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Choosing a Specialty

The major concern of most premedical students is whether or not they will be admitted to medical school. They fret over getting the best grades on their term papers, labs and exams. They often spend a summer studying for the MCAT while working in a research lab. They also volunteer on the side and remain committed to extracurricular activities they have picked up.

However, once students enter medical school their previous academic worries are replaced with the one question, “What kind of a doctor will I be?”

Failing out of medical school is an uncommon event. Most people who have made it this far will have developed the work ethics and study habits to pass. There are also staff and administration that will do their best to help you graduate, whether that be from financial difficulties or stress. Most schools have maternity leave policies and accommodate students taking a year off. Getting through medical school for the most part is straightforward. I believe the hard part is finding yourself amidst the medical culture that becomes all pervasive.

During your undergraduate studies, so much time is spent working towards being admitted into medical school that not much thought is given to what kind of a doctor you want to be. For one, it’s hard to truly understand the differences between all the specialties, especially if you have never had any exposure to them. Many students may think that surgery sounds cool and prestigious, but few know the grueling realities and lifestyles associated with it and likewise for the many other specialties of medicine.

In the first two preclinical years, medical students are exposed to the many areas of medicine in the classroom. They get snippets into the diseases and types of patients found in each but never a complete picture.

Now that I am coming to the end of my preclinical studies, I still feel as confused as ever as to which specialty I will end up choosing. It is always a concern that is lingering in my thoughts. What if I want to do a competitive specialty such as radiology, ophthalmology or plastics? Will I be too late to consider them because I have not done any research or networking in these fields? Or even the fields I think will be unlikely, such as psychiatry or OBGYN, how will I know if I actually don’t like them or not? Will lifestyle and pay be a factor in my final decision?

Hopefully, by next year I will have an answer or a rough idea. But take heed premedical students, your questions of What are my chances of getting into medical school will soon be replaced with What medical specialty should I choose? Your worries and concerns don’t fade away after entering medical school, it just becomes different. Every phase of life has its own challenges and rewards.

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  1. Gary
    Gary February 14, 2010

    I really like your posts, they’re quite thought-provoking. Keep the posts going, I’ll be looking forward to them!

  2. Joe
    Joe February 14, 2010

    Thanks for adding another stress to the troubles of getting into med school! haha just kidding. I can’t imagine the choice of specialty to be as big of a worry as getting accepted into medical school though

    • medaholic
      medaholic February 15, 2010

      It’s just a different type of worry. I’m not saying one is harder than another. It just changes. You know how through undergrad you always have that question in the back of your mind of whether you will be accepted into medical school or not? The question just becomes what specialty should I do. In some cases like radiology and plastic surgery, the competition is just as fierce as getting into medical school if not more.

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