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                            Dr. Craig Best, PGY-4
                            PM&R, Pain Medicine Fellow


1. Please introduce yourself (name, age, Canadian undergrad/masters, medical school, graduate year, residency program and year, AOA or ACGME, and state)

My name is Craig Best and I was born and raised in Medicine Hat, Alberta! I completed my Bachelor of Science in Exercise & Health Physiology at the University of Calgary. I was then part of the inaugural class at Lincoln Memorial University’s DeBusk College of Osteopathic Medicine and graduated in 2011. I’m about to complete my Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation residency (ACGME) at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, IL and am headed to Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, MA for my Pain Medicine fellowship (also ACGME).

2. Why PM&R?

I picked PM&R for many reasons. First, the field has a great combination of musculoskeletal and neurologic topics, which I really enjoy. It provides an excellent background for the two subspecialties I’d considered pursuing, Pain Medicine and Sports Medicine. Most importantly, its focus on function really piqued my interest! From patients with spinal cord and traumatic brain injury to athletes with sport-specific injuries to middle-aged folks with low back and neck pain, I am able to improve their function and quality of life via precise diagnosis, detailed therapy prescription, medications, bracing and orthotics, and a wide variety of procedures.

3. What is a typical day like as a PM&R resident?

It depends on the service you’re on at the time. Inpatient services such as stroke rehab, spinal cord injury, brain injury, etc will require you to act as the primary service which entails managing medical issues, coordinating care with consultants as needed, and leading the rehabilitation team which includes physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech and language pathologists, nurses, psychologists, and social workers. The hours tend to be longer and include some call, but never as difficult as my internal medicine rotations as an intern. Outpatient rotations may include sports medicine, pain medicine, electrodiagnostic medicine (electromyography and nerve conduction studies), and seeing previous inpatients for follow-up. These tend to be more 8-5, Monday-Friday hours which is certainly a nice perk of the field. In general, Physiatry (PM&R) is a very lifestyle friendly specialty.

4. How was the residency match? Many sleepless night?

The interview process and match is certainly an exciting but anxious period during your fourth year of medical school! I actually just went through it all over again for fellowships this past summer. The competitiveness of each specialty is different so you have to be honest with yourself and apply appropriately. Also consider that requiring a visa may be a knock against you in the eyes of some programs, so do everything you can to make yourself as competitive as possible to make up for that “deficiency” such as good grades, great COMLEX/USMLE, research, rocking clinical rotations, etc.

5. Any advice for Canadian DOs regarding visa and visa applications for residency?

Be sure to use the OPT extension of your F1 student visa for your intern year. I would push as much as you can to then transition to an H1B visa as it allows for some more control of where you practice after you’re done training. However, not nearly as many programs offer an H1B compared to the J1. The J1 works fine and is much more widely accepted by US residency and fellowship programs but you must keep in mind that you either owe Canada two years of service or work in an underserved area in the US. Additionally, some specialties aren’t considered “in need” and, as such, obtaining a J1 may be difficult.

6. As a Canadian, do you recommend doing anything special to improve your application?

Study really hard, get great grades, rock COMLEX/USMLE, and shine on your clinical rotations! Extracurricular activities as well as research projects can certainly bump you on a program’s rank list.

7. Like being part of COMSA?

So far, so good! A resource like COMSA would have been amazing when I was looking into DO schools and then applying to residency as well. I’m just hoping my experience can make things easier on the next generations of Canadian osteopathic physicians!

8. Since 2009, the number of Canadian applicants and matriculates to DO colleges has increased from 66 to 210 and from 13 to 56, respectively. Are you surprised to see the Canadian DO population grow so fast?

I’m very surprised and really happy to see the increasing popularity of Canadians pursuing the DO route! Assuming a decent chunk of Canadian DOs make their way back home at some point, I think we’ll have a very beneficial effect of the Canadian healthcare system. Now we just need to work the appropriate organizations to make that transition home a little smoother.

9. How many Canadians DO medical students were in your initial class?

I was the only Canadian in my class so I definitely had to do my best to represent my roots. Thank goodness my satellite TV package included the NHL Network so I could watch Hockey Night in Canada on Saturday nights!

10. Last question (and most important), what do you think the Toronto Maple Leafs need to do to enter the playoffs?

As a Western Canadian and an Edmonton Oilers fan, I have more than enough to worry about, so the Leafs aren’t exactly on my radar! Here’s hoping Connor McDavid will finally fuel a successful rebuild for the Oilers!

Regarding Toronto, I get the sense Brendan Shanahan will be instrumental in turning things around for that organization. He strikes me as a guy who brings a winning attitude and all of the important intangibles that winning teams (and good physicians) possess: strong work ethic, accountability, discipline, willingness and desire to improve each and every day. Perhaps we’ll see an Oilers vs. Maple Leafs Stanley Cup final in the not-too-distant future!


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