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Tips for Students: Getting the Most Out of the 2020 Midyear Meeting

Nov 12, 2020

Marissa Chow, a fourth year Pharm.D. candidate at St. Louis College of Pharmacy

WITH SOME ADVANCE PLANNING AND PREPARATION, students will find this year’s virtual Midyear Clinical Meeting as enlightening and productive as the in-person meetings of previous years. The meeting is loaded with student programming, so attendees like Marissa Chow, a fourth year Pharm.D. candidate at St. Louis College of Pharmacy, are getting down to work preparing for a few jam-packed days of education, networking, and interviews.

“Since in-person meetings will most likely not happen due to safety concerns during the COVID-19 pandemic, it will be even more important to chat with the right people at this year’s Midyear,” said Chow.

Preparation is key

Her preparation includes looking through the ASHP Midyear’s student-specific programming, which will be offered both in on-demand and simu-live formats. Residency-focused student sessions will cover all aspects of residency applications and interviews, ranging from navigating the PhORCAS application system to understanding the Match Algorithm. Professional development student sessions will aim to help students of all classes explore post-graduate opportunities and personal success topics like branding and financial guidance.

As with every year, the ASHP virtual residency showcase will give students a chance to interact with residency programs, learn more about what they have to offer, and narrow down their options prior to applications. Additionally, the Personnel Placement Service (PPS), free to all fourth-year student registrants through advance sign up, will provide an opportunity for dedicated interviews and one-on-one time.

Chow said she is already researching programs that are participating in this year’s residency showcase and writing down criteria and questions ahead of time to help her evaluate programs.

Advice for first-timers

One piece of advice Chow had for students attending the Midyear for the first time is to map out where they want to go ahead of time and to read and learn about the virtual platform prior to the meeting, “so you aren’t scrambling to find the next item to attend and there are no technical errors.”

“And consider finding a “Midyear Buddy” to support each other for meetings, residency talks, and even PPS,” Chow said.

Elizabeth King, Pharm.D.

Students should also work with their preceptors and professors ahead of time to make sure they can dedicate time to the meeting, said Elizabeth King, Pharm.D., who graduated from pharmacy school in 2018 and is now a hematology/oncology pharmacist at Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota.

“When we attend in person, there is a natural separation from other responsibilities so we can focus on the meeting, but this may not be the case in the virtual setting,” Dr. King said.

Students should carve out a time and space with minimal distractions and dress as if they were attending the conference in person, “to get yourself in the right mindset,” she recommended. “And just like in person, you will need breaks so don’t be afraid to walk away from the screen,” she added.

Although the meeting is chock-full of student programming, Dr. King suggested attending at least one new practitioner session and one pharmacist session.

“If students have a clinical area they’re interested in, it’s a great idea to attend some of the clinical sessions on that topic to hear about how clinical practice is changing,” she said, noting that the virtual format means attendees can spend more time viewing posters and listening in on sessions and less time “shuttling between locations.”

Another reason to venture outside of student programming is to get a better sense of the faculty at an institution where one might apply for a residency, Dr. King said.

“You can get an idea of what the people you will be learning from are like and what their academic passions are, which also gives you talking points for interviews,” she said.

Dr. King recommended actively participating in sessions by asking questions. If there are private messaging options, contacting others to network can help you connect with people who have similar interests, she added. “Also make sure also to build up your profile on ASHP and PPS so that others can find you based on your interests and reach out to you,” Dr. King said.

Residency search

Younger students interested in learning about the residency process should attend the PhORCAS session to find out what programs are looking for in residency candidates, Dr. King said.

“Knowing this can help you set your priorities so that you end up getting to where you want to be academically,” Dr. King said. “The earlier you can start thinking about and preparing for residency, the better.”

For residency applicants, it’s a good idea to formulate a set of criteria that can help decide on a program and also to formulate questions tailored to that specific institution, Dr. King advised.

Nelly Adel, Pharm.D., BCOP, BCPS, supports her student during an ASHP Midyear meeting poster presentation.

“These questions can help you understand the culture of the institution, the educational offerings they have, or explore key non-negotiable items that you want in a residency,” she said.

As a residency recruiter herself, Nelly Adel, Pharm.D., BCOP, BCPS, chair of the department of pharmacy practice and associate professor in oncology, Touro College of Pharmacy, New York, appreciates when residency candidates distinguish themselves from others in the candidate pool.

“Ask questions that are not answered on the program’s website,” she recommended. “For example, I like to be asked about projects that I have worked on with students or residents and that have made a difference.”

Dr. Adel also recommended highlighting co- and extra-curricular activities and volunteer work. “I speak with 20-30 candidates a day and it’s sometimes hard to remember each one.  This can help to separate you from your peers,” she said.

Virtual etiquette

One thing Dr. Adel emphasized is to approach the Midyear with professionalism. “Even though the meeting is virtual, the same rules as in-person meetings hold,” she said. She encouraged students to wear professional attire, find a room without visual distractions in the background, smile when speaking to others or presenting a poster, and to not be “sitting or lounging at your bed.”

“There’s also no reason to be late for a meeting or a presentation, particularly when it’s virtual,” she said. “So become familiar with the platforms you’ll be using by playing around with them ahead of time. This could help avoid technical glitches and delays.”

Having attended and hosted numerous virtual meetings herself, Dr. Adel said student presenters and residency applicants should look straight into their computer’s camera rather than at the picture on the monitor.  “This helps you connect better with the person in front of you,” she said. Another technical consideration to keep in mind is the possible lag time during remote conversations, Dr. Adel added.

“Avoid interrupting the other person by waiting for the end of their sentence,” she said. “If you want to interject, find the right moment and know how to interrupt without being offensive. That holds true whether it’s a live or a virtual meeting.”

Despite the checklist of considerations that students should keep in mind prior to this year’s Midyear, Chow, the student pharmacist, is enthusiastic about the potential of the meeting.

“I’m excited to attend this year’s meeting!” she said. “Although this is not the traditional format or the format that most people would have wanted for the Midyear, as the pharmacy profession as a whole has shown, we are good at adapting to change.”

 

By David Wild

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