Something to think about when choosing medical school.

Bigpwn

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Guys, I have many premed students ask me about what are the factors that should contribute to choosing a medical school when you have the choices.

Of course, location, tuition, school ranking is important, but something most premeds don't think about is the number of subspecialty postgraduate programs/residency programs that are offered at the institution. Pretty much every school has medicine and general surgery, but not every school has an urology, ER, or ENT program. But if you eventually decided to pursue a subspecialty, having a residency program is very important in helping you match into that specialty. The reason is because letters of recommendation from well known academic faculties is crucial in helping you get interviews, especially in small fields.

For example, I am current a ENT resident, and I have heard many stellar students having problem matching because they come from a school with no ENT program.

So keep that in mind when choosing a medical school. Go to their website see if they have residency programs in the subspecialties, even though you have no idea what you want to do in the future.

Good luck.
 

njbmd

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Guys, I have many premed students ask me about what are the factors that should contribute to choosing a medical school when you have the choices.

Of course, location, tuition, school ranking is important, but something most premeds don't think about is the number of subspecialty postgraduate programs/residency programs that are offered at the institution. Pretty much every school has medicine and general surgery, but not every school has an urology, ER, or ENT program. But if you eventually decided to pursue a subspecialty, having a residency program is very important in helping you match into that specialty. The reason is because letters of recommendation from well known academic faculties is crucial in helping you get interviews, especially in small fields.

For example, I am current a ENT resident, and I have heard many stellar students having problem matching because they come from a school with no ENT program.

So keep that in mind when choosing a medical school. Go to their website see if they have residency programs in the subspecialties, even though you have no idea what you want to do in the future.

Good luck.
Not really much of a factor in terms of getting into a sub-specialty residency. Your day to day performance at said medical school is going to make you competitive for residency and not much else. If you have difficulty finding a safe place to live, your performance in medical school will suffer. If you have to worry about your financial aid money, your performance is going to suffer.

In the long run, if your medical school doesn't have a sub-specialty or residency program that interests you, you can do away electives at other locations and get exposure/experience in things that are just not at your medical school. My chairman of surgery (and some research on my part) was able to point me towards the top programs for electives that I wanted to do during fourth year.

I was interested in some quality experience in Endocrine Surgery which was not well represented at my medical school. I applied for and was selected to rotate through Endocrine Surgery at Mayo Clinic in MN which is a top location for this surgical sub-specialty. Not only did I have one of the top endocrine surgeons in this country as my mentor but I was able to interact on a regular basis with several of the top medical endocrinologists in the nation.

Choose the medical school where you can perform your best, where you are most comfortable and where you know that you will have a good experience and good support day in and day out. Medical school is only a small part of your career but your performance there is crucial to how the rest of your career will go.

A school that is wonderful for one person, is not going to be wonderful for every person. If you find that you don't have a choice, then it becomes important for you to make the school that you attend, the best experience so that you can perform your best.

One of the biggest misconceptions out there is that once you get into medical school, the game is largely complete. This is far from the truth and once you are sitting there filling out that ERAS application for residency/interviewing for residence (where you actually learn your craft), you realize that your performance in medical school is far more important that the location of your medical school.
 
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236116

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The amount that matters is so infintesimal, I can't even define it.

Nice try.
 
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Bigpwn

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To above 2 posters, if you go into medicine or surgery, it really doesn't matter, but for any small specialties, having a department goes a long, long way. This thread is geared toward those who are thinking about competitive specialties.

To poster 3, can you imagine getting strong LOR from an away rotation where you are only there for a month. Yes you can but it's much more challenging comparing to those who have their own faculties and can always get involved with the department.
 

socmob

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I agree that sub-specialty selection shouldn't be considered more important than "fit" or location etc. But I do agree w/ the OP that it's important - I'm *extremely* thankful that I have a strong home urology program; it's competitive to even get an away at my program and I have easy access. For competitive sub-specialties (uro, ent, optho, etc), it's a very small national community, so your LORs are extremely important for your app - having a home program and getting a good letter from your chair (even better if it's a strong prog) is a big benefit.

edit - also, forgot to mention that most premeds aren't going to KNOW they want to do a competitive subspecialty (or if they do, it'll probably change later on)...so really this is kind of a "being prepared for the future" type of thing. I chose my school over my small state school in part b/c I worried that I wouldn't have the resources at small state school to truly pursue anything I was interested in...and sure enough, here I am considering a competitive sub specialty that was barely on my radar before.
 
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Excelsius

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Not really much of a factor in terms of getting into a sub-specialty residency. Your day to day performance at said medical school is going to make you competitive for residency and not much else. If you have difficulty finding a safe place to live, your performance in medical school will suffer. If you have to worry about your financial aid money, your performance is going to suffer.

In the long run, if your medical school doesn't have a sub-specialty or residency program that interests you, you can do away electives at other locations and get exposure/experience in things that are just not at your medical school. My chairman of surgery (and some research on my part) was able to point me towards the top programs for electives that I wanted to do during fourth year.

I was interested in some quality experience in Endocrine Surgery which was not well represented at my medical school. I applied for and was selected to rotate through Endocrine Surgery at Mayo Clinic in MN which is a top location for this surgical sub-specialty. Not only did I have one of the top endocrine surgeons in this country as my mentor but I was able to interact on a regular basis with several of the top medical endocrinologists in the nation.

Choose the medical school where you can perform your best, where you are most comfortable and where you know that you will have a good experience and good support day in and day out. Medical school is only a small part of your career but your performance there is crucial to how the rest of your career will go.

A school that is wonderful for one person, is not going to be wonderful for every person. If you find that you don't have a choice, then it becomes important for you to make the school that you attend, the best experience so that you can perform your best.

One of the biggest misconceptions out there is that once you get into medical school, the game is largely complete. This is far from the truth and once you are sitting there filling out that ERAS application for residency/interviewing for residence (where you actually learn your craft), you realize that your performance in medical school is far more important that the location of your medical school.

You know, I disagree with you and any other med student/resident that comes here and says "oh, don't worry about residency, just go where you'll be happiest." That has become an overrated cliche.

First, after reading several threads in different forums, many residents would not agree with you. Second, what makes you think that it is a good idea to go to a school that doesn't have the department you may want? I mean why would you choose a school that doesn't have what you need over a school that does? Maybe you were lucky to find another place to rotate. You can't claim that every medical school in the country is going to have a proximal location to go and practice neurosurgery based on your experience alone. And I wonder, when program directors quickly sift through potential candidates, do some of them maybe screen you based on information like scores and the strength of their specialty at your school before even looking at your LOR? If so, then the LOR from the famous doctor will not matter as much if it is not even looked at. And in general, I'd say someone would be better off with a great department in their school rather than a single LOR from another school during a limited time he spent there. And finally third, a premed cannot know where he will be "happy, have good experience," and all that other subjective spiel. Unless you are an extrasense, you can't tell whether you are going to be "happy" at a school based on spending there a few hours and meeting a few of the people. Even if the admissions people come of as "rude," there is no way for you to know how it feels like to interact with the faculty on a daily basis or what type of support system is in place (beyond the stressful interview and the skewed circumstances surrounding it).

Anyone who reads enough on SDN, can figure this out within a few months. If not, then it doesn't matter. Everyone makes choices based on his/her best abilities.
 

Excelsius

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To above 2 posters, if you go into medicine or surgery, it really doesn't matter, but for any small specialties, having a department goes a long, long way. This thread is geared toward those who are thinking about competitive specialties.

To poster 3, can you imagine getting strong LOR from an away rotation where you are only there for a month. Yes you can but it's much more challenging comparing to those who have their own faculties and can always get involved with the department.
Another good point.
 

RoadRunner17

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I don't know that people say it's BETTER to go to a school that offers fewer opportunities, but the idea I get from njbmd and other posters is that if you go to a such school for whatever reason (cost, curriculum, location) it's not the end of the world. I.e. if you want it, you'll find a way to make it happen. Bottom line, it's almost a republican/conservative view of things - work your ass off and make it happen if you really want it because it won't happen spontaneously.

How close/far off am I?
 

njbmd

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You know, I disagree with you and any other med student/resident that comes here and says "oh, don't worry about residency, just go where you'll be happiest." That has become an overrated cliche.

First, after reading several threads in different forums, many residents would not agree with you. Second, what makes you think that it is a good idea to go to a school that doesn't have the department you may want? I mean why would you choose a school that doesn't have what you need over a school that does? Maybe you were lucky to find another place to rotate. You can't claim that every medical school in the country is going to have a proximal location to go and practice neurosurgery based on your experience alone. And I wonder, when program directors quickly sift through potential candidates, do some of them maybe screen you based on information like scores and the strength of their specialty at your school before even looking at your LOR? If so, then the LOR from the famous doctor will not matter as much if it is not even looked at. And in general, I'd say someone would be better off with a great department in their school rather than a single LOR from another school during a limited time he spent there. And finally third, a premed cannot know where he will be "happy, have good experience," and all that other subjective spiel. Unless you are an extrasense, you can't tell whether you are going to be "happy" at a school based on spending there a few hours and meeting a few of the people. Even if the admissions people come of as "rude," there is no way for you to know how it feels like to interact with the faculty on a daily basis or what type of support system is in place (beyond the stressful interview and the skewed circumstances surrounding it).

Anyone who reads enough on SDN, can figure this out within a few months. If not, then it doesn't matter. Everyone makes choices based on his/her best abilities.

It doesn't make much of a difference how many departments or sub specialties your medical school has if YOU don't have the grades or board scores. Your grades are not dependent on the number of sub specialties but on how you are able to process information and study which are directly related to the atmosphere that you can thrive or not thrive in.

To above 2 posters, if you go into medicine or surgery, it really doesn't matter, but for any small specialties, having a department goes a long, long way. This thread is geared toward those who are thinking about competitive specialties.

To poster 3, can you imagine getting strong LOR from an away rotation where you are only there for a month. Yes you can but it's much more challenging comparing to those who have their own faculties and can always get involved with the department.
You can get a great idea of a medical students performance in one month. How you approach patients, your basic clinical knowledge, how you work on a team, can be assessed in two weeks. Even on the required rotations during third year that are 16 weeks long like medicine have rotation changes every 2 to 4 weeks. You WILL be getting LORs from your preceptors on those rotations. You don't just stay in one spot with one team.

As a medical student, you don't have much involvement with various departments unless you rotate through them. For example, on our third-year surgery rotation, we spent a total of 8 weeks with 2 weeks on Cardio/vascular, 2 weeks on a sub specialty (ENT, Uro, Transplant, Colo-rectal, Ortho, Neuro) and 4 weeks on either Trauma/Critical Care or General Surgery. At the end of that rotation, I had letters from four preceptors (ENT, Trauma, Cardiac and Vascular). They were able to assess my abilities within two weeks and four weeks was over saturation.

Bottom line: things that residency program directors look for are strong academics/board scores (you won't have either of these without being in a place where you can do well) and strong clinical grades. All of these can be obtained at any school and if some resource is not there, you can go outside and get it. One of my best mentors was a nationally-known surgeon that I met at the American College of Surgeons meeting. His letter (and my academics) opened plenty of doors for me. You can attend national meetings from any medical school in this country (it's encouraged).

It's great to be at a school that has everything but you can achieve what you want from any accredited medical school in this country as long as you do well and make your own connections.

BTW: My research preceptor was an ENT surgeon and I was able to present my research findings at two national meetings. I knew that I wasn't going into ENT but a good mentor is a good mentor and doesn't have to come from the area that you anticipate going into. I didn't even know that I wanted to go into surgery until after the second half of my third year but my grades in everything were good.
 

Excelsius

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It doesn't make much of a difference how many departments or sub specialties your medical school has if YOU don't have the grades or board scores. Your grades are not dependent on the number of sub specialties but on how you are able to process information and study which are directly related to the atmosphere that you can thrive or not thrive in.



You can get a great idea of a medical students performance in one month. How you approach patients, your basic clinical knowledge, how you work on a team, can be assessed in two weeks. Even on the required rotations during third year that are 16 weeks long like medicine have rotation changes every 2 to 4 weeks. You WILL be getting LORs from your preceptors on those rotations. You don't just stay in one spot with one team.

As a medical student, you don't have much involvement with various departments unless you rotate through them. For example, on our third-year surgery rotation, we spent a total of 8 weeks with 2 weeks on Cardio/vascular, 2 weeks on a sub specialty (ENT, Uro, Transplant, Colo-rectal, Ortho, Neuro) and 4 weeks on either Trauma/Critical Care or General Surgery. At the end of that rotation, I had letters from four preceptors (ENT, Trauma, Cardiac and Vascular). They were able to assess my abilities within two weeks and four weeks was over saturation.

Bottom line: things that residency program directors look for are strong academics/board scores (you won't have either of these without being in a place where you can do well) and strong clinical grades. All of these can be obtained at any school and if some resource is not there, you can go outside and get it. One of my best mentors was a nationally-known surgeon that I met at the American College of Surgeons meeting. His letter (and my academics) opened plenty of doors for me. You can attend national meetings from any medical school in this country (it's encouraged).

It's great to be at a school that has everything but you can achieve what you want from any accredited medical school in this country as long as you do well and make your own connections.

BTW: My research preceptor was an ENT surgeon and I was able to present my research findings at two national meetings. I knew that I wasn't going into ENT but a good mentor is a good mentor and doesn't have to come from the area that you anticipate going into. I didn't even know that I wanted to go into surgery until after the second half of my third year but my grades in everything were good.
I agree with you, but if you read above, you'll see that no one suggested going to a school with the department you want is better than having good grades. Nor was it suggested that you can't do it from any medical school in the US. The point here is that since getting into competitive specialty is not easy, you should try to have every advantage possible. Since your LOR helped you a lot, will you really say that it's not better to be safe by attending a school with a famous department and possibly a famous doctor in there rather than risking a school without such department since there may be no "famous" doctors around that school? I am not sure how feasible it is to take a plane to your rotation or get accepted at a rotation at any school you want, but if it were very easy, then your school would be less of a factor.
 

Bigpwn

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You can get a great idea of a medical students performance in one month. How you approach patients, your basic clinical knowledge, how you work on a team, can be assessed in two weeks. Even on the required rotations during third year that are 16 weeks long like medicine have rotation changes every 2 to 4 weeks. You WILL be getting LORs from your preceptors on those rotations. You don't just stay in one spot with one team.

As a medical student, you don't have much involvement with various departments unless you rotate through them. For example, on our third-year surgery rotation, we spent a total of 8 weeks with 2 weeks on Cardio/vascular, 2 weeks on a sub specialty (ENT, Uro, Transplant, Colo-rectal, Ortho, Neuro) and 4 weeks on either Trauma/Critical Care or General Surgery. At the end of that rotation, I had letters from four preceptors (ENT, Trauma, Cardiac and Vascular). They were able to assess my abilities within two weeks and four weeks was over saturation.

Bottom line: things that residency program directors look for are strong academics/board scores (you won't have either of these without being in a place where you can do well) and strong clinical grades. All of these can be obtained at any school and if some resource is not there, you can go outside and get it. One of my best mentors was a nationally-known surgeon that I met at the American College of Surgeons meeting. His letter (and my academics) opened plenty of doors for me. You can attend national meetings from any medical school in this country (it's encouraged).
njbmd, all you said above are right. Hard work and strong scores should be the most important factor. But those of us who have been through this know that having a subspecialty department is just a huge advantage and should be taken into consideration when choosing a medical school.
 

236116

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njbmd, all you said above are right. Hard work and strong scores should be the most important factor. But those of us who have been through this know that having a subspecialty department is just a huge advantage and should be taken into consideration when choosing a medical school.

waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaait. now i have to know my subspec before i even do my amcas? :lame::lame::lame::lame::lame::lame::lame::lame:x infinity.
 

pianola

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Hey, I just wanted to say thanks for the headsup, Bigpwn. I may not have a perfect idea of what I want to do in the future (re: specialty or subspecialty). But I'm still kind of glad to know what matters for when I am in the process of trying to figure it out...
 
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