EM Match Advice: VSAS 101 – Securing an away EM rotation


To launch Season 2 of our EM Match Advice Series, Dr. Michael Gisondi has recruited another all-star cast of residency program leaders around the United States to share their sage wisdom about the Visiting Student Application Service (VSAS). This centralized process to coordinate visiting clerkship rotations first began in 2008 and now almost all medical schools participate. Because anecdotally the VSAS application process has been challenging, we gathered some experts to share their insights in a Google Hangout.

VSAS 101 Panelists
Michael Gisondi, MD  (Northwestern University, Program Director)
Susan Stroud, MD  (University of Utah, Program Director)
Cullen Hegarty, MD  (Regions Medical Center/ HealthPartners, Program Director)
Scott Sherman, MD  (Cook County, Assistant Program Director)
Michelle Lin, MD  (ALiEM Editor in Chief)

VSAS 101



00:00  Introductions
01:45  What is VSAS?
03:50  Round table questions: Does your site have a required EM clerkship, and do you participate in VSAS?
07:35  Dr. Stroud: The basics about VSAS. What is it, why is it, how much does it cost?
15:50  Dr. Hegarty: What are the elements of the VSAS application? What additional or supplemental information might be needed? What some operational logistics to remember?
21:10  Dr. Hegarty: What are key timing and etiquette considerations?
28:58  Dr. Sherman: What are some VSAS application pitfalls? Why do students not get the away EM rotation of their choice?
36:00  Dr. Stroud: What if your school does not participate in VSAS?
37:48  Dr. Lin: Reflecting on the discussion
39:10  Dr. Hegarty: Some advice for international medical students
40:38  The panelists share some awesome facts and pearls about their programs

Read more at AAMC’s VSAS website and their Frequently Asked Questions

Watch the other EM Match Advice videos.

Michelle Lin, MD
ALiEM Editor-in-Chief
Academy Endowed Chair of EM Education
Professor of Clinical Emergency Medicine
University of California, San Francisco
Michelle Lin, MD
Michelle Lin, MD

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Michael Gisondi, MD

Michael Gisondi, MD

Associate Professor and Vice Chair of Education
Department of Emergency Medicine
Stanford University
Editor, ALiEM EM Match Advice series
  • Colleen Roche

    You all are so awesome!! What a great resource for our students!!

  • Drew Kalnow

    Great post and a great resource to aspiring EM physicians! I am actually a EM resident and have been on my programs interview/selection committee for the past two years. Last year my program switched to using VSAS to set up “audition” rotations and I was listening to both hear what advice is being given to students and find out how other programs are handling VSAS. The feedback we received from students was more frustration than anything as our rotation scheduling system went from being somewhat flexible and personal to, well, VSAS. One thing we did was to block off prime audition months (July – Sept) to 3rd year medical students from rotating with us on their EM clerkship. This allowed more slots for 4th students/applicants, a big win for both us as a program and our applicants. It also allows 3rd year students to get their feet wet before being dropped into out high-volume ED. Thanks again for a great post!

  • Jon Nichol

    There is a ton of really great info shared in this video. I just wish a student had been included to discuss their end of VSAS as well. From my perspective (a student currently using VSAS) it feels inefficient and it creates more busy work. I set up rotations outside of VSAS quickly and easily (and it was free!) by sending an email to a program coordinator. VSAS, on the other hand, can take weeks, seems to be very inflexible with schools set schedules, and adds a bunch of extra steps, some of which are dependent on the school getting their paperwork done. I get why we have it, but, bottom line is it adds undue stress to my life. Not sure if there is a better way, but I am not a fan of using VSAS.

    • Great feedback, Jon. I think you are in the majority with your feeling about VSAS. Personally, regarding including students on the panel, I think it’s a bit risky participating on a LIVE panel discussion especially with interview season. You never know what might go wrong, what you might say that goes misinterpreted, etc. You don’t want that digital footprint to follow you around on the interview trail… It’s much “safer” to comment on the blog — as you are appropriately doing. As for the faculty, we already got into residency, so the risk is a bit smaller!

      Wish we could get rid of VSAS in general. It seems to be wrecking a system that was actually quite functional with individual departments running their own application process. Alas, it does not seem it’ll go away…

      Thanks for sharing your insights and student perspective.