Doing research year away from home institution

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Jul 23, 2018
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Im an M2 at a T5 interested in a surgical sub-specialty. I’ve been blessed with a great research mentor at my home institution in my specialty of interest. We have excellent personal rapport and have also been productive research wise.

However, my first choice program is a different T5 while my home institution is my second choice. How wise would it be to do a research year at that other institution to increase my chances of matching there. Nobody at my home institution interested in this subspecialty has done a research year away from home, so I worry about burning bridges.

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Not worth it imo. Your home program will be your greatest advocates. Plus, you have just as much chance of accidentally burning bridges at the other program if you rub someone the wrong way while you’re there. A lot can happen in a year. And while nobody at your home program would really fault you, your letters would probably suffer slightly just because everyone will get to know your classmates really well and their letters would probably be a bit more glowing. You’d show up for your sub-I and many people wouldn’t even remember who you are.

If you’re at a top school, you have plenty of connections. Do your research time at your home program and look like a star on paper. Interview well and go anywhere you want.

The only caveat might be if the other program has some specific line of research that just fits you perfectly. Like say they’re doing big things with AI and you have a strong AI coding and related research background and even worked for an AI related startup before med school - then it might make sense to spend some time doing work you really like and that would become the focus of your academic career. But doing it to cement your spot at the other program probably isn’t worth the risk given your current position.
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If I was the first choice residency director, I'd be wondering why you chose to do your research away from home. This makes me wonder if you would do the same during your residency. Research institutions want people to stay, not go elsewhere.

It sounds like your home mentor would advocate for you. That will mean a lot more than doing research away.