Rounds to Residency

Get Productive with Residency Director Sarah Hart-Unger MD

Dr. Sarah Hart-Unger shares time management and productivity tips as well as ways on how to make your CV stand out for residency applications

  • [01:27] How Dr. Hart-Unger Is Changing Medicine for the Better
  • [03:05] Planning for the Upcoming Academic Year
  • [07:01] Clinical Experience and Residency Matching During COVID-19
  • [12:10] How to Make Your CV Stand Out
  • [19:06] Productivity and Planning Tips

Today Chase DiMarco talks to Dr. Sarah Hart-Unger, MD. Dr. Hart-Unger is a pediatric endocrinologist and the pediatric residency program director at Joe Dimaggio Children’s Hospital. She hosts two shows: The Best of Both Worlds podcast with Laura Vanderkam, and the Best Laid Plans podcast. Chase and Dr. Hart-Unger share time management and productivity tips as well as ways on how to make your CV stand out during residency applications.

What Incoming Residents Can Do to Plan Ahead

There’s no need to pressure yourself to review academic material for the upcoming year. If you feel the need to do so, allot only a specific portion of your day for studying. Spend the rest of your time sorting out the other aspects of your life. It’s always a good idea to work on your time management and organization skills. Figure out how you’re going to make time for things that matter to you: whether it be your family, friends, hobbies, or health.

Everyone needs to pay attention to where they are in life. Your schedule may vary depending on the workload of your rotation. Adjust your goals accordingly. Building a routine before you start residency will be especially helpful when things get overwhelming. You will have developed a system you can fall back on to help you stay organized with your schedule and tasks.

Clinical Experience and Residency Matching During COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has made it challenging for medical students to seek out clinical experiences. Despite the limitations, Dr. Hart-Unger encourages students to make the most out of their circumstances. Look for projects or write case reports outside of your rotation. Find other ways to be productive if you are unable to gain live experiences.

Residency programs are well aware of this struggle that medical students face. Due to this difficult time, program directors may be more considerate of a student’s background and experience. But even in the absence of clinical rotations, what you do with your time will show how driven you are to learn and improve as an upcoming physician.

How to Make Your CV Stand Out

With the recent announcement that the USMLE Step 1 will become a pass-fail exam, students may need other ways to make their application stand out. As a program director, Dr. Hart-Unger advises students to prioritize depth over volume in their experiences and research. Instead of trying to gather a wide array of one-off experiences, invest your time in an organization or study. Your dedication to a specific cause or topic will distinguish you from other applicants. Make sure to highlight how your contributions made an impact.

Strong recommendation letters can also help your CV stand out. Ask letters from people who really know you. Spend time with your preceptor to talk about your goals and achievements so he/she can write a compelling endorsement.

Extracurricular activities and side gigs may also boost your application. If you’re able to talk about how these activities have helped others and why you’re passionate about them, then it could be an advantage.

Productivity and Planning Tips

There are many ways on how you can plan and organize your day, but the most important thing is that you do it. Map out your goals for the month, week, or day. Make a giant checklist with all your tasks and deadlines laid out. Be honest about the amount of time that you have. Don’t go overboard with the number of tasks; instead, have a realistic set of to-dos. Focus on the main goal that you’d like to achieve.

A productivity technique that you can use is time block planning where you assign a task to every minute of your day. Time block planning is most effective when applied only to your work hours. Otherwise, it can be pretty intense and exhausting. Limiting your working hours may help you be more productive because it will push you to accomplish your tasks during that short period.

Check out Dr. Hart-Unger’s podcasts: The Best of Both Worlds podcast with Laura Vanderkam, and the Best Laid Plans podcast. Read more about her on her blog: the SHU box. Follow her on Instagram.

Sign up for a Free Coaching session with Chase DiMarco, sponsored by Prospective Doctor! You can also join the Med Mnemonist Mastermind FB Group today and learn more about study methods, memory techniques, and MORE! Do check out Read This Before Medical School. Like our FreeMedEd Facebook page and find our Medical Micro Course, Blog posts, and Podcasts at! Feel free to Email any Questions or Comments.

Chase DiMarco

Chase DiMarco is an MS, MBA-HA and MD/Ph.D-candidate. He is the founder of MedEd University, a free medical education resource, the host of the Medical Mnemonist & Rounds to Residency podcasts creator of several medical education platforms, and CEO of FindARotation clinical rotations service.

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