How To Choose A Medical Specialty: A Book Review

By Brent Schnipke

Central to the skillset of every physician is the differential diagnosis; this is the process by which new patients are evaluated to establish the most likely diagnosis. Similarly, the first clinical year of medical school is like a differential for each student, except instead of a medical diagnosis, students are seeking to determine which specialty they will choose. This column explores this differential: experiences from each rotation by a current third year student.

Note to reader: This month’s post is going to be a little different than previous articles, as I will be offering my book review of How to Choose a Medical Specialty. I’m currently on my Surgery clerkship, and will be writing about this clerkship in December’s post, so stay tuned!

In addition to providing snapshots of my clerkship experiences and a summary of each specialty rotation, this column is also about the process of choosing a medical specialty. After all, this is a major component of the third year of medical school for many students. Although learning the fundamentals of each specialty is essential, the exploration of different paths with the intention to eventually choose one is centrally important for third-year students. The first two years of medical school are generally pre-clinical (mostly classroom work), and applications for residency spots are submitted early in fourth year; therefore, third year is the main opportunity for students to explore fields that might be interesting to them, and to get exposure to many fields. This is the idea behind the title of this column, and one of my purposes in writing it has been to explore this dynamic and to share with other students some of my observations about each specialty, which may help some to make their own choice.

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