Otolaryngology (ENT)

Frequently Asked Questions by MS1s and MS2s

Otolaryngology (ENT) is an exciting and diverse surgical specialty treating a broad range of patients and diseases. It is presently one of the most competitive surgical subspecialties. Programs are most interested in students who have demonstrated a strong interest and commitment to the field through clinical exposure and research. Spend some time working with an ENT physician. Many physicians would be happy to allow a medical student to shadow. Consider shadowing in the clinic, observing outpatient procedures and viewing more complex cases in the operating room. Join an ENT interest group. Review the websites of professional organizations. Develop professional relationships with ENT physicians and work with your senior medical students and recent alumni in ENT residency.

ENT is a very competitive specialty and while research experience is not required it would certainly strengthen your application. Your research does not have to be specific to ENT. Most importantly do a research project that you find highly interesting and are eager to engage with. Your preclinical years are a great time to get started with a research project. It is generally preferable to have completed one or two comprehensive projects where you had significant involvement rather than multiple projects where you were only minimally involved.

Talk to your mentors and Dr. McEchron as he can help guide you to find a good “fit” depending on your interests. Work with your peers, recent graduates, Residents and Fellows as well as ENT faculty and express your interest in getting involved.

A strong academic foundation is your most important priority. If you can successfully add volunteer work or other extracurricular activities and maintain a healthy balance with your academics then it is highly recommended. Volunteering will make you more well-rounded and better informed to make a career decision while gaining valuable experience and serving the local community.

The National Resident Matching Program (NRMP) tracks statistical trends for matched students in each specialty. Learn more about ENT match trends here

Frequently Asked Questions by MS3s and MS4s

Most students start thinking about letters toward the end of 3rd year and beginning of 4th year. We recommend doing your Surgery Sub-Internship and away rotations early in Blocks 1-5 of your 4th year to facilitate developing professional relationships and obtaining letters of recommendation along the way. Your Career Advisor and Specialty Advisor can provide you a more specific recommendation of the number and type of letters based upon your individual circumstances and competitiveness.

You should have your CV updated and your personal statement available for reference. If you are asking for a LOR during your Sub-I or away rotation, consider asking for it about three weeks into the rotation from a faculty member who you have worked very well with. Even better if you have developed that relationship with the Department Chair or Program Director. When asking for a Letter of Recommendation it is ideal to do it in person. It is appropriate to ask specifically if they would be willing to write you a “strong letter of recommendation”. Please thank you letter writers for their effort.

You are allowed to submit up to 4 letters in ERAS. We recommend including letters from faculty that know you well from your Sub-I and away rotations and from faculty that support other aspects of your application. This could include your SP mentor, MPH or Certificate of Distinction programs you are a part of and from research mentor you have worked closely with.

Yes, depending on specialty, all LOR do not have to be from the field you are applying to residency in. It is recommended that most of your letters come from ENT attendings with whom you worked with during your Sub-I and away rotations. A good combination of letters might be: Department Chair, two attendings from Sub-I/away rotations, and one from your SP mentor (if you worked closely together and have a good working relationship). That said, only ask people who are willing to write you a strong recommendation!

A Department Chair Letter is required for some ENT programs. Please check the individual program websites for more specific expectations.

In addition to your 4th year Surgery Sub-I rotation, away rotations in ENT are strongly recommended. Some of the benefits of doing an away rotation include networking, increasing the number of interview invitations you’re likely to receive, and figuring out what you’re looking for in a residency program. ENT is a small community and many Department Chairs and Program Directors know each other and having an endorsement from faculty from your away rotations can make a very positive impact on your application. We recommend working closely with your Career Advisor and Specialty Advisor to help with this decision.

Program Information specific for ENT

Otolaryngology (also known by the less formal ENT abbreviation – Ear, Nose and Throat) is a 5 year categorical surgical specialty training.  Fourth year medical students apply directly through the NRMP matching program into Otolaryngology  These programs incorporate some rotations in general and subspecialty surgery training into the first year, but since Otolaryngology is a categorically matched specialty it does not require a separate internship program.  The remaining four years are focused on Otolaryngology specific clinics and surgical cases, typically with escalating degrees of responsibility and technical difficulty.  The American Board of Otolaryngology includes the following clinical areas as the basis of Otolaryngology training: allergy, head and neck surgery, laryngology, otology/audiology, rhinology, pediatric otolaryngology, facial plastic and reconstructive surgery, and sleep medicine.  Further clinical specialization through Otolaryngology fellowship training allows the physician a specific clinical or academic niche within the specialty.  While the residency Otolaryngology match is through the NRMP match, the fellowship Otolaryngology match is through the San Francisco match.

Otolaryngology is considered a highly competitive surgical subspecialty so the successful applicant will demonstrate outstanding academic and clinical performance.  Specialty specific research, presentations and publications would serve to further strengthen residency application to this competitive field.

Additional Resources

Otolaryngology Preference Signaling link

Click here to visit the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery (AAO-HNS) website

Click here to visit the American Board of Otolaryngology website

Click here to learn about the Association for Research in Otolaryngology

Click here to learn more about Oto Source - Online repository for ENT education