jeffrey Putman, Ed.D. is the Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students and sees medical students regarding academic progress, leaves of absence and general issues of concern.

They can be reached at (718) 270-2187 and are located in the Office for Student Affairs BSB 1-114.


Career Advice from our Clinical Departments

Departmental Specialty Advisors

Each clinical department has identified faculty that serve as Specialty Advisors. Their role is to provide guidance to medical students who wish to explore a particular field. It is an important responsibility undertaken by many faculty members. The students deserve to get the best possible advice in making this extremely important career choice.

The successful career advisor is expected to be prepared to:

  • Describe the field
  • Describe the training program, residency or fellowship
  • Describe the application and interview process
  • Assess the individual student's candidacy, based on his/her academic record and other parameters and based on knowledge of the competitiveness of the field
  • Provide recommendations on how best to enhance the prospects for matching in the chosen field.
  • Be knowledgeable about electives in the field
  • Be familiar with programs in the region and in other areas of the country, or make suggestions on where to get additional information.
  • Advise on how to explore interest further

The following is a current listing of the Specialty Advisors in each department :

2013-2014 Departmental Specialty Advisor List

Specialty Specific Advice and Information

The following are Career Information Booklets that include important questions about the specialty and the answers from the experts in each department.

Departmental Information Meetings

Throughout the months of March and April, the C.A.R.E. program organizes clinical department informational meetings specifically for third year students interested in applying to each of the specialties. These are the types of questions covered in these sessions:

  • Timetables for students applying to residency programs in the specialty
  • How many "audition" electives should be taken in the specialty?
  • Is research needed to apply to the specialty? If yes, how much?
  • What is a desirable fourth year program of study for students entering the specialty? Should it be broad based? What electives do you recommend?
  • How competitive is the specialty? What kind of credentials are programs looking for?
  • What criteria for selection are used in the specialty by residency programs?
  • Describe our residency program and how to apply
  • Describe what residency advising assistance is provided by faculty to our fourth year students
  • How do students evaluate which programs are "good" and what should students look for in programs?

Important Career Related Timelines


Residency Guidance

What do residency directors look for?

Matched Applicant Characteristics

From the NRMP, this report includes information about Step 1 scores, number of programs on the rank order list, AOA honor society membership, and research accomplishments.

Top 10 criteria for selecting resident

This report presents the results of selected items from the 2012 NRMP Program Director Survey. Data are reported for 22 specialties and include:

  1. factors used for granting interviews and ranking applicants;
  2. use of USMLE exam scores; and
  3. the percentage of interview slots filled prior to the November 1 release date of the MSP

Links to Surveys:

Residency Program Directors Survey 2014 NEW!

Residency Program Directors Survey 2012

The Residency Process

The Nuts and Bolts of the Residency Process Podcast

The Nuts and Bolts of the Residency Process Powerpoint Slides

Residency Application Check List

Required Letters of Recommendation (LORs) for the Residency Process

Three letters of recommendation are usually required and no more than four are allowed to be assigned to each program. Often, one of the three should be from the Department Chair in your specialty. If you are applying for both an advanced specialty and a preliminary year you may send some of the letters for your advanced specialty to your preliminary programs, with at least one letter from a Medicine faculty member.

The best letter writers are those faculty members who know you best and can strongly support your application. Clinical letters are preferred in residency applications. Research letters can sometimes be used as supplemental letters but not as primary letters, unless you're applying to residency programs that have a research track. Letters should come from attending physicians – not residents. If the faculty member did not offer to write the letter, you should ask if they feel comfortable writing you a strong letter of recommendation.

For more information regarding LORs, go to Student Life & Services link for Letters of Recommendation: Frequently Asked Questions.

Electronic Residency Application Service (ERAS)

Residency Interviews

  • Scheduling
    • There is really no "recommended" time in the interview season to schedule your favorite programs. Middle of the interview season is probably best.
    • Remember your first few interviews – you'll be getting your "feet wet".
    • At the end of the interview season, you may be tired and burnt out and your answers may begin to sound rehearsed.
    • If there are programs you schedule but are really unsure if you want to go on the interview, schedule them for a late date in January so that there is sufficient time to cancel if you get enough interviews.
    • NEVER be a NO SHOW. Always cancel with sufficient time – minimum of a week but preferably as soon as you know
  • Interview Preparation
    • Dress Code - Conservative
    • Be punctual, map out the morning trip
    • Be prepared, read over your personal statement prior to interview
    • Make a list of your top strengths, goals, values, accomplishments and abilities to use as a general reference for all interview questions.
    • Be aware of any weaknesses in your application and prepare how you will answer those questions if asked. Think of the positive things you did to overcome the difficulties.
    • If you’re concerned about certain questions you may be asked, speak with a faculty advisor, your Clinical Assistant Dean or Christoforou. We can help!
    • Prepare at least one case, preferably two. If you’re a student whose academic record is:
      • Not as good on paper as you would like…a technical case (shows you are bright)
      • Good on paper…a psychosocial case (shows you are empathetic)
    • Bring a picture/CV/personal statement/updated projects
    • Know something unique about your medical school, awards, projects.
    • Browse through the Medical Section of the New York Times
    • Know something about the Health Care Finance Administration, GME, current manpower needs.
  • Researching the Programs
    • Find out as much as you can about each individual program
    • Visit their website
    • Know something about the community they serve.
    • Review any information they may send you
    • If you know the names of your interviewers, see if you can find out their subspecialty or research interests.
    • Speak to Downstate grads either before you interview or certainly after when you’re making decisions about ranking.
  • The Interview Itself
    • Turn off your cell phone
    • Body language and eye contact
      • When called to begin interview, make eye contact with the interviewer, firm handshake and SMILE!
      • Sit where the interviewer suggests
      • Eye contact throughout the interview
      • Leave promptly when it is obvious the interview is over.
    • Be POSITIVE!
      • If asked how your trip was to the interview, say something like "The instructions were perfect, no problem at all."
      • Do not talk negatively about your medical school or any other residency program.
    • Have confidence - not arrogance.
    • Come across as smart, manageable, hard working and energetic.
    • Interviewers may not be experienced. If their questions do not bring out your strengths, try supplementing your answers with additional information about your accomplishments or experiences.
    • Be interested and involved on the tour.
    • Ask to stay and observe.
    • Don't let your guard down with residents; they are interviewing you too!
  • After the Interview
    • Immediately after the interview - write notes about the program. It will make ranking easier, later.
    • Thank you cards
      • You definitely need to send them
      • Some faculty like hand-written notes, but thank you emails are becoming more common.
      • One thank you to the Program Director is fine.
      • If you decide to send to each interviewer, try to personalize them and not make them the same.
    • Second Looks
      • Scheduled visits to programs after the interview
      • Can give you perspective for ranking your top programs
      • Can demonstrate genuine interest in a program.
      • Some programs do not schedule Second Looks.
      • Do NOT show up for second look unannounced.
      • It is not necessary to travel across the country for second looks.
    • Email Letters of Interest
      • As interview season come to a close, most students will send an email indicating their interest in a program to the residency director. (Also called LOVE letters!)
      • It is NOT appropriate to tell a program they will be ranked #1 on your rank list, especially if they will not be first on your list.
      • We advise students to show an interest in a program by describing specifics about what interests them and telling the program they will be ranked highly.
      • Finally, program directors have indicated that post-interview communicaiton has very little impact on their rank list.
      • Programs are not permitted to ask you where you will rank them on your list. This is considered a Match Violation.
  • Sample Questions you may be asked
  • Sample Questions for you to ask your interviewer

      Class Seminar - The Do's & Don'ts of Residency Interviewing

Podcast of Interviewing Seminar
Dr. Michael Lucchesi, Chair, Emergency Medicine
Dr. Jeanne Macrae, Senior Associate Dean for Academic Affairs
Thursday, October 2, 2014
5:30 pm
Lecture Hall 1

Match Week

  • Timeline
  • What happens if I don't match?

Advice from Seniors and Residents

Content for this section.

Roadmap to Residency

Helpful Links


The SUNY Downstate C.A.R.E. Program

The Career and Exploration Program (C.A.R.E.) at SUNY Downstate has organized a developmental career "curriculum" based on the stage of the medical student. The following are the "courses" for each level of student:

CARE 101 (Foundations in Medicine)

  • Intro to Careers in Medicine
  • Intro to creating a med student CV
  • Faculty Specialty Forum
  • Research Panel from competitive specialties
  • Practical Opportunities
    • Career Exposure Electives
    • Student Specialty Organizations (i.e. PEDS R US)
    • Career Mentoring Program
    • Faculty Mentoring/Peer Mentoring
    • Brooklyn Free Clinic

CARE 201 (Foundations in Medicine)

  • Career Exploration
  • Faculty Specialty Forum
  • Research Panel from competitive specialties
  • Short specialty talks from clinicians giving lectures or in small groups
  • Practical Opportunities
    • Career Exposure Electives
    • Student Specialty Organizations (i.e. PEDS R US)
    • Career Mentoring Program
    • Faculty Mentoring/Peer Mentoring
    • Brooklyn Free Clinic

CARE 301 (Core Clerkships)

  • Senior Schedule Planning
  • Career Day – Residency program directors and departmental specialty advisors give workshops
  • Career Decision Making Workshop
  • CV and Personal Statement Writing
  • ERAS
  • Student-to-Student Residency Forum (Peer advice after Match day)
  • Practical Opportunities
    • Four weeks of Core electives for career exploration

CARE 401 (Advanced Clinical)

  • Workshops for seniors having difficulty making a final decision on specialty.
  • Interviewing Seminar
  • Rank Order Strategies
  • Practical Opportunities
    • Senior Clinical Electives