Dec 1, 2015
83
23
Status
Medical Student (Accepted)
Hi! Just a quick question regarding specialties/residencies.

So would you agree or disagree that the harder a specialty is to get into, the more brain power is generally required to practice in said specialty?

If you disagree, is there a better way to ascertain a ranking list of how challenging various specialties are?

I know there's many measurements of how intellectually challenging a specialty is: years spent in training, emotional depth required to disease, board exams, etc etc.
I guess I'm thinking mostly of how difficult the MATERIAL is, how much information you have to juggle at one point during diagnosis/treatment, and how rapidly you have to keep up with developments in modern medicine.

Thank you! I know, super broad question and hard to answer. I'm even open to anecdotes.
 

ProfMD

I'd rather be operating.
Lifetime Donor
2+ Year Member
May 18, 2016
1,457
2,305
Status
Attending Physician
There is no correlation between the difficulty of getting into a speciality and the "brain power" required to do that speciality.
 

SurfingDoctor

"Hooray, I'm useful"
10+ Year Member
Oct 20, 2005
13,050
17,569
Having a wonderful time on Omicron Persei 8
Status
Attending Physician
So would you agree or disagree that the harder a specialty is to get into, the more brain power is generally required to practice in said specialty?
Disagree

If you disagree, is there a better way to ascertain a ranking list of how challenging various specialties are?
Nope. To suggest that one career path is harder or more challenging than another is a fallacy. There are so many things that make one successful versus one less successful (by definition, being in medicine makes you successful compared to an average... and I mean that only in an academic and maybe financial sense). I have seen time and time again, standardized test scores, grades, LORs, whatever, be terrible predictors of how someone will do in their career. Granted, that is the only way one can attempt to objectively measure peers against one another, but it is a terrible measurement. Someone who challenges themselves to be a better physician will always do better then someone who doesn't, but there is no predictive measurement for that.
 
Last edited:
Jun 13, 2016
249
309
Different specialties are challenging for very different reasons and thus fit the skill sets of very different people. You can be a genius with 0 mechanical skill and thus be a terrible surgeon. Some specialties are mechanically challenging, some more intellectually challenging, some more emotionally challenging.
 
OP
ZorkDork1
Dec 1, 2015
83
23
Status
Medical Student (Accepted)
Thanks for the replies everyone!

Different specialties are challenging for very different reasons and thus fit the skill sets of very different people. You can be a genius with 0 mechanical skill and thus be a terrible surgeon. Some specialties are mechanically challenging, some more intellectually challenging, some more emotionally challenging.
What do you think is the best way to see if my skill sets line up with the skill sets emphasized by a particular specialty?
There are some obvious things, like if I have 0 mechanical skill I should probably stay away from surgery, etc.

But what about the other aspects? Personality test perhaps? Shadowing is good, but gives only one point of view from one particular physician.
 

DubVille

Herd the gurd
10+ Year Member
Oct 31, 2006
372
249
AZ
Status
Attending Physician
Thanks for the replies everyone!



What do you think is the best way to see if my skill sets line up with the skill sets emphasized by a particular specialty?
There are some obvious things, like if I have 0 mechanical skill I should probably stay away from surgery, etc.

But what about the other aspects? Personality test perhaps? Shadowing is good, but gives only one point of view from one particular physician.
You will learn it in med school from classes, exposure, clinicals, etc.
 
Jun 13, 2016
249
309
Thanks for the replies everyone!



What do you think is the best way to see if my skill sets line up with the skill sets emphasized by a particular specialty?
There are some obvious things, like if I have 0 mechanical skill I should probably stay away from surgery, etc.

But what about the other aspects? Personality test perhaps? Shadowing is good, but gives only one point of view from one particular physician.
This is exactly what you find out about yourself during 3rd year! Plenty of people go in undecided and learn a lot about what aspects of medicine they like and are good at. Shadow some things you think you may like as a start!
 
  • Like
Reactions: zeppelinpage4

giantswing

7+ Year Member
Jan 12, 2010
789
1,012
Status
Lol. Most people would say that ortho, one of the most competitive fields, doesn't really require much brain power. Something's broken? Great, fix it.
Other specialties try to shame us for being like "so can you manage their hypertension?" But we don't gaf...
 
  • Like
Reactions: Suit and PL198

VisionaryTics

Señor Member
10+ Year Member
Jan 14, 2009
1,925
2,317
Status
Fellow [Any Field]
Lol. Most people would say that ortho, one of the most competitive fields, doesn't really require much brain power. Something's broken? Great, fix it.
Ortho convinced everyone that they're morons who can't be trusted to manage simple medical issues like diabetes and hypertension. So instead they operate all day, have the hospitalist manage their post-ops, and drive home in a Porsche.

I don't know, they sound like the geniuses to me.
 

Furan

2+ Year Member
Oct 2, 2014
96
112
Status
Medical Student
I'm pretty early in the process so my exposure is admittedly pretty low, but I have been truly amazed at how some of the "top" med students (with genius level scores) have seemingly zero practical knowledge. Not all, obviously, as there are always superstars that ace every test and also know how to apply the information; but I always look at some of these guys with 260+ scores and think, man, this guy is going to end up at a top residency?

To your question, though -- I don't see any correlation. Not to diminish any specialty, but I think just about anyone that passes med school would be able to do derm from a purely mental standpoint.
 

Stagg737

5+ Year Member
Jul 2, 2013
7,469
9,473
Decapod 10
Status
Resident [Any Field]
I'm pretty early in the process so my exposure is admittedly pretty low, but I have been truly amazed at how some of the "top" med students (with genius level scores) have seemingly zero practical knowledge. Not all, obviously, as there are always superstars that ace every test and also know how to apply the information; but I always look at some of these guys with 260+ scores and think, man, this guy is going to end up at a top residency?

To your question, though -- I don't see any correlation. Not to diminish any specialty, but I think just about anyone that passes med school would be able to do derm from a purely mental standpoint.
Lol at the bolded. One of my friends was top 10 in our class (of 250+ people) and almost failed his patient interview practical. When he was reviewing with a professor, which we all do after our interviews, the professor actually asked him how he passed the system the patient's condition involved and called him an idiot. Obviously plenty of the "geniuses" aren't just book smart, but talking to some of my classmates in the upper echelons of the class rank about practical things sometimes makes me question how they got into med school in the first place.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Gurby
C

CharakaComplex

What do you think is the best way to see if my skill sets line up with the skill sets emphasized by a particular specialty?
There are some obvious things, like if I have 0 mechanical skill I should probably stay away from surgery, etc.

But what about the other aspects? Personality test perhaps? Shadowing is good, but gives only one point of view from one particular physician.
These three links maybe, heuhueheu.
 

Mad Jack

Critically Caring
5+ Year Member
Jul 27, 2013
35,552
65,176
4th Dimension
Hi! Just a quick question regarding specialties/residencies.

So would you agree or disagree that the harder a specialty is to get into, the more brain power is generally required to practice in said specialty?

If you disagree, is there a better way to ascertain a ranking list of how challenging various specialties are?

I know there's many measurements of how intellectually challenging a specialty is: years spent in training, emotional depth required to disease, board exams, etc etc.
I guess I'm thinking mostly of how difficult the MATERIAL is, how much information you have to juggle at one point during diagnosis/treatment, and how rapidly you have to keep up with developments in modern medicine.

Thank you! I know, super broad question and hard to answer. I'm even open to anecdotes.
Ortho is bone carpentry. Rads is pattern recognition. IR is basically getting really good at a ****ty video game. Derm can be intellectually deep academically, but in private practice practice seems to be pretty meh, mostly bread and butter. Any of these specialties can be intellectually stimulating if you stay up on current research and go out of your way to be intellectually challenged. A field of similar intellectual prowess but low competitiveness would be something like neurology- neuro is not easy stuff, and if you're practicing in an academic environment or doing research, is some of the most difficult work out there. But yet, neuro isn't competitive at all.

If you want a better reason for why a given specialty is competitive, it's pretty simple: $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

Look at anesthesia and rads- when the funding started getting tighter and the jobs more scarce, what happened? People bailed. Same with path. Not because these fields had become less challenging, but because they'd become less financially and personally rewarding due to lower pay and higher required output.
 
  • Like
Reactions: CaliforniaDreamer

ACSurgeon

Acute Care Surgeon
10+ Year Member
Jun 8, 2008
1,913
2,010
Status
Attending Physician
Hi! Just a quick question regarding specialties/residencies.

So would you agree or disagree that the harder a specialty is to get into, the more brain power is generally required to practice in said specialty?

If you disagree, is there a better way to ascertain a ranking list of how challenging various specialties are?

I know there's many measurements of how intellectually challenging a specialty is: years spent in training, emotional depth required to disease, board exams, etc etc.
I guess I'm thinking mostly of how difficult the MATERIAL is, how much information you have to juggle at one point during diagnosis/treatment, and how rapidly you have to keep up with developments in modern medicine.

Thank you! I know, super broad question and hard to answer. I'm even open to anecdotes.
Residency can train anyone to do anything, as long as you have the interest to learn, and the work ethic. Social skills help also.
 

neusu

Staff member
Administrator
7+ Year Member
Feb 13, 2012
1,636
1,791
Status
Attending Physician
Ortho is bone carpentry. Rads is pattern recognition. IR is basically getting really good at a ****ty video game. Derm can be intellectually deep academically, but in private practice practice seems to be pretty meh, mostly bread and butter. Any of these specialties can be intellectually stimulating if you stay up on current research and go out of your way to be intellectually challenged. A field of similar intellectual prowess but low competitiveness would be something like neurology- neuro is not easy stuff, and if you're practicing in an academic environment or doing research, is some of the most difficult work out there. But yet, neuro isn't competitive at all.

If you want a better reason for why a given specialty is competitive, it's pretty simple: $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

Look at anesthesia and rads- when the funding started getting tighter and the jobs more scarce, what happened? People bailed. Same with path. Not because these fields had become less challenging, but because they'd become less financially and personally rewarding due to lower pay and higher required output.
I'd argue neurosurgery is either spine carpentry or sucking brain jello (tumor/clot) through a straw. The trick is not turning the spinal cord in to jello while being the carpenter and not sucking out the important stuff (motor, language, memory).
 

Mad Jack

Critically Caring
5+ Year Member
Jul 27, 2013
35,552
65,176
4th Dimension
I'd argue neurosurgery is either spine carpentry or sucking brain jello (tumor/clot) through a straw. The trick is not turning the spinal cord in to jello while being the carpenter and not sucking out the important stuff (motor, language, memory).
I said neurology, not neurosurgery.
 

ProfMD

I'd rather be operating.
Lifetime Donor
2+ Year Member
May 18, 2016
1,457
2,305
Status
Attending Physician
I'm pretty early in the process so my exposure is admittedly pretty low, but I have been truly amazed at how some of the "top" med students (with genius level scores) have seemingly zero practical knowledge. Not all, obviously, as there are always superstars that ace every test and also know how to apply the information; but I always look at some of these guys with 260+ scores and think, man, this guy is going to end up at a top residency?

To your question, though -- I don't see any correlation. Not to diminish any specialty, but I think just about anyone that passes med school would be able to do derm from a purely mental standpoint.
The high USMLE scores will only serve to help get your foot in the door. Ultimately, letters of recommendation and the interview are much more important. These will help weed out the people who are book smart but have no practical skills/knowledge.