Year off to do research between before MS3?

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Apr 14, 2007
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Hi All - A little background before I jump into my post question.

I have been doing research at a top 5 med school since shortly before enrolling in med school. I have a great relationship with my PI and have published 2 first-author papers, one of which got a lot of press (NYT, USA today :D) and the other a review paper... both journals IF>5. This research has helped pay for my living expenses in addition to being a lot of fun! I also edit a student-run journal on the side.

My interest is in public health, specifically around environmental influences on health, pollution, built infrastructure, spatial epidemiology, and the up and coming Exposome/EWAS based research So I see myself possibly doing an MPH as part of a residency program. As for specialties, I have an eye towards endocrin. Ideally, I'd like a 50/50 split between research and clinic as I do enjoy patient interaction and the applied side of medicine.

My shortcoming is that I go to a Caribbean school (SGU) - probably deserved it based on my MCAT :mad: :oops: Grade-wise I am solid but not spectacular, no C's but not many A's... and I plan to take Step 1 this summer. So I know I have my work cut out for me to get into academic medicine!

Now, my question: Recently my PI (@that top 5 med school) got an R01 (3yr) grant to put together an amazing project having to do with my longstanding research interests. After discussions with him, he would be willing to fund me full-time for a year to work on this project. There is also the possibility of an MS from this(though that would likely take 2 years).

Taking a year off would enable me to get heavily involved with this project, make some great contacts, and put out more publications. It will also free up time for me to do some other career-oriented volunteer side projects that med school has unfortunately made go very slow. If I planned this correctly, I'd also get the added bonus of more time to study for Step 1 (as @SGU we usually have to take it before starting clinical rotations)

If I were not to take the year off, I would be able to continue part-time as I have through MS1 and MS2, likely at a pace of 1 publication per year. I would still get involved but not as much, though I'd be able to graduate on time and generally keep my career moving forward faster.

Given my background and goals, what would you all recommend?? Will doing a year off make a big difference for residencies or is my current research pace/workload really sufficient in terms of my goals??

Thanks in advance!

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Resident here at a decently competitive EM program.

Go for it. No matter what you hear on SDN your Carib status will be a huge millstone around your neck if you are applying to prestigious IM programs with good fellowship placement.

If you can come to those places and say, "look I got a bad MCAT score but this is how I have made lemonade with these lemons" you will be in much better shape.
I'd say go for it! Anecdotal "evidence" only, but I have a friend who is also graduating from an overseas school and she took a year off to do a pretty prestigious anesthesiology research fellowship and study more for Step 1 and it has really helped her- publication, great Step score, and contacts in her intended field. It has definitely set her apart from other FMG grads.