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Hello everyone. I am a 2nd year medical student with a recently-found interest in a competitive surgical specialty. I want to start racking up some research experience for this specialty but I have no previous research experience and I have no idea where to start. So I have a few questions:

1. How do you find a research supervisor? What are the criteria that I should be looking for when choosing a research supervisor (e.g staff that's on adcom etc.)?

2. Ideally, I would like to match to my home province not the one that I am currently in. Is it feasible/advisable to go with a supervisor from another school?

3. What kind of project should I join? How do I know which projects are publishable (especially before my CaRMS application deadline)?

4. What is the typical time commitment required? Is it feasible to do research with clerkship?

5. What is the goal here - quality or quantity?

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I'll try to answer this as best I can. I come from a University that does not have a great deal of surgical sub-specialities, but I still managed to match this year, so hopefully my insight might still be useful for you.

1. How do you find a research supervisor? What are the criteria that I should be looking for when choosing a research supervisor (e.g staff that's on adcom etc.)?

If your school has summer research projects for students, then that would be a good place to start. Alternatively, you can try emailing staff who have a history of doing research, and explain to them that you're interested in specialty X, and are wondering if they have any projects that might need more help.

2. Ideally, I would like to match to my home province not the one that I am currently in. Is it feasible/advisable to go with a supervisor from another school?

I would not recommend this. You'll have opportunities to meet staff at places you want to match to when you do electives. Research, in my experience, is not a very high yield area to have on your CV anyway.

3. What kind of project should I join? How do I know which projects are publishable (especially before my CaRMS application deadline)?

You should join a project that you'll genuinely enjoy. Find an area of research or the specialty that you are actually passionate about. Having publications is nice, but you might not be asked about your research -- I was asked about my research about 20% of the time on my CaRMS tour.

4. What is the typical time commitment required? Is it feasible to do research with clerkship?

I did not do any research throughout clerkship. Your time in clerkship, in my opinion, should be about becoming stronger clinically, making connections with staff, and showing that you can be a member of a healthcare team. I'm sure there are those that would disagree, and that is fine, but there are much "higher yield" ways of standing out and being a strong applicant.

5. What is the goal here - quality or quantity?

Showing investment in a project aka quality. If you have 5 projects, no publications, and did very little with each project, then what kind of message does that send to staff compared to someone who has done one project, participated from start to finish, and got that published?

 

If you have other questions about research, CaRMS, applying, really anything, please feel free to PM me. I'd be happy to try to help.

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I would add that as it stands, research is hitting a wall everywhere in terms of starting it, as we really not allowed in hospitals right now. I know many people, including myself, who’s summer research plans are sort of in jeopardy sadly :(. But if you can somehow snag a systematic review or something all virtually, then it at least shows interest. 

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I’m in a small surgical specialty. What is important is to be a good fit, a collaborative, hard worker. I did a literature review with another student, in the summer, it took less than a month and was published, however, it was in another field and meant nothing for my selection.

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I think the only benefit research had for me was that I built a strong relationship with my mentor.  Hard work, collaboration and fit are 100p the most important aspects but having a mentor that goes to bat for you (ie calling up/emailing PDs without you asking, writing a letter that every interview quoted, reviewing your personal letters and providing advice regarding electives) makes the process less stressful. I know it's hard to find someone like that late in the game, but if you've developed a strong relationship with anyone, even if it's a different field, they are an invaluable resource. I do not think I'd be starting a surgical residency if it wasn't for my mentor. 

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