students at white coat ceremony

New Program Helps Doctor of Pharmacy Students Navigate the Residency Applications Process

For graduating Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) students, applying for a residency program can be overwhelming. Additionally, many students are unprepared for the intense, competitive application process.

That is why Keck Graduate Institute (KGI) School of Pharmacy and Health Sciences Assistant Professor of Clinical Sciences Kerry Anne Rambaran established the Advanced Residency Training (ART) program, which guides students through the application process. Assistant Professor of Clinical Sciences Christine Cadiz also participated as a faculty mentor.

This was KGI’s first year to offer the program, which ran from August to late October 2019. The training was conducted outside of regular classes and consisted of group instruction as well as individual mentoring.

Rambaran modeled ART after a similar mentoring program she underwent as a Doctor of Pharmacy student at Nova Southeastern University in Florida. This program was instrumental in forming her future trajectory and connecting her with the right individuals, and she wanted to do something similar for KGI students.

According to Rambaran, around 100,000 students a year compete for 1,514 residency spots. In KGI’s 2020 graduating class of 83 PharmD students, at least half are interested in pursuing residency, and at least 28 already have interviews lined up for the current residency season.

“They’re really committed to doing it,” said Rambaran. “So I figured the best thing I could do would be to help them.”

In the ART program, Rambaran and Cadiz help students perfect their CV and letter of intent, develop interesting and visually stimulating oral presentations, and provide patient recommendations based on specific cases. They also organize panel interviews with clinical preceptors to give students a sense of what the actual interview process will be like.

“During the interview process, they asked some questions I hadn’t even thought about before,” said Adrienne Desens, a pharmacy student who participated in the program. “For instance, one of the questions they asked was, ‘What is a current event in healthcare, and how you think that would impact your practice in the future?'”

Another essential skill that students learn in ART is time management, especially since the majority of programs are only one year and students are expected to accomplish much within that year.

“Most residency programs require students to complete multiple projects including research projects, presenting posters at national meetings, or potentially even publishing,” said Cadiz.

Additionally, students are taught to present themselves in a way that makes them appealing candidates. Rambaran serves as the PGY-1 Pharmacy Residency Program Coordinator at Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center, which has informed her perspective on what types of individuals residencies are looking for.

“You have to know what you’re doing to help patients, but you also have to be able to communicate with people,” said Rambaran. “So you can have knowledge, but if you can’t deliver your recommendation to a difficult physician or if you’re too shy or quiet, then you won’t be able to communicate your knowledge to others.”

Cadiz acknowledged that while ART was a huge time commitment for both students and faculty, it was an enriching experience, and the students were very grateful.

“Some of the students have already said they got invited to interviews or have to give a presentation that they already have prepared now thanks to the program,” said Cadiz. “So that was really exciting.”

PharmD student Sandra Sanchez said that prior to participating in ART, she felt overwhelmed by the application process, but the extensive support she received took the stress away.

“I recommend for students pursuing a residency to really consider the ART program because there are always areas for improvement.” 

“Even if they feel confident, ART will help them be a stronger candidate,” said Sanchez. “It’s always great to have mentors like Dr. Cadiz and Dr. Rambaran who have a vast experience in residency and its application process and can provide their knowledge from a residency coordinator perspective.”