I am a student at a low tier US school with no Urology program. I consider myself to be a competitive applicant but I won't be having any strong letters supporting my application. Our hospital is affiliated with a private practice group consisting of 5 or 6 unknown surgeons.What kind of places should I go to in order to get letters from known people. Can anyone who has gone through the process pls advise about places with known surgeons in the new england/pennsylvania/upstate new york area ? I am interested in matching at the east coast.
If you can do 2 away rotations and get 2 departement chair letters (anywhere), you will be fine. Base your choice of away rotation on where you might want to go.....not on who might be able to write your letter. Most programs are understanding and even impressed by students who come out of med schools without uro departments and took the initiative to find their way in urology.
You should do as many aways as you can--at least 3, hopefully 4. If your home school doesn't have a urology department, you need to get the exposure to programs both for letters and to improve your chances at letters. I would get 3 letters from aways, and then think about a letter from a professor from your school who you have a good relationship. A prominent surgeon would be a good choice. Even a stellar letter from an unknown private urologist will do almost nothing to help you. These guys want to see letters from people they know or at least people they see a lot of letters from in order to judge you against other applicants. It's a disadvantage not to have a home program, but it's definitely doable. Seek out those connections.
At my instition whose uro program is ranked top 20 they look unfavorably on too many mos uro. I wouldn't do more than 3 mos uro and 3 places but I think 2 mos is plenty. they'd much rather see that you're well balanced, maybe to a rads rotation, a couple weeks GU path, surg onc, etc. with regards to letters, yes def try for 2-3 chairs or PDs. also try to get someone who has spent the time to get to know you a little better...maybe a junior faculty member who has trained with reputable people, who will write something more than the generic or even better a well-known senior person who doesn't have the time constraints of a chair or PD. or if you get to know a chief really well, get them to write a shadow letter for you that you include with your cv when asking for letters from more senior people. 3 chair letters is great, but their not gonna have time to get to know you and write something that really shines as their prob doing the same letter for up to 15 other visiting sub-I's. Their name matters a lot, but a little inside/more personal aspect to at least one of the letters will matter too. when someone sees a letter from a junior guy who they trained or their famous colleague trained, it carries some weight too. With uro being a small community, knowing the connections between people can help. I would encourage you to be creative, prob do 2-3 aways, but think outside just chairs. Find ways to get to know people, set up a brief meeting with someone and run your grand rounds talk by them, tell your dilemma to the chief, etc. There are ways to do this at the "right time" after you've put in some hard work without seeming needy or like you're taking up too much of people's time. In general I think people are happy to help. I know current residents who have even worked remotely on a research project at another instition so be on alert for opportunities like that-it's a perfect way to get to know someone. Also doing a sub-I early and then staying in touch (think April/May before the crowds come through) might help. Just brainstorming.
with regards to location, if you have a particular region you want to live in that's where to start. Some places get a ton of sub-I's (probably any top 25-30 program might get 10-30, even more in a year). These places might even screen sub-I applicants so make sure you send a CV, a good cover letter stating why you want to go there and your board scores/pubs list if their good. Others places you have chance to be a rarity and therefore more doted on. Just becuse a place is not top 30 doesn't mean there aren't well-respected faculty. US News focuses a lot on NIH dollars and hospital reputation among MDs. If you're more academically inclined that will influence where you try to go, if you're more into PP think of places like Mayo AZ, Kaiser SoCal, Rochester (Strong, NY), etc. Just keep in mind that if you are accepted to a sub-I and withdraw it does not bode well for your interview chances. So try to feel places out, ask the admin for a research or senrior resident's contact info and get a feel for how many sub-I's they have each year, what the schedule is like, how you'll be treated before even contacting the PD/chair. Then, when you're sure you want to go there, apply directly to the department (sometimes the med school office will try to get in the way and hurl all these requirements at you, so it's usually more productive to contact the department directly and let them cut the red tape). I would starting thinking about applying and doing your homework in Feb or March to be sure the time slot you want is free when it comes time to apply for real. The admin's all have emails listed on the program section of the AUA website.