Brandon Dyson is a board-certified, residency-trained pharmacist. He’s also a preceptor.
In March 2016, Brandon and fellow pharmacist Sam Oh launched a website, tldrpharmacy.com, which helps pharmacy students and practicing pharmacists by providing them with information and tools to become better pharmacists.
Among other things, the website offers a blog, professional development information and cheat sheets.
But as residency season 2016 approached, Brandon noticed a demand for information about the residency process.
Sure, he received questions from his followers, but he also received questions from his students. And many of them sounded terrified.
Brandon said that he remembered feeling that way, too.
When he thought back to his own experience as a prospective resident, he knew that there was a huge market for this information.
Statistics from the ASHP Resident Matching program show that of the 5,438 residents who participated in the matching program in 2016, 1,817 were not placed.
It can be tough to land any residency, Brandon thought, let alone the residency you really want. And he wanted to find a way to help students achieve their goals.
Writing the Book
After validating his idea with a test blog and an email to his followers, he decided to work with Sam to write a book.
Brandon and Sam’s goal was to write down all the things that they wished they would have known when they were applying for residencies and to share all the lessons they learned.
So, Brandon and Sam began outlining.
But because they were both balancing full-time jobs and families, they weren’t making progress as quickly as they hoped.
Instead of waiting until their book was finished to get feedback, they offered an incomplete version of their book to their email subscribers at a very low price. Much to their surprise, about 15 people purchased the book.
Selling these few initial copies helped the pair to become more motivated; they knew that they had to meet certain deadlines in order to provide these buyers with content in advance of important events in the residency timeline.
Although Brandon and Oh were excited to complete the book, they knew that they were going to need some extra help. They brought in Stephanie Kujawski, another residency-trained pharmacist and preceptor who is a frequent contributor to their website.
The three authors found that their writing styles were very compatible, which helped to establish continuity and flow throughout the book.
Another benefit of having three authors was that there was a higher chance that another author would be interested in writing about a topic you didn’t particularly like.
“Sam was super into writing about how the match actually works, but I didn’t want to touch it,” Brandon said. “It helped to have someone else available to write that part.”
Publishing the Book
After months of work, they digitally published their book, Mastering the Match: How to Secure a Pharmacy Residency, in March 2017.
They presold the book to a select audience at a discount, but missed the 2017 residency season. However, this allowed Brandon, Sam and Stephanie to incorporate the valuable feedback they received into the digital edition in time for the 2018 residency rush.
“The book will tell you how to make yourself the most attractive candidate you can be,” Brandon said. “Obviously, we can’t guarantee a match, but prospective residents will feel a lot better after reading it.”
Achieving the Goal
Brandon’s main goal is to help students feel less confused and more confident going into the residency process. He wants students to feel like they can accomplish their goal of landing a residency—and that they are worthy of the opportunity.
Brandon said that what makes the book especially valuable is the perspective of the authors. All three authors have been through the residency process and ended up matching with their No. 1 ranked program. They all ended up working at the residency facility after their program was complete and are now preceptors.
The book also focuses on common mistakes that prospective residents make, such as not answering questions, failing to ask questions about the program and choosing the wrong topic for their presentation.
“You have one chance to make a first impression, and you are going up against 100 people for two or three residency slots,” Brandon said. “You really have to shine and put your best foot forward.”
Although the book is geared toward P1 – P4 students, the chapters on interviewing, presentations and cheat sheets on interview questions could benefit almost anyone.
Some schools are great at preparing students for residency and others are not, Brandon said. His book is intended to help fill these gaps and help students to stand out.
“Everyone has research and a publication on their CV and everyone’s GPA is above 3.5,” Brandon said. “All residency candidates look the same on paper, so you need to stand out by being yourself.”
And Brandon’s book aims to give prospective residents the confidence to be comfortable doing just that.
If you are thinking about residency, Mastering the Match: How to Secure a Pharmacy Residency is the book for you. If you are looking to express yourself and do something you love while still pursuing a career in pharmacy, check out my conference on non-traditional pharmacy career paths.
Alex is the Founder of The Happy PharmD. He loves anime, his family, and video games, but not in that order.