Changing Your Mind—And Your Specialty

I’ve written about choosing a medical specialty throughout the third and even fourth years of medical school, but further discussion is warranted regarding the students who don’t choose a specialty in this “typical” timeframe. It is worth mentioning first of all: many people change their minds for many different reasons. I continue to be impressed by the students, residents, and attendings I meet who took circuitous and sometimes truly fascinating routes to become physicians. The same is true for finding one’s niche as a certain type of physician. Many students feel like everyone else has things figured out, but the truth is the path is not always clear cut. Even when the majority achieve a certain stage (e.g. practicing physician) by the standard route, there are always exceptions, and students may be surprised and encouraged at the myriad ways they can reach their career goals.

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Applying for Residency

Last month I wrote about the early part of 4th year as a kind of second-look for medical students – an occasion for confirming specialty choice, or perhaps changing one’s mind altogether. For me, it has been an enjoyable and enlightening process to revisit the specialties I was most interested in and examine them more thoroughly, paying attention to finer details as I considered what a career in that specialty would entail beyond the years of residency. The specialty decision is often made on just a few weeks of exposure and may be highly influenced by observing residents, but it is important to remember that residency is relatively brief in the context of a career, and thus it is imperative to get opinions on the field of choice from practicing attending physicians. I have been grateful for opportunities to do just this; rotating through a field a second or third time has enabled me to make this aspect more of a priority.

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Choosing a Specialty: Taking a Second Look

fourth year

By Brent Schnipke

As I have spoken with physicians, residents, and other medical students about the process of choosing a medical specialty, the near-universal reply has something to do with the fact that third-year rotations barely offer enough exposure to each specialty to make an informed decision. Third-year medical students move quickly between specialties, and are often granted only a few weeks to examine a given career choice and decide whether they like it or not. Because of this, major decisions about how a medical student will practice as a doctor are largely based on brief experiences that can be easily biased by particular patients, residents, attendings, hospital systems, and even external life factors. To control for these variables, most students will finish their third year and use the first part of their fourth year to take a “second look” at the specialty they are planning to apply for and to help those students who remain undecided.

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Advice for 4th Years: Creating Your Best Residency Application

The residency application process is winding down for the current cycle. As this is my second season reviewing applications to my residency program as a resident, I’ve across some insight that I wished I had as a fourth year medical student applying to residency. Being on the other side of the fence, I gained a deeper appreciation for the process and the care my program invested in selecting this year’s applicants. I will share some insight along with examples from current residents at various programs in the country. Here are five tips for 2017-2018 cycle applicants and beyond.

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