premed2300

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I'm in my second year of medical school and hoping to take a year or two between 2nd and 3rd years to pursue medical mission or volunteer work internationally. I would appreciate any feedback from those that have taken time away for similar pursuits. Also looking for your adjustment back to rotations, if you had issues with residency, and the nature of support/feedback from your medical school when you decided to take this time. Thank you in advance.
 

hallowmann

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I would absolutely NOT take 2 yrs off. That seems like a terrible idea, especially since you'll be right up against that 6 yr deadline for completing your degree. I would not take more than 1, and really you should take it off between 3rd and 4th year if you really want to, like after taking Level 2. I know a few people that did a research year between 3rd and 4th and they managed fine, they just planned things out very well.

Alternatively, you could just take an LOA sometime during 3rd year for a couple months to do a medical mission or volunteer work. Just make sure you can make up for it elsewhere in the schedule so you still finish on time and aren't off-schedule for the residency cycle.

In terms of your school, you really have to look at its LOA policies. Some are very lenient, some are not. I would become very familiar with your school handbook and see if its even possible to take an LOA for what you're planning.

You're also going to have to look at what you need to do about your loans. Will you need deferment (probably not for <6 mos, possibly for >6mos), just be aware of it though, especially since you'll be accruing interest for however much longer you extend your education.
 
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I mean you could if you reallly want to. But your chances of getting into residency will probably be close to nil. Unless you want something in a field that is not competitive in the middle of nowhere.

Do it and let us know how it works out bruh!
 

hallowmann

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I mean you could if you reallly want to. But your chances of getting into residency will probably be close to nil. Unless you want something in a field that is not competitive in the middle of nowhere.

Do it and let us know how it works out bruh!
I don't really think this is accurate. Provided OP has solid stats otherwise, a year or a couple months LOA for a mission trip or volunteering wouldn't significantly hurt their chances. To be honest it might even look good to certain programs that share a similar mission as the groups OP plans to work with. That difference is not a reason to do it, because the net benefit is likely small enough that it wouldn't matter because some programs might see it as a bad thing.

That said, again, I would not ever suggest taking a 2 year LOA for such a venture. Also, as I said the best time is actually after 3rd year, NOT 2nd year.
 
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IslandStyle808

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I mean you could if you reallly want to. But your chances of getting into residency will probably be close to nil. Unless you want something in a field that is not competitive in the middle of nowhere.

Do it and let us know how it works out bruh!
I have heard of people at my former state MD school take time off for a year. They all still landed residencies. Remember there are shades of grey in everything braddah.

There was one SDNer who did research during a LOA for a highly competitive field (an advanced program). The highly competitive programs were okay with this. A few of the prelim programs not so much. Different strokes for different folks.
 
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Not disagreeing with both of y'all, but being that he is from a DO program... won't that be an EXTRA barrier compared to our MD brethren?
 

hallowmann

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Not disagreeing with both of y'all, but being that he is from a DO program... won't that be an EXTRA barrier compared to our MD brethren?
It really depends on what type of programs we're talking about. A lot of programs have a global track or focus, and if he does something related to that then it could really be seen as a pro. The thing is if he has good stats either way, I doubt most programs will really care that he took off a period of time to do something like that. Its one thing if its research in a different field, but something like a mission trip or volunteering abroad is something that tons of docs do. They just don't always do it in the middle of med school. The real question would be if they were worried about him losing his clinical skills, which might be solved by an audition, an strong academic LOR after the LOA, etc.

Who knows though? Maybe one of the PDs on here could indicate whether it would hurt their app.
 
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Rekt

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I agree that this is a terrible idea.

But I disagree that if you do it, it is helpful/beneficial for you. Honestly, I'd read your residency application as you taking a year off to vacation and undergo poverty tourism. You know nothing as a second year. If you really want to help then graduate, do residency, and then go work internationally.
 

Mr Roboto

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If you want to do medical missions, do it after you're a doctor.

Does your school offer international rotations? Perhaps that would scratch the itch without taking time off.
 

Mosonik

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OP,

Tell us what specifically your hopes are for the time off and what is motivating you to step away from the "process". It may help guide advise on the best timing for your situation and how you may perceived based on this.
 

Mosonik

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Not disagreeing with both of y'all, but being that he is from a DO program... won't that be an EXTRA barrier compared to our MD brethren?
A significant number of MD students do a "fifth year" for various purposes... research, mph, etc. Heck, at some schools like UNC it's almost expected. It isn't really common in DO schools so that is I think why the perception is so lopsided on here. I think the answer lies in the details, the goal is that whatever someone is doing doesn't look like a gap in education but rather something that further develops their skill set in a way that medical school doesn't (and that is a broad concept). Then the extra time can be used as a potential asset instead of red flag.
 

shadowlightfox

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I agree with Mr Roboto. Why not wait until after medical school to do all those things you plan on doing if it really means that much to you?
 

AMEHigh

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I did it. No regrets. It will help my career in the long run as I don't want to practice clinical medicine forever. I have some friends that took time off and worked for WHO and a few other well known organizations during med school and I also don't think they have any regrets (some abroad and some in different cities). Living overseas is an invaluable experience and I'm glad I did it. Obviously it's not for everyone and I think you should really think about why you want to do it (I'm really opposed to medical missions) and what your goals are, but there are definitely good opportunities out there if you are interested.

I don't think it hurt my residency applications and was brought up positively during interviews. That experience is also helping me now during residency as I explore other opportunities to expand my network outside of my residency program through different avenues.

Obviously it's not the traditional path and I think that's ok. I took time off between 3rd and 4th year and it worked out perfectly for me. The few other friends I am thinking of that did something similar also did it between 3rd and 4th year. It wasn't too hard to transition back after being gone for 18 months. Good luck!
 

hallowmann

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I did it. No regrets. It will help my career in the long run as I don't want to practice clinical medicine forever. I have some friends that took time off and worked for WHO and a few other well known organizations during med school and I also don't think they have any regrets (some abroad and some in different cities). Living overseas is an invaluable experience and I'm glad I did it. Obviously it's not for everyone and I think you should really think about why you want to do it (I'm really opposed to medical missions) and what your goals are, but there are definitely good opportunities out there if you are interested.

I don't think it hurt my residency applications and was brought up positively during interviews. That experience is also helping me now during residency as I explore other opportunities to expand my network outside of my residency program through different avenues.

Obviously it's not the traditional path and I think that's ok. I took time off between 3rd and 4th year and it worked out perfectly for me. The few other friends I am thinking of that did something similar also did it between 3rd and 4th year. It wasn't too hard to transition back after being gone for 18 months. Good luck!
Really curious about the details of this, but I won't pry...
 

Jinxapotato

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Couple of my friends went on a Summer-long "medical mission" this Summer. When asked how they felt about the mission, they blatantly told me that it's a glorified vacation, they prolly spent 25% of their time in a medical setting and all the rest on "experiencing local culture". In the eyes of residency PD, it'll probably look the same.
 

FourniersGreenGang

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Medical mission trips are horrendously stupid. If I were a PD the way I'd see it is that it was the applicant trying to make themselves feel better for whatever reason. It is not altruistic at all, as most premeds think it will make them look. If one honestly cares about affecting change for an overseas population, medical missions are not the way to do it, nearly anyone with global health experience would say the same. Finish your degree and then worry about how you're going to save the planet. No need to do it now, the problems will still be there in 3 years.
 

hallowmann

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Medical mission trips are horrendously stupid. If I were a PD the way I'd see it is that it was the applicant trying to make themselves feel better for whatever reason. It is not altruistic at all, as most premeds think it will make them look. If one honestly cares about affecting change for an overseas population, medical missions are not the way to do it, nearly anyone with global health experience would say the same. Finish your degree and then worry about how you're going to save the planet. No need to do it now, the problems will still be there in 3 years.
This really depends. Many (most?) medical mission trips are how you describe, but some trips that may fall under the "medical mission" category may actually be beneficial both for the individual and others.

I know an individual that went on a trip late in med school to a refugee camp in Greece. They worked as ancillary staff for the volunteer physicians there and actually got some hands on experience working with limited resources (benefit for the individual). The other thing that actually made it valuable is that for one it created a line of communication between that individual and the people on the ground. That person's "mission" didn't end when they got back, it continued with them fundraising, collecting donations for shipment, and in general raising awareness of the crazy situation there, something most people don't seem to notice or at least think about. Because of that motivation after seeing what it was like there, and because of the line of communication that was established, I truly believe he has had at least some positive impact.

I don't want this to be a discussion of medical missions, because I agree that for the most part the "impact" of a med student going to some 3rd world country for a week and working in a clinic or helping to paint a school is generally minimal or even wasteful (they could have donated money that they spent to paint many schools). That said, I think it can have an effect on a mindful individual such that they are inspired to promote aid in other ways.

As far as being a PD, if I saw someone with a medical mission, I'd wonder what they've done since to demonstrate that it actually was meaningful and they are committed to that community/cause.