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DeeplySuperficial

How to make good use of pre-clerkship summer months?

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Clinical electives (especially after 2nd year) so you get used to the hospital environment. Gaining practice in examining patients and writing up assessments/notes will help you hit the ground running come clerkship.

If you have an idea of what competitive program you wish to pursue, try to do some research or other work in the field. If you don't know which program to focus on yet after first year, use the summer to do some more career exploration to help you decide, and try to arrange research for the summer after 2nd year.

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I joined a competitive surgical specialty program. I used the summers to totally relax, to spend time with my s.o. and family. I did some travelling and came back ready to work hard again. These are the last summers you will ever have again to enjoy until retirement. I did no research during med school. I spent 3 weeks doing a literature review one summer with an upperclassman and we were published. It was totally irrelevant to my field or to my selection to my residency spot. When I applied at CaRMS for this surgical specialty, I was essentially an outsider, had only one week of a 2 week elective by the time I submitted my application (to 2 other fields as well) and not one of the gunners were selected! I was selected because of my soft skills,  because I was considered to be a good fit and they were right in their assessment. The same applies for getting a job after residency. One technically competent surgeon I know, who is ahead of me, has been seeking interviews, and has been granted not one interview; he doesn't know why. The word is out, nobody likes him. Nobody is keen to work with him as part of the team. 

Lactic Folly has given you excellent advice. I took another route. All roads lead to the same place. Timing and luck play a role in your future. Be flexible and consider various fields. You will undoubtedly change your mind by the time you are ready to apply for residency. 

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Really I think it comes down to the following:

a) do what you need to do to support your well-being so you can be a 'normal person'

b) consider preclerkship electives/research/conferences to meet people in the disciplines you are considering, ask questions, build familiarity, get a sense of what your eventual colleagues may be like and narrow your interests to 1-2 fields ideally

c) use the above to build connections in the discipline(s) of interest at your home school

When it comes to CaRMS, a lot of it is about elective performance, work ethic, communication skills, dependability, trustworthiness, collaborative abilities, initiative, being a 'team player' and overall fit/how well you mesh with peers/residents/allied staff/attendings and of course how you interact with patients. Reading voraciously around the discipline you are applying to is of course also helpful.

Research and other extracurricular activities can be part of the overall picture along with the aforementioned items that allow you to get an interview, though probably are not weighed as heavily as the above. Then once you have an interview, it is all about 'fit.'

If a program is going to commit to closely working with you for the next 5 years, they want to get a good glimpse into who you are as a person and what you're like to work with. If they feel comfortable committing themselves to you then they will.

Disclosure: I haven't personally applied to any traditionally competitive programs, though this is what I would say from what I've read on the forums, personal reflection, and discussions with residents who have been on selection committees for competitive disciplines.

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Just now, DeeplySuperficial said:

Thank you all for for the detailed answers...really appreciate it. Can someone explain to me what preclerkship electives are and how I can go about doing them? I am only aware of clerkship electives.

Perhaps this is school dependent, but usually you can arrange electives prior to clerkship during the summer months for career exploration. They may also be referred to as horizontal electives. Similarly, you could always arrange for observerships. You should be able to find this information by consulting your UME office, school website, etc.

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On 12/9/2018 at 5:26 PM, DeeplySuperficial said:

Hey everyone...first yr med student here wondering how to make good use of my summer months so that I can be a strong applicant to competitive programs. Any advice/tips are very much appreciated. Thanks!

I would study, do electives, do research and save some time to travel. One option is to do an international elective, which kills two birds with one stone. 

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On 12/9/2018 at 6:50 PM, DeeplySuperficial said:

Thank you all for for the detailed answers...really appreciate it. Can someone explain to me what preclerkship electives are and how I can go about doing them? I am only aware of clerkship electives.

On 12/9/2018 at 6:52 PM, freewheeler said:

Perhaps this is school dependent, but usually you can arrange electives prior to clerkship during the summer months for career exploration. They may also be referred to as horizontal electives. Similarly, you could always arrange for observerships. You should be able to find this information by consulting your UME office, school website, etc.

Rotating observerships. They're called rotating observerships at our [mutual] school.

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