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Strategy for asking for a letter for CaRMS


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Hey all!

Just looking for some thoughts and insights on how to approach this situation: I've been working closely with a resident in my specialty of interest on a project, but have not yet had the chance to speak with the PI (the PI is also an attending in the field I'm interested in). Would it be overkill or out of line to reach out to the PI and see about getting a letter from them down the road?

Thanks!

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It's a perfectly reasonable goal and endpoint.  

It's just a question of tact and timing - trying to have as much face-time with the PI would help and also if you have already contributed significant work.   

If no face time is possible, then you could still reach out and try to start a dialogue depending on where the project is at..  but PIs are sometimes very busy too.  

You also want to protect yourself by not putting a lot of work into something that won't ultimately help you that much if there is no letter at the end.    

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Don't use a research supervisor as a referee for CaRMS and especially one you've had basically no face to face time with. This is a recipe for disaster. Your letters should be written by clinicians (and attendings, not residents) who have directly supervised you. Anything else is shooting yourself in the foot, big time.

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42 minutes ago, Snowmen said:

Don't use a research supervisor as a referee for CaRMS and especially one you've had basically no face to face time with. This is a recipe for disaster. Your letters should be written by clinicians (and attendings, not residents) who have directly supervised you. Anything else is shooting yourself in the foot, big time.

Do programs actually accept letters from research PIs? I thought they only accepted letters from attendings who supervised you clinically in 3rd/4th year

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 The PI is also an attending in the desired specialty.

One competitive program that I know of specifically suggested having a more research-focused letter.  But, generally clinically letters are much more important.  Ideally it wouldn’t just be a research letter but also have clinical comments.

according to @Aetherus in his ultra-competitive specialty, and capacity as file reviewer, research letters in desired specialty can be important (but less than clinical)

https://forums.premed101.com/topic/113533-getting-3-specialty-letters/?do=findComment&comment=1232013

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I think 1 good letter from research PI who's also a clinician is fine. It's bit of a problem if you haven't had face to face time with them. Maybe ask the resident if they can play the middleman and set up a meeting between you three to talk about how the project is going. First make sure the resident can actually talk positively about your contribution though.

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It's fair to reach out, but if the PI says no then don't take it personally. You will want to say "Hi I'm OP, the medical student who has been working with [resident] on the [project]. I have decided to apply to [specialty] because [reasons]. Would it be possible to meet and discuss a career in [specialty]? I have enjoyed working on [project], but would be interested in any opportunities to work with you directly on this or another project in [specialty], or any other exposure opportunities you can recommend." If the PI is down to meet then if there are opportunities to work directly with them then I would ask at that point if they might be able to write you a strong letter of recommendation discussing your work with them and the resident. If they say no or don't have anything for direct contact then I would ask if they can recommend anyone else who might have research opportunities in your field, but I don't think a letter from them without having worked with you personally would be worthwhile.

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6 hours ago, smeagol said:

Hey all!

Just looking for some thoughts and insights on how to approach this situation: I've been working closely with a resident in my specialty of interest on a project, but have not yet had the chance to speak with the PI (the PI is also an attending in the field I'm interested in). Would it be overkill or out of line to reach out to the PI and see about getting a letter from them down the road?

Thanks!

This resident is not being fair to you. I work with medical students frequently and I always discuss with my PI that I will be bringing them on to the project. Once they have worked on enough to have something of value to talk about with the PI, I ensure I set up a meeting so they can get credit for their work and set themselves up to be able to get a reference letter. If you can’t get a reference letter from this experience and can’t network with staff, it is of limited value to you and you are mostly being used for scutt work with no recognition. Either work to change the situation by talking to the resident or find another project.

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On 5/8/2021 at 1:25 PM, shikimate said:

I think 1 good letter from research PI who's also a clinician is fine. It's bit of a problem if you haven't had face to face time with them. Maybe ask the resident if they can play the middleman and set up a meeting between you three to talk about how the project is going. First make sure the resident can actually talk positively about your contribution though.

Following up on this, if your PI writes you a research LOR but you change your mind afterwards, can you choose whether to submit it (similar to clinical LORs)?

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Hey sorry I'm tagging on to this thread but what if you worked directly with the PI (got lots of facetime) and then are able to do an elective with them in their specialty? 

I was told that would make a good letter since they could speak to your research and clinical work but is that not the case? 

(I'm starting clerkship in fall so still don't know much about LORs)

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10 minutes ago, dragoncat said:

Hey sorry I'm tagging on to this thread but what if you worked directly with the PI (got lots of facetime) and then are able to do an elective with them in their specialty? 

I was told that would make a good letter since they could speak to your research and clinical work but is that not the case? 

(I'm starting clerkship in fall so still don't know much about LORs)

It's a question of getting there - sometimes things are harder to do in practice because of the way things work and the complexity of hierarchy.  That's what a lot of this discussion is about - figuring out how to take those steps.  

But, yes, that would be the ideal goal - both clinical and research comments (as mentioned above). 

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