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Leave of Absence for family reasons and its effect on residency/applicant competitiveness?

NarcoticSmoothie

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Took a LoA right at the start of my M3 year, and I'm wondering about the impact or if my reason will be looked down upon. My LoA was to take care of my parents who recently fell ill and can't move around much (I've no other family here to help). I'm also thinking of, but haven't committed to, working a part-time job close to home (i.e. grocery store) to help make ends meet - would this look bad if it's not medically relevant?

The idea behind LoA being a red flag is "can it be resolved / unlikely to recur during residency," or "does the applicant easily want time off / is unable to take care of personal business" I'm glad to be helping out at home, but fearful I fall into the latter of "easily wants time off/ can't take care of business."

Not pursuing any other degree in this time, but hope to find some research projects to stay involved. I fully expect to return next year, have no other red flags, and have a strong board score. Are there certain expectations that PDs have of students this scenario, and should I consider myself disqualified from certain specialties/programs?

Thank you
 

GoSpursGo

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There's just no one-size-fits-all answer to this kind of question. A lot depends on how competitive you would be as an applicant without the LOA. If you're otherwise a strong student with good board scores, chances are this will be pretty easy to ignore, particularly if you're not applying for a super-competitive specialty. If on the other hand you're aiming for a competitive specialty, or there are other red flags on your application, then you could have a problem.

Remaining productive during your LOA (ie getting involved in research and actually publishing) would go a long way to clearing any concerns that might crop up from PDs.
 
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Mass Effect

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Yeah, agree that there's no one-size-fits-all. It also depends on specialty choice and reason for LOA (what does "recently fell ill" mean? Food poisoning? Car accident? Dementia? Cancer?). Not saying you have to explain the details, but you likely will be asked so be prepared for talk about it.
 
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Dral

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If you have to do things this way, I'd recommend trying to find a medically relevant job. I know things are odd right now, but maybe find an office where you can serve as an MA or something similar. Depending on how long you would have the job, that would look better. I believe offices are used to high turnover of MAs (because of the role often being filled by future med students). You could look for an office an be up front with your time commitment, but sell yourself by noting that you would require less training based on the fact that you are already in med school.
 
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NarcoticSmoothie

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Is there any guarantee they will be better or will have passed in a year? If it stretches into 2 or 3 I think it could be an issue.
Yes, it's looking to be a few months long after which they should be all fine. I just can't take only one semester off (which I wanted) b/c of the difficulties with doing clinicals next spring on the altered COVID schedule, and then next next fall on the regular schedule + other longitudinal course difficulties.

edit: also don't want to jump into the middle of M3 and be called incompetent when compared to everyone who's gone through multiple rotations...
 

Dave1980

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Yes, it's looking to be a few months long after which they should be all fine. I just can't take only one semester off (which I wanted) b/c of the difficulties with doing clinicals next spring on the altered COVID schedule, and then next next fall on the regular schedule + other longitudinal course difficulties.

edit: also don't want to jump into the middle of M3 and be called incompetent when compared to everyone who's gone through multiple rotations...

That's good. Maybe it is just me but if an applicant told me that they took a year off to take care of their parents I'm not sure I would believe them. It sounds way better than "I had to take a year off to deal with a drug problem/mental health". Obviously they aren't going to ask for proof because that would not be socially acceptable but I wonder if proactively providing some might be helpful.
 

NarcoticSmoothie

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That's good. Maybe it is just me but if an applicant told me that they took a year off to take care of their parents I'm not sure I would believe them. It sounds way better than "I had to take a year off to deal with a drug problem/mental health". Obviously they aren't going to ask for proof because that would not be socially acceptable but I wonder if proactively providing some might be helpful.
Yea that's what i'm concerned about too. I don't know if I'll get the chance to explain/say "I needed 3/4 months but was strongly advised to take the year by my deans for scheduling purposes." I'd love to proactively show proof, but wouldn't it be awk to show/bring a doctors diagnosis of my parents with me unless you meant a different method I'm not thinking of (and if it is acceptable...then sure why not b/c I do have them)? ...but yea definitely shot myself in the foot but whatever at this point. Better than not helping out at home for a bit I suppose.
 

Dave1980

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On second thought if the dean's letter includes the reason for your LOA and you write a good personal statement that is probably good enough.

I would include a bunch of details in the personal statement to make it sound legit.

"My father had Gleason 8 prostate cancer and had a radical prostatectomy at X hospital in July. Following the advice of his surgeon Dr. Y I moved home to aid in his recovery."
 
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GoSpursGo

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...but yea definitely shot myself in the foot but whatever at this point. Better than not helping out at home for a bit I suppose.
Honestly, you're doing what you have to do for your family. If you were aiming for a really competitive specialty, then this is unfortunate, but for most specialties I think this will only marginally affect your application. And at the end of the day, some things are more important than absolutely maximizing your residency applicantion.
 
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