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To all the amazing students, residents, and faculty whom I have had the good fortune to work with over the years. You are the reason I have the best job in the world.
— Joe

To my wife, daughter, parents, and entire family for encouraging me to go for my goals, and for picking me up during the inevitable times when some challenges seemed insurmountable. I wouldn’t have been able to survive the path through medical school without you! This continues to be a long, hard journey, and I have never taken your support for granted. Thank you!
— Dave


We would like to thank all of the members of EMRA without whom this book would not have been possible, including Cathey Wise, Bryan Nyary, and Valerie Hunt. Special thanks to Kristin Harkin, for her guidance as we embarked on this project, and to EMRA Medical Student Council Chair Sean Ochsenbein of ETSU Quillen College and EMRA medical student editor Brian Fromm of the University of Miami, for their contributions throughout the process.


The Emergency Medicine Residents’ Association makes every effort to ensure that contributors to EMRA-sponsored publications are knowledgeable authorities in their fields. Readers are nevertheless advised that statements and opinions expressed in this book are provided as guidelines and should not be construed as EMRA policy unless specifically referred to as such. EMRA disclaims any liability or responsibility of the consequences of any actions taken in reliance on those statements or opinions. The materials contained herein are not intended to establish policy or procedure.

Copyright 2001, 2007, 2012, 2015
Emergency Medicine Residents’ Association. All rights reserved.

This book is protected by copyright. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any means without written permission from the copyright holder.

Printed in the USA. ISBN 978-1-929854-41-7.

Additional copies of this publication are available from:
Emergency Medicine Residents’ Association
1125 Executive Circle
Irving, TX 75038-2522

Editorial Staff


Joseph Turner, MD, FACEP
Assistant Professor, Emergency Medicine
Indiana University
School of Medicine

David Reid, DO
Emergency Medicine Resident
UT Southwestern
Parkland Memorial Hospital 


Chapter Authors


Michael C. Bond, MD, FACEP, FAAEM
University of Maryland

Carey Chisholm, MD
Indiana University School of Medicine

Jill Corbo, MD, RDMS
Bronx Municipal Hospital Center

Colleen A. Crowe, MD, MPH, FACEP
Medical College of Wisconsin

James Dahle, MD, FACEP
White Coat Investor

Gloria Kuhn, DO, PhD, FACEP
Wayne State University

Jeffrey Manko, MD
NYU Medical Center Emergency Medicine

Amal Mattu, MD, FACEP, FAAEM
University of Maryland

Katie Pettit, MD
Indiana University School of Medicine

Alicia Pilarski, DO
Medical College of Wisconsin

Susan Promes, MD, MBA, FACEP
Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical

Jeremy Sperling, MD, FACEP
New York Presbyterian Hospital

Jonathan St. George, MD
New York Presbyterian Hospital

Tina Sundaram, MD
Albert Einstein College of Medicine

Elizabeth Werley, MD, FACEP
Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center

Dustin Williams, MD
UT Southwestern /Parkland
Memorial Hospital

Brian Zink, MD, FACEP
Brown University

2015 EMRA Board of Directors

Matt Rudy, MD

Ramnik Dhaliwal, MD, JD
President Elect

Jordan Celeste, MD
Immediate Past President

Alison Smith, MD, MPH
ACEP Representative

David Diller, MD
Academic Affairs Rep

Nathaniel Mann, MD
Secretary/Editor, EM Resident

Anant Patel, DO
Speaker of the Council

Nida Degesys, MD
Vice Speaker of the Council

Jasmeet Dhaliwal, MD, MPH
Legislative Advisor

Leonard Stallings, MD
RRC-EM Representative

Nupur Garg, MD
Informatics Coordinator

Zachary Jarou, MD
Membership Development Coordinator

Sean Ochsenbein, MSIV
Medical Student Council Chair

Ashley Guthrie, DO


Welcome to your journey toward becoming an emergency medicine physician! If you have not yet decided on emergency medicine as a career, but instead are simply exploring, that is OK. I would encourage you to learn as much as possible about emergency medicine as there are many misconceptions about the specialty, and it is imperative that you are as informed as possible about choosing the area in which you will spend a 30-year career.  If you have not already done so, talk to emergency medicine physicians about their careers, ask about the positives and negatives, and, most important, spend time in the emergency department. And do so as soon as possible! Real life experience will be your best guide for choosing the specialty that is best for you, but with the Match process coming earlier in recent years, you have a limited amount of time in which to get this experience.  

If you have already decided that emergency medicine is right for you, we hope you find this survival guide to be a useful resource on the first step of your journey. The first edition of this book was published in 1991, and over the years Dr. Kristin Harkin and Dr. Jeremy Cushman have provided an invaluable service educating medical students about our specialty. We hope to continue that tradition. This latest print edition has been trimmed down to highlight the most high-yield information from some of the most well-known names in emergency medicine, academicians who have taught hundreds of emergency residents over the years, as well as from a group of bright young stars and leaders in the specialty.

As you work your way through the guide, you may notice a number of topics appear in multiple chapters. This is intentional — these are key points that deserve particular emphasis. On the other hand, there may also be times when advice in one chapter may not line up exactly with advice in another chapter.  This is not an accident or oversight. The path from early medical school to residency is not an exact science, and a residency director at one program may have a very different view from the director at another program. Our goal is to draw on opinions from a range of educators at multiple programs to provide you a number of perspectives on issues that are debated amongst emergency medicine leaders across the country.

Because the world of emergency medicine is large and ever-changing, we’ve prepared supplemental online content that provides additional information for those students who have a particular area of interest (for example, those considering a fellowship).

We hope you find this guide to be useful. This is an exciting time in your life, and we wish you the best of luck.

Joseph Turner, MD, FACEP
Clerkship Director, 4th Year Emergency Medicine Clerkship
Assistant Professor, Department of Emergency Medicine
Indiana University School of Medicine


Want to match into an emergency medicine residency program?  If you’re like every other applicant and you’ve got a ton of questions about how to best prepare yourself for away rotations, ERAS, boards, SLOEs, interviews, and all the other important stuff you need to know, this book can help you get on the right track toward a successful match! There is something for everyone in this Survival Guide, no matter where you go to medical school or where you hope to do your training.

One of the biggest misconceptions about emergency medicine is that everyone who goes into the specialty is the same – that we are all ADD, thrill-seeking, jacks-of-all-trades but masters-of-none. The truth is there are so many different personalities within the EM community. Emergency physicians have a wide variety of interests and expertise in many subjects, in addition to being the best acute care providers in medicine. In the same way, there is no universal advice or path that all EM-minded medical students must follow in order to achieve their goals. Certainly, there are gold standards and boxes that have to be checked off along the way, but uniqueness is often appreciated in EM. There are parts of the EM residency application that are different from any other specialty, and residency programs across the country vary greatly in how they view particular attributes of a student’s application.

This Survival Guide is a collection of opinions and advice straight from the source! Our authors have been through the process of matching, and many are intensely involved in the review and selection of their programs’ residency candidates. EM has become a competitive specialty within the house of medicine. Use this book to identify the strengths and weaknesses of your application. Utilize the advice given to address any concerns about your competitiveness as an applicant. Every effort has been made to generalize the recommendations, but remember, while you may feel like just another number, your situation is unique, and with some hard work, good advice, and a little creativity, you’ll find a way to stand out and make programs notice you.

Study hard and get involved. Good luck!

David Reid, DO
UT Southwestern/Parkland Emergency Medicine Residency Program
Past-Chair, 2014-2015 EMRA Medical Student Council

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