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Is 5th year for research important for competitive residencies

JessicaJones123

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As a new soon to be med student, I’ve heard rumors that an extra fifth year between M3 and M4 for research is becoming almost required / expected to match into a competitive residency like Ortho.

If I do well at at my T20 med school and score >95th percentile on Step 2, how important is it to do this extra year? Assume I’ve done some related research, ECs and obtained appropriate ortho mentorship during electives etc for LORs etc, and strong home program.
 
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FalconSlice

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No it is not required... you'd be surprised how much extra curricular stuff you can do throughout medical school without taking a year off. The people that do take a year (or more) off have individual/unique situations (for the most part) as does everyone else. There's no "right" thing to do for these situations.

Also some unsolicited advice (not that you fit the bill for this, but anyway) please don't be one of those "competitive specialty" people from the beginning of med school. Have an open mind and experience all that you can before choosing a specialty because you love it. You're not even a first year, and things will change for you multiple times over. You will miss out on a LOT of things in a lot of the specialties you'd "never go into" if you're too narrow minded going in even if you don't go into those specialties anyway. Enjoy your journey and best of luck.
 
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slowthai

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As a new soon to be med student, I’ve heard rumors that an extra fifth year between M3 and M4 for research is becoming almost required / expected to match into a competitive residency like Ortho.

If I do well at at my T20 med school and score >95th percentile on Step 2, how important is it to do this extra year? Assume I’ve done some related research, ECs and obtained appropriate ortho mentorship during electives etc for LORs etc, and strong home program.


This is just not true. Even neurosurg, which has the third highest (after path and rad onc) number of PhDs going into the field, does not require a research year. And they are freakin hardcore about research, lol.

What is true is that you need some amount of research to match into ortho. The more, the better, obviously. You can easily do that any time during preclinicals.

Reasons you might do a research year:

1. You decided on the field late with little to no ortho-specific research

2. You're trying to make up for a low step score

3. You're from a low tier school and you're trying to match into an upper tier program

4. You don't have a home program and have been unable to find any research/develop any strong connections

I will say that as people are recognizing the power of connections (which you get from doing a research year), the amount of people doing research years has been trending up. People will do anything to get an edge in this increasingly crazy match, particularly if they're a borderline candidate.
 
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Detective SnowBucket

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What is true is that you need some amount of research to match into ortho. The more, the better, obviously. You can easily do that any time during preclinicals.
I'm in the same spot as OP. Regarding the quote from you, you really think that you can walk in as a new med student, find a lab (sure) but be able to keep up with research & class from the beginning of M1? We were advised not to do this by admissions people during the Q&A at the interview.
 
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slowthai

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I'm in the same spot as OP. Regarding the quote from you, you really think that you can walk in as a new med student, find a lab (sure) but be able to keep up with research & class from the beginning of M1? We were advised not to do this by admissions people during the Q&A at the interview.

Yes, people do this at least somewhat regularly. You just have to prioritize your schoolwork, just like with any other extracurricular. You have to be able to manage your time well if you want to do other things besides school. You don't have to start immediately, but personally, I don't recommend waiting until the summer of M1 to start a project. In these hyper-competitive fields, the sooner you start working on research and making these connections, the better.

I've heard of people at other schools wanting to do ortho/nsx/plastics or whatever research and not being able to find a mentor because they already had too many students. You don't want to have to "compete" for a research spot, so it's just better to get it started as early as you can.

Edit: But if you want to play it safe, you can wait until you get comfortable (usually takes people ~2-4 months to get comfortable with their study style) and then pedal to the metal with research.
 
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Davidfromcali

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altblue

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Yes, people do this at least somewhat regularly. You just have to prioritize your schoolwork, just like with any other extracurricular. You have to be able to manage your time well if you want to do other things besides school. You don't have to start immediately, but personally, I don't recommend waiting until the summer of M1 to start a project. In these hyper-competitive fields, the sooner you start working on research and making these connections, the better.

I've heard of people at other schools wanting to do ortho/nsx/plastics or whatever research and not being able to find a mentor because they already had too many students. You don't want to have to "compete" for a research spot, so it's just better to get it started as early as you can.

Edit: But if you want to play it safe, you can wait until you get comfortable (usually takes people ~2-4 months to get comfortable with their study style) and then pedal to the metal with research.
I think the feasibility of this depends on where you're at. My school has an academic hospital and a research requirement but it's not some publication powerhouse. There's no real culture of cranking out abstracts/case reports every couple months, maybe 2 to 5 people in my class have seized on such an opportunity thus far
 
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slowthai

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I think the feasibility of this depends on where you're at. My school has an academic hospital and a research requirement but it's not some publication powerhouse. There's no real culture of cranking out abstracts/case reports every couple months, maybe 2 to 5 people in my class have seized on such an opportunity thus far

I really should've said "There are people that do this every year." It's definitely not common, and these people are usually highly motivated. Like you said, there are some schools where it's part of the culture, so this kind of thing is encouraged. I think the limiting factor here is how good the research mentors are. You'll go nowhere fast if you don't have one that's productive and knows how to guide students.
 
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Yes, people do this at least somewhat regularly. You just have to prioritize your schoolwork, just like with any other extracurricular. You have to be able to manage your time well if you want to do other things besides school. You don't have to start immediately, but personally, I don't recommend waiting until the summer of M1 to start a project. In these hyper-competitive fields, the sooner you start working on research and making these connections, the better.

I've heard of people at other schools wanting to do ortho/nsx/plastics or whatever research and not being able to find a mentor because they already had too many students. You don't want to have to "compete" for a research spot, so it's just better to get it started as early as you can.

Edit: But if you want to play it safe, you can wait until you get comfortable (usually takes people ~2-4 months to get comfortable with their study style) and then pedal to the metal with research.
Is lab research more valued by residency directors (let’s say Dermatology or Opthalmology) than clinical research?

I suspect the answer is no but everytime this topic comes up, I see people seem to allude to lab research. Also during second look at my PTE, every student who mentioned research was doing lab research and not a single onedid clinical. I’m not sure if this is sampling bias; I thought clinical > lab because you pump out more.
 
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slowthai

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Is lab research more valued by residency directors (let’s say Dermatology or Opthalmology) than clinical research?

I suspect the answer is no but everytime this topic comes up, I see people seem to allude to lab research. Also during second look at my PTE, every student who mentioned research was doing lab research and not a single onedid clinical. I’m not sure if this is sampling bias; I thought clinical > lab because you pump out more.

By and large, it appears that residency programs like clinical research more because it's more immediately relevant to clinical practice. Clinical is better than basic science for students because you can pump out more, and that should really be your aim for these top fields/programs. But there are some fields like neurosurgery that like basic science as well. I assume rad onc and path are similar, but I could be wrong.

I have to say that basic science is low yield for most specialties and programs. There are some instances where it can significantly help your app, but most places are just looking for how much you published as a student. Everyone knows basic science projects are far more difficult to take from start to finish, but no one really cares, lol.

Edit: Also, when people say "lab" on here, I'm pretty sure they're just using it to mean group
 
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Detective SnowBucket

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you can wait until you get comfortable (usually takes people ~2-4 months to get comfortable
That's more like what I was planning.
If I wait to start something like this once I'm settled (however long that may be) would it be looked at badly to approach a PI with something like this: I'm an M1, looking to do research under you, since I'm M1, I can't dedicate a whole lotta time to the lab but I wanna start this academic year so I can hit the ground running with new/continue/finish project because I'm going to be here for the summer and don't want to have to waste time getting settled in your lab and start a project? Emphasis being, just starting during the year to get settled but not take on much work during the school year.
 
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slowthai

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That's more like what I was planning.
If I wait to start something like this once I'm settled (however long that may be) would it be looked at badly to approach a PI with something like this: I'm an M1, looking to do research under you, since I'm M1, I can't dedicate a whole lotta time to the lab but I wanna start this academic year so I can hit the ground running with new/continue/finish project because I'm going to be here for the summer and don't want to have to waste time getting settled in your lab and start a project? Emphasis being, just starting during the year to get settled but not take on much work during the school year.


That is a great way to get your email ignored, lol. It comes across like you don't want to put in the work, even though that's not your intent.

I would just send something short and to the point like this:

Dr PI,

My name is Detective SnowBucket and I am a current M1. I am very interested in orthopaedic research. Would you be willing to work with me?

Thanks,

Detective SnowBucket

They know that you're a medical student and should be willing to work with you as far as workload and scheduling goes. Typically, they give you deadlines for the work you're supposed to do and you make or beat those deadlines. If it gets to be too much, just communicate with your PI and ask for an extension. You should 100% avoid this, though. You want to develop a reputation for producing good work in a timely manner. This way, when you ask for a letter, they'll be more than willing to write a strong one for you.
 
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longhaul3

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That's more like what I was planning.
If I wait to start something like this once I'm settled (however long that may be) would it be looked at badly to approach a PI with something like this: I'm an M1, looking to do research under you, since I'm M1, I can't dedicate a whole lotta time to the lab but I wanna start this academic year so I can hit the ground running with new/continue/finish project because I'm going to be here for the summer and don't want to have to waste time getting settled in your lab and start a project? Emphasis being, just starting during the year to get settled but not take on much work during the school year.
Should be more like "since I'm M1 I have more than enough time to tackle your most demanding projects and take some grunt work off of your group's plate"

Don't actually say that though. Just say you're really interested in their work and want to get involved if there's anything that would be appropriate for your level of training.
 
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akwho

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Only do a research year if you need to do a research year to match. Otherwise it's a lost year of income & student loans accumulating interest, and another year at the bottom of the academic totem pole. I think the med school research year is currently overdone. It should only be done by marginal candidates who are at risk of not matching.

If you are really into academics you should consider matching to an ortho program which has a research year built into residency (you get paid 60k that year typically) or you can do a traveling research fellowship abroad as a resident which usually has a stipend. It helps to have a robust research background when applying for academic jobs but you can build that background in residency and actually get paid for it.
 
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MyRealFakeAccount

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Only do a research year if you need to do a research year to match. Otherwise it's a lost year of income & student loans accumulating interest, and another year at the bottom of the academic totem pole. I think the med school research year is currently overdone. It should only be done by marginal candidates who are at risk of not matching.

If you are really into academics you should consider matching to an ortho program which has a research year built into residency (you get paid 60k that year typically) or you can do a traveling research fellowship abroad as a resident which usually has a stipend. It helps to have a robust research background when applying for academic jobs but you can build that background in residency and actually get paid for it.
What kind of stats would a "marginal" candidate have?
 
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aldol16

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It's all about where you fall relative to your peers (peers being a broad term describing all medical students who are applying your cycle). You can get a sense of this from the 2022 Charting Outcomes but if, say, your numbers look lower than average (systematically), then it's something to consider. It's not required per se and the act of doing a research year itself won't help you as much as 1) the networking that extra year affords you, especially if you do it at a place with a strong program and 2) the publications/posters/presentations you get out of it. I ordered these very specifically. A lot of times people emphasize the research output numbers. They are important, yes, but even more so are the relationships you build with mentors - faculty and residents - in that time. In competitive specialties, it's about who goes to bat for you when the game is on the line and the more people you have in your corner, the better.
 
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MyRealFakeAccount

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It's all about where you fall relative to your peers (peers being a broad term describing all medical students who are applying your cycle). You can get a sense of this from the 2022 Charting Outcomes but if, say, your numbers look lower than average (systematically), then it's something to consider. It's not required per se and the act of doing a research year itself won't help you as much as 1) the networking that extra year affords you, especially if you do it at a place with a strong program and 2) the publications/posters/presentations you get out of it. I ordered these very specifically. A lot of times people emphasize the research output numbers. They are important, yes, but even more so are the relationships you build with mentors - faculty and residents - in that time. In competitive specialties, it's about who goes to bat for you when the game is on the line and the more people you have in your corner, the better.
I mean, as someone with a 243 Step 1, no clinical honors (only a Pass in surgery) and no ortho-specific research coming from a low tier MD program, I feel like I need any kind of boost I can get to match. I'll def focus on trying to build rapport with the attendings in addition to doing research, for the reasons you mentioned


**Just realized I'm not OP and your comment probably wasn't directed to me. LOL my bad
 
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