Road to Residency - Class of 2019

The residency interview process is a ritual that, for most medical school graduates, will define their careers. The process at Columbia is similar to that at all medical schools: Students travel to interviews with representatives of residency programs, starting in October or November. Some fourth-year students complete as many as 20 interviews by January, criss-crossing the United States and covering thousands of miles of terrain. 

The process culminates in March after students and residencies submit their top choices to the National Residency Matching Program, which reveals matches between student and residency. 

Here are the journeys of four members of the Class of 2019:

ETORO EKPE, a student in the MD-MPH program, traveled to 21 interviews between October 2018 and January 2019. Dr. Ekpe wants to specialize in obstetrics & gynecology, a field she immersed herself in during two month-long electives during her fourth year of medical school.

Etoro Ekpe  The two electives solidified her decision to become an obstetrician/gynecologist. “During my electives, I was able to get to know patients better by following them through pregnancy, delivery, and postpartum,” she says.

Establishing close patient relationships is a common goal among aspiring ob/gyns, so knowing how to tell your unique story is a crucial piece of excelling on the residency trail. 

Dr. Ekpe used a moment from her preceptorship that had rooted in her memory. While on a 24-hour call, she was called to the side of a young pregnant woman who was admitted to the hospital with dangerously high blood pressure. The patient had been unaware of her condition because she had missed the majority of her prenatal visits. 

“I thought it was important to both treat the high blood pressure and understand the barriers that prevented her from attending prenatal visits,” says Dr. Ekpe. “I learned she needed to go to work and to school and she didn’t realize the importance of the visits. I told this story to my interviewers because addressing social determinants of health is an important part of caring for patients.”

In March, Dr. Ekpe learned she matched in obstetrics & gynecology at Northwestern.


DANIEL N. ARTEAGA, an MD-MBA student interested in internal medicine, used the process to find a program with the right fit. “In addition to exceptional training, I’m looking for opportunities in quality improvement, urban health, and leadership training,” says Dr. Arteaga. “I think these are things that will make me happier in the long run and contribute to my professional development.”

Dr. Arteaga’s interest was shaped by his volunteer work at Columbia’s student-run primary care clinic, Columbia Student Medical Outreach, where he met a patient who needed a screening procedure after a physical exam. Her medical history indicated a possible cancer, but because she was uninsured, booking the procedure took nearly 10 months. 

“This patient’s situation gave me an appreciation for how we need better health care systems in general and made me see this is something I want to do,” says Dr. Arteaga. “I want to address the tough problems that affect people in real ways.”

In March, Dr. Arteaga (shown here with his brother, David, a medical student at Vanderbilt University) learned he matched in internal medicine at the University of Texas Southwestern.


CHRISTOPHER GRUBB and NEDA BIONGHI were engaged in Barcelona in spring 2018 and participated in the match as a couple seeking residencies in internal medicine, preferably in the same hospital. They traveled to many interviews across the country together but interviewed separately. 

“It’s important to unstick from your couple and meet other people at these different places,” says Dr. Bionghi. “Chris and I gathered our own impressions and shared our thoughts later at home, instead of trying to discuss them during the interview days.” 

Though the interview process can be stressful, Drs. Grubb and Bionghi made the most of their time. “On some of the trips, we have been able to schedule multiple interviews in the same region and were able to explore on the way,” says Dr. Grubb. 

In March, Drs. Bionghi and Grubb learned they matched in internal medicine at Columbia.