A little help please

jubb

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    OK, I'm a third year medical student, I've always been interested in Surgery but ruled it out when I got married. Now I realized I don't really like anything else in medicine half as much as surgery.

    I just completed my 3rd year surgery rotation. I screwed up on the test at the end and will not be getting Honors or Letters for my rotation. So now I'm freaking out because I really want to do surgery, but am off to a horrible start and applications are due in like 6 months or so. I'm not worried about my Step 1 score, but the rest of my clinical rotations grades are not stellar. What can I do to salvage my application? Recently deciding to do surgery, I don't have any long standing contact with the surgery staff, I don't have any research, and other extracurricular activities that are at all attached to surgery.

    Any suggestions? How bad is my situation?


    Justin
     

    Bitsy3221

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      Not all is lost.

      You may only have six months before application time, but hey-six months is a relatively long time. Make an appointment with one of the attending surgeons you did work with and express your interest. Ask him/her advice on your next move; see if there is some research projects you can jump on, spend some of your off time working with and getting to know your surgical faculty. I'm not sure why you said you won't be able to get any Letters--did you do a terrible job? Did they hate you? If you are thinking you will only get a LOR if you smoke the shelf or get honors, you are absolutely incorrect.

      People have decided later than you that they want to do surgery, so don't give up. But you do need to make a sincere effort to get your application in order. As far as your lack of research, I wouldn't let it hold you back from applying. Research certainly helps, but it is not the be-all end-all. And as far as your lack of extracurriculars, they don't mean squat in residency applications so don't sweat that.

      Good luck, and hang in there. If it is really what you want to do, you can certainly still do it.
       

      jubb

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        I worked well with my teams, but didn't really get to know the attendings due to the fact that I worked mainly with the Fellow and Intern since they were more interested in involving me in the work and teaching me. The Attendings didn't put much effort into my evaluations(it was a busy month on thoracic surgery). They put about 30 seconds into they evaluation of my entire month busting my butt. My other month of surgery was spent at the Community hospital where I again worked hard and I think the attendings liked me, but I don't feel like my experience with them was so spread out that they wouldn't know me well enough for a LOR. Thanks for your help and encouragement. I appreciate it.
         
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        filter07

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          Don't worry. I decided on surgery after my third year rotation and had no letters to show for it at the time. I got all of my letters as a fourth year during my subinternships, where I made it very clear throughout my rotations that I was planning on applying to surgery. The residents then made sure I had a great experience and had ample opportunities to get interaction with attendings.

          As your experience shows, you have to choose your rotations carefully as a fourth year. Do rotations with famous people in your department with lots of connections, and do everything humanly possible to impress them... with hard work and knowledge, not by baking them cookies. Then approach them and explain your interest in surgery and ask them if they would write a strong letter of recommendation in support of your application.

          In summary, your situation is not bad. There is a ton you can do from now until you apply to significantly improve your application. I too was nervous when I was in your shoes, but I followed my strategy and it worked out pretty well during my fourth year. I was able to get strong letters and had several people willing to put their reputation on the line for me by contacting various programs. I was far from a superstar; I just had a plan and made it work.
           

          dynx

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            OK, I'm a third year medical student, I've always been interested in Surgery but ruled it out when I got married. Now I realized I don't really like anything else in medicine half as much as surgery.

            I just completed my 3rd year surgery rotation. I screwed up on the test at the end and will not be getting Honors or Letters for my rotation. So now I'm freaking out because I really want to do surgery, but am off to a horrible start and applications are due in like 6 months or so. I'm not worried about my Step 1 score, but the rest of my clinical rotations grades are not stellar. What can I do to salvage my application? Recently deciding to do surgery, I don't have any long standing contact with the surgery staff, I don't have any research, and other extracurricular activities that are at all attached to surgery.

            Any suggestions? How bad is my situation?


            Justin


            The fact that you not only didn't do well on the shelf but also your performance wasn't notable enough to get a letter is a little concerning. If you want to do surgery you have to step up and shine in surgical rotations. No matter how little face time you get, an attending or two WILL notice if you bust your ass and you're ALWAYS the guy around early and late. You can go after letters from those people even if they aren't the "big names" at your program.

            From here out, I'd focus on (in this order):
            1. Finding a mentor. Ask 4th year students who a good guy/gal is.
            2. Do well on your remaining clerkships
            3. If you have a fair amount of flexibility in your fourth year, put off a third year clerkship and do another surgery rotation now (find one with a lot of face time with an attending...again ask 4th years) and get at least a letter now.
            4. Start thinking about where you want to do AI's and get some information on what sort of application materials you need ready to get an AI at those places.

            You're not screwed yet but you're a little behind the 8 ball.
             
            I think a few of your faculty members might actually find it refreshing that you made your decision on surgery AFTER the rotation, and not based on something you saw on TV. There is plenty of time. Do a Sub-I + an additional rotation at your home program in your 4th year and you'll get letters.
             
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