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How important is research for matching?

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Hi everyone,

I've just started medical school from a very anaemic research background. I have no fruitful research experience (no publications); the extent of any research exposure I ever had was entering data in a dry lab. To be frank, from my limited exposure, I'm not very interested in research and academic medicine does not appeal to me greatly. I am mainly interested in FM, IM, and psychiatry at this point which to my knowledge are not super competitive specialities. I hope to embark on some global health projects during medicine but I'm dreading the idea of having to do research for the sake of matching. Am I disadvantaging myself and is research really as important as my colleagues in 2nd year and 3rd year claim it is?

Hoping to hear some thoughts from recently matched grads, thanks so much! Also, I did search for related posts on this topic but many of the discussion were from many years ago. I am afraid that with the increasing competition of CaRMS research is now becoming more of a "necessary" bar to go over than a "nice to have" which seemed to be the case before.

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Now I didn't go through CaRMS yet but here is my take.The amount of research you need to do is proportional to the competitiveness of the specialty/location you are applying to. Are you applying to family medicine? Then you don't need any research. Are you applying to plastic surgery? Then you probably need several publications, not because it is an official requirement but simply because plastic surgery is an extremely competitive specialty and so everyone applying has tons of research because they want to stand out and so you have to stay on-par.

Another thing about doing research is not just putting it on your CV but also the connections you make with the staff. You cannot imagine how important those connections are. If a staff really likes working with you, he/she can really vouch for you with the program director.

For FM I would say you definitely need no research. For IM I would say reference letters are more important than research but if you are applying to Toronto then you might wanna have a bit of research. I am not sure about psych but I know it is more competitive than IM and of course there are sites that are more competitive than others. There are published reports on the CaRMS website that tells you the applicant:spot ratio, which is a rough measure of competitiveness.

Also you need to factor in how strong is the rest of your application. If you have amazing reference letters from staff who are in the selection committee, then the need for research diminishes. And vice versa.

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Research is definitely advantageous for IM. Sure you probably will match without it, but most people care a lot about where they end up, whereas in the most competitive specialties some people are happy just to match at all. It may sound melodramatic to you now, but the difference between matching to your #1 vs #3 program or #2 vs #5 program will feel vast (other than for program/ego reasons, you may live much further from your family/SO than expected). Spending a bit of time working in your summer can mean the difference between getting an extra interview or not, which ultimately may affect where you end up.

For FM it definitely matters less. Though as a M1, maybe you'll end up wanting to do a specialty where research is traditionally considered a part of the application or even if you don't want to do the most competitive specialties, it definitely helps for the specialties in the 'mid' competitiveness range.

I've gone through CaRMS (the above 2 posters are still medical students) and have seen my old classmates go through it. IMO it's worth working a bit harder to maximize your chances to match where you want.

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Don’t know about IM but with psych’s increasing competitiveness, research is definitely valued, especially at research-heavy universities, especially as it becomes harder and harder to choose between applicants. As far as I know, all the McGill psych PGY-1s this year had some form of research involvement and most had published.

So I can’t say I agree that you can easily match into psych with zero research (not in English Canada anyway).

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Research usually opens doors for matching. Is it needed, no (especially for fam med). However if you have a strong preference for location in either psych or internal, its definately useful. The last thing you want is to be there on match day wondering if doing research would have made a difference. 

Matching is all about trying to control factors that are not controllable. Even if research doesn't help, it gives you a bit more confidence going into carms.

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