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What can I do during pre-clerkship to increase my chances of matching into surgery?


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Hey guys,

I'm a first-year med student, and my school isn't allowing any in person shadowing/observerships at the moment. I'm interested in surgery, and given how competitive it is, I want to start setting myself up for success as early as possible. 

I've heard mixed things in terms of research expectations, involvement in surgery-related clubs/initiatives, and practicing suturing early. Importantly, what can I do to start building connections early one? Also, in terms of research, how useful is it to publish on a non-surgical topic?

I'd really like to know what activities are worth engaging in, and which activities only provide a marginal benefit. Where should I be focusing my energy? 

Any input would be much appreciated

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I've heard from upper years and staff that clubs and initiatives in general are of minimal benefits. Research and mentorship may be of more importance as pre-clerks, especially if you stay with your mentor long term and get a strong LOR from them. Surgical research is obviously preferred but I'm sure a first-authored paper in other specialties would still trump a third/fourth authorship on a surgical paper. Program directors love to say "we look for good doctors first, surgeons second". So the skills you gain would largely be transferrable and looked upon favorably. Suturing practice would help comes time for clerkship since you can impress preceptors.

Edit: while moderately competitive specialties like gen surg, ortho, and even potentially otolaryngology and ob-gyn may accommodate some flip-flop and mindchanging, things like ophtho, plastics and neurosurg probs would require really early commitments and any research efforts might be better spent in those exact fields. 

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5 hours ago, DrOtter said:

I've heard from upper years and staff that clubs and initiatives in general are of minimal benefits. Research and mentorship may be of more importance as pre-clerks, especially if you stay with your mentor long term and get a strong LOR from them. Surgical research is obviously preferred but I'm sure a first-authored paper in other specialties would still trump a third/fourth authorship on a surgical paper. Program directors love to say "we look for good doctors first, surgeons second". So the skills you gain would largely be transferrable and looked upon favorably. Suturing practice would help comes time for clerkship since you can impress preceptors.

Edit: while moderately competitive specialties like gen surg, ortho, and even potentially otolaryngology and ob-gyn may accommodate some flip-flop and mindchanging, things like ophtho, plastics and neurosurg probs would require really early commitments and any research efforts might be better spent in those exact fields. 

Thanks for the info! 

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8 hours ago, dooogs said:

I'm thinking that research that is in a close field to the first choice speciality should be valuable too... right?

like for example research in neurosurgery - would it not still be good for ophtho?

Oh I'm sure it would be good regardless. The PD I heard from said that they look at the value of the research e.g. A primary paper vs a lit review or case report as well. It's just that ophtho is so competitive it's hard to gauge what is "enough" - many people even end up doing a research fellowship after med school in order to match the next year. 

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CC4 medical student applying to a competitive surgical specialty. Ill say a few things for OP

1. Never too early to start practicing suturing, and it is one of the few skills in the OR you may actually get to do as a medical student. If you are really keen on getting some experience, I'd suggest getting a suture kit and watching youtube videos. Start learning common suture techniques, how to hold instruments, the fundamentals etc. I just recently started using pig's feet for practice and I must say its a lot better than the rigid suture kits, so you can always consider that (other objects: banana, orange peel).

2. Research - all academic centres and smaller surgical specialties value this to some degree, so I think its important. If you have a particular subspecialty in mind, do research in the field. You'll be able to network with residents, staff, and potentially even members on the committee. This also opens up to opportunity to present at national conferences and get your name out there. So do it if you enjoy research. 

3. I personally think clubs/initiatives that are relatable to the field will help. For example I was the Chair for the surgical specialty I was interested in/now applying to. I was able to meet a lot of residents this way as they helped me run a few events. They then mentioned me to the Program Director and had become known to them in a positive light. It also gives you some more informal ways of interacting with residents outside of the clinical format. This is not necessary per say, but again the more exposure (especially in smaller specialties) the better IMO (assuming the exposure is positive).

For now as M1, I'd focus on really figuring out what specialty you want to do. I know this sounds cliche but it is true. The more time you invest in introspection and thinking how you want the next 50 years of your life to look, the more service you are doing to your future self. Really consider if surgery is right for you, or are you happy elsewhere? 

If the answer is still SURGERY, then start to network, get involved, work-hard and show your passion. I think most programs want students who know what they want, are committed and willing to work for it. Being nice, a solid team-player, reliable and professional are also really important things. 

It's a shame you cant do observerships at the moment and it looks like the situation isnt getting any better in the immediate future. However, there will be plenty of opportunities in the future. 

Happy to give more specific advice if you would like, feel free to PM me. 

 

 

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