When do you decide your specialty?

  • Before med school

    Votes: 1 5.6%
  • M1

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • M2

    Votes: 2 11.1%
  • M3 or later

    Votes: 15 83.3%

  • Total voters
    18

Dr. Death

2+ Year Member
Feb 11, 2015
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Just wondering because I feel like if you want to go into some specialties like Derm, Ortho, etc. you have to start day 1 of med school getting research experience. In third year you need to be scheduling electives/ auditions. I feel like I'm already behind because I don't know what I want to go into. Thank you for your responses. Also if I have misunderstood anything about this process feel free to correct me.
 

NotASerialKiller

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Jul 7, 2015
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You're not behind, everyone I've spoken to in med school or beyond has said that everyone changes their minds. I think there's a point relatively early on when you have to decide surgical vs non-surgical, but apart from that you certainly don't have to declare your specialty on the first day of med school.
 
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mimelim

Vascular Surgery
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Sep 19, 2011
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Just wondering because I feel like if you want to go into some specialties like Derm, Ortho, etc. you have to start day 1 of med school getting research experience. In third year you need to be scheduling electives/ auditions. I feel like I'm already behind because I don't know what I want to go into. Thank you for your responses. Also if I have misunderstood anything about this process feel free to correct me.
#1 I don't know how one can have a "feeling" about what is required to get into competitive residencies given the wealth of data out there about what people do to get into those specialties.
#2 Even if research is important, of the 13 Derm applicants who had zero research, 9 of them matched. Of those with one research project (36 applicants), 25 matched. I am in a research heavy field. The concept that you MUST do research in order to get into a particular specialty is folly.
#3 Scheduling aways is easy and not exactly time consuming.

If I had to guess...
25% 'know' what they are going into and change their mind anyways
10% 'know' what they are going into and end up going into that specialty
40% have a vague idea of what they are interested in and figure things out before MS3
15% have no idea what they are interested in and figure things out by mid MS3
10% have no idea what they are interested in and figure things out by the end of MS3 or beginning of MS4

Trying to pick a specialty before you actually see what they do day in day out is silly. Few students have extensive exposure prior to MS2/MS3, thus, for the majority of students, 'picking' a specialty before MS2/3 is a waste of time.
 

md-2020

The Immaculate Catch
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Jun 29, 2015
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@mimelim what about the people who "know" what they are going into but eventually have to realize that their scores aren't up to par? I'd imagine those are quite a hefty portion of the pie....
 
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caffeinemia

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Mar 19, 2014
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#1 I don't know how one can have a "feeling" about what is required to get into competitive residencies given the wealth of data out there about what people do to get into those specialties.
#2 Even if research is important, of the 13 Derm applicants who had zero research, 9 of them matched. Of those with one research project (36 applicants), 25 matched. I am in a research heavy field. The concept that you MUST do research in order to get into a particular specialty is folly.
#3 Scheduling aways is easy and not exactly time consuming.

If I had to guess...
25% 'know' what they are going into and change their mind anyways
10% 'know' what they are going into and end up going into that specialty
40% have a vague idea of what they are interested in and figure things out before MS3
15% have no idea what they are interested in and figure things out by mid MS3
10% have no idea what they are interested in and figure things out by the end of MS3 or beginning of MS4

Trying to pick a specialty before you actually see what they do day in day out is silly. Few students have extensive exposure prior to MS2/MS3, thus, for the majority of students, 'picking' a specialty before MS2/3 is a waste of time.
You forgot the significant number that decide after intern or pgy 2 or 3 year of surgery that surgery isn't for them. Repeat ad nauseum with other specialities.
 
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Dr.Sticks

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Nov 24, 2014
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You figure it on on YouTube! I decided I'm gonna be a sex doc!
 

gonnif

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gonnif

Only 389 Days Until Next Presidential Election
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You also have to realize while you may want a specific specialty, there is no guarantee that you will get it. Over 75% of the US medical school seniors get into one of the their top three choices in residency. I am sure some self-select out of what the really wanted to do by weaker board scores, not getting residency interviews, etc. And nearly 25% wind up in a program, a location, or a specialty that was not their desired choice. Some take a transitional or traditional year of residency and reapply for the next residency cycle to try to get what they want. Lastly, a few do a year or two of residency and either try again to go into what they wanted or get out of what they thought they wanted
 

allantois

5+ Year Member
Jan 27, 2013
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When you get your USMLE score.

Unless, of course, you are going DO.. :rolleyes:
 

mimelim

Vascular Surgery
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Sep 19, 2011
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@mimelim what about the people who "know" what they are going into but eventually have to realize that their scores aren't up to par? I'd imagine those are quite a hefty portion of the pie....
The real answer is that nobody really knows how many people are like that. Maybe there are a fair few that didn't let anyone know they wanted to do Derm, but 'changed their mind' after they got their board scores and just don't want others to know. But, I don't think that there are that many people like that. Board scores in my limited experience don't come as a surprise to most people. I don't really know many people who's plans changed after they got their score back. They may change what programs they target, but not what specialty.
 
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