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Taking year off during med school to volunteer?

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noodlelover2233

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Hi,

I'm an MS1, and I'm wondering how feasible it would be to take a year's leave of absence between M2/M3 or M3/M4 to do medically related volunteer work with an organization (e.g. Doctors without Borders). Has this ever been done, and would this significantly hinder residency applications?

Thanks in advance.
 

Psai

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Why? Are you going to impress the poor people of Somalia with your knowledge of the Krebs cycle?
 
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TBV

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I'm assuming mommy and daddy are paying tuition if you are signing up for a years worth of interest
 
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doapplicant2015

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Not that money is everything, but assuming you have loans, you are going to accumulate roughly $10k in additional interest that year as well as miss out on a year of attending salary. You would probably be smart to get involved in DWB post residency and have a large chunk of money saved that you could even donate if you want
 
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Donald Juan

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Agree with above; if you want to spend a year helping people you would be much more effective as an attending. Finish med school and residency, then go on your life's mission work.
 
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HelpPleaseMD

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terrible idea. do it as an attending if thats what you want to do.
 
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noodlelover2233

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To the above posters - I was very fortunate to earn a scholarship to med school, so I'm not worried about loans. I'm not trying to "impress the poor people of Somalia," but since my real world experience is lacking (I went straight to med school from undergrad), I'd like to learn more about healthcare in other nations and determine whether my future career might involve global healthcare.
 

Hangry

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To the above posters - I was very fortunate to earn a scholarship to med school, so I'm not worried about loans. I'm not trying to "impress the poor people of Somalia," but since my real world experience is lacking (I went straight to med school from undergrad), I'd like to learn more about healthcare in other nations and determine whether my future career might involve global healthcare.
Probably better to explore that sort of thing with 4th year electives and by looking for residency programs with significant global health opportunities rather than taking a year off of med school. You don't need to figure this out immediately, as others have said you won't have the skills to really contribute to healthcare in another country until later anyways.
 
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cbrons

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To the above posters - I was very fortunate to earn a scholarship to med school, so I'm not worried about loans. I'm not trying to "impress the poor people of Somalia," but since my real world experience is lacking (I went straight to med school from undergrad), I'd like to learn more about healthcare in other nations and determine whether my future career might involve global healthcare.
The health care in somalia is bad
 
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kmp0410

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Yea not necessary to take time off school. Just look for other opportunities Trips that are during your breaks if that's something your passionate about.
 
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amichel

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Hi,

I'm an MS1, and I'm wondering how feasible it would be to take a year's leave of absence between M2/M3 or M3/M4 to do medically related volunteer work with an organization (e.g. Doctors without Borders). Has this ever been done, and would this significantly hinder residency applications?

Thanks in advance.
They don't take med students.
 
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Amygdarya

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Do some sort of a global health experience in the summer between MS1 and MS2 (I don't know which school you go to but there are schools with readily available summer global health opportunities), then decide if you want a whole year of this. Aside from all the other considerations (loans etc), I wouldn't commit to a whole year of something I know nothing about. A summer could give you an idea of whether you like it or not.
 
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CherryRedDracul

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If you're dead-set on taking a year off to do global health stuff, get something like an MPH along with it. Otherwise, it's gonna look like you decided to take a year long vacation with some volunteering here and there.
 
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happygolucky1

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I can't speak to doctors without borders, but I volunteered for a year and took a break off between MS3/MS4. One of the best and most rewarding years of my life involving volunteer work, making friends, and backpacking.

If you end up doing it, I would recommend doing it after MS3. Although there will be a steep learning curve during the first three months of intern year.

No issues whatsoever during residency interview.

To this day, I look fondly upon this experience and time spent abroad and recommend this to anyone who has the interest in doing so. Too many breeze through life without enjoying what is out there. Work work work, school school school, money money money can and should be replaced with life experiences.

Did I miss out on the opportunity cost of a future attending salary? yes
Did my loans accumulate during that one year and force me to pay back my loans without the six month grace period my intern year? yes
Would I do it again? Undoubtedly

Go for what your heart wants.
 
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sloop

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Just be a normal person and consider one of the medical service trips to a foreign country during the summer between first and second year. Even if you have no loans, the opportunity cost of taking a year off is a year of attending salary. That means your trip will cost at least about $200K + direct expenses of the trip.

You're also not at a point where you know much medicine.

Overall, I think this is a bad idea.
 
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Goro

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If you were my student, and you felt very strongly about this, AND if it wouldn't compromise your medical education (by provoking a huge amount of knowledge decay) then I'd advise you to go for it.

But I think that you will do more good as a doctor working for DWB/MSF than as a M1 volunteer.

To the above posters - I was very fortunate to earn a scholarship to med school, so I'm not worried about loans. I'm not trying to "impress the poor people of Somalia," but since my real world experience is lacking (I went straight to med school from undergrad), I'd like to learn more about healthcare in other nations and determine whether my future career might involve global healthcare.
 

22031 Alum

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Work work work, school school school, money money money can and should be replaced with life experiences

You have a point but those life experiences are really enjoyable when you do them on an attending salary. We could get into a philosophical discussion about the future not being guaranteed, but I don't regret for a second delaying some of my fun experiences until I could do them on a non-shoestring budget. The beautiful thing about medicine is that there are so many practice options out there, the concept of being "chained to the job" only applies to a rare few.
 
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noodlelover2233

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Wow, I wasn't expecting so many replies - thanks for the responses everyone.
 

noodlelover2233

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I'm getting the vibe that taking a year to volunteer is problematic for a variety of reasons. But hypothetically (since Doctors without Borders doesn't take medical students), are there any legitimate volunteer programs/fellowships that anyone has heard of medical students doing?
 

amichel

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I think you need to consider what people have been saying. If you actually want to help people/make a difference, you would be much better off doing that when you actually have skills to offer. Otherwise you just slow people down and take up resources.

Now, if you just want to take a year off and volunteer and are happy to do low skill jobs that would actually be helpful to said organizations, that's a different story.
 

libraryismyhome

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I would do it after second year so that you can study more for step 1 while doing it.
 

Seth Joo

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Hi,

I'm an MS1, and I'm wondering how feasible it would be to take a year's leave of absence between M2/M3 or M3/M4 to do medically related volunteer work with an organization (e.g. Doctors without Borders). Has this ever been done, and would this significantly hinder residency applications?

Thanks in advance.

It would be a very bad move. Some people take a year to do research, or some take a leave for medical or personal reasons. But you can work for Doctors without Borders when you are an actual doctor.
 
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AMEHigh

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I can't speak to doctors without borders, but I volunteered for a year and took a break off between MS3/MS4. One of the best and most rewarding years of my life involving volunteer work, making friends, and backpacking.

If you end up doing it, I would recommend doing it after MS3. Although there will be a steep learning curve during the first three months of intern year.

No issues whatsoever during residency interview.

To this day, I look fondly upon this experience and time spent abroad and recommend this to anyone who has the interest in doing so. Too many breeze through life without enjoying what is out there. Work work work, school school school, money money money can and should be replaced with life experiences.

Did I miss out on the opportunity cost of a future attending salary? yes
Did my loans accumulate during that one year and force me to pay back my loans without the six month grace period my intern year? yes
Would I do it again? Undoubtedly

Go for what your heart wants.

I agree. I have a similar story.

I worked for a non profit organization in a global health capacity overseas for a year between 3rd and 4th year. I have no regrets and it was a conversation starter and interest in my residency applications. I know I got a few interviews specifically due to this experience because these programs have a global health track, which I was obviously interested in.

I have an ok amount of experience in global health and I'm not a fan of "missions trips" but if done correctly, getting global health experience is very valuable and helpful.

I thought long and hard about my decision and I have my career path set to hopefully continue working in the global health capacity in the future, so that's why I decided to do it. I definitely wouldn't do it on whim. Since you mentioned Doctors Without Borders, I assume you haven't done much research or considered it for long term career because on their website they clearly state that they don't accept medical students.

They way I found my job opportunity abroad is through lots of googling and cold contacting organizations. I'd do it again in a heart beat.
 
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HelpPleaseMD

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you likely will not regret taking a year off, if you ultimately choose to go that route ... but it really makes no sense whatsoever. you have minimal skills to offer as a third or fourth year medical student and at the very most are probably providing the same help that a regular volunteer with no medical training can. You will get more out of this experience as at least a medical resident after a year of training. Programs have international electives and global health tracks.

ultimately its up to you, but I cannot see it as even a good option to consider ... unless you have this dying need to travel outside the US to explore the world

it makes no sense $$ wise or time wise which are the two very important factors to consider
 

happygolucky1

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I agree. I have a similar story.

I worked for a non profit organization in a global health capacity overseas for a year between 3rd and 4th year. I have no regrets and it was a conversation starter and interest in my residency applications. I know I got a few interviews specifically due to this experience because these programs have a global health track, which I was obviously interested in.

I have an ok amount of experience in global health and I'm not a fan of "missions trips" but if done correctly, getting global health experience is very valuable and helpful.

I thought long and hard about my decision and I have my career path set to hopefully continue working in the global health capacity in the future, so that's why I decided to do it. I definitely wouldn't do it on whim. Since you mentioned Doctors Without Borders, I assume you haven't done much research or considered it for long term career because on their website they clearly state that they don't accept medical students.

They way I found my job opportunity abroad is through lots of googling and cold contacting organizations. I'd do it again in a heart beat.


Excellent post. Thank you for sharing your insights, it sounds like an amazing year!
 

happygolucky1

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Just be a normal person and consider one of the medical service trips to a foreign country during the summer between first and second year. Even if you have no loans, the opportunity cost of taking a year off is a year of attending salary. That means your trip will cost at least about $200K + direct expenses of the trip.

You're also not at a point where you know much medicine.

Overall, I think this is a bad idea.

Everyone in here is talking about money! Opportunity cost this, opportunity cost that. But have they taken a year off? Nope. So they are just making an opinion based on "the hypothetical."
How much is a year of decompressing, volunteering, developing life experiences, probably learning languages, etc etc worth it to a person? 200K+? less than that? more than that?

In terms of "making a difference" that everyone is alluding to.... how much of a difference can a primary care physician make in a rural area with many many barriers to healthcare? Exactly.
 
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TBV

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Everyone in here is talking about money! Opportunity cost this, opportunity cost that. But have they taken a year off? Nope. So they are just making an opinion based on "the hypothetical."
How much is a year of decompressing, volunteering, developing life experiences, probably learning languages, etc etc worth it to a person? 200K+? less than that? more than that?

In terms of "making a difference" that everyone is alluding to.... how much of a difference can a primary care physician make in a rural area with many many barriers to healthcare? Exactly.

I've never set myself on fire either. Hypothetically, I think that would be dumb.
 

dozitgetchahi

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How much is a year of decompressing, volunteering, developing life experiences, probably learning languages, etc etc worth it to a person? 200K+? less than that? more than that?

In terms of "making a difference" that everyone is alluding to.... how much of a difference can a primary care physician make in a rural area with many many barriers to healthcare? Exactly.

How much is a year of knowledge decay (before you take step 1, no less), delayed attending salary (I know you don't think this matters now but I promise you it does), 'decompressing' so that you're totally out of the groove so that 2nd year and step 1 are harder, and doing volunteering grunt work that anyone could do is worth to a person?

The other sentence of yours that I quoted makes no sense whatsoever. The answer is 'a lot' and I'll just leave it at that.
 
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