What Advice Do Students Need?
This blog entry was written by Vijay Rajput, MD, FACP, SFHM, Professor and Chair of Medicine at Ross University School of Medicine. Dr. Rajput is also the Medical Director for the Office of Student and Professional Development at RUSM.
One Mentor Is Not Enough
It is never too early for a medical student to seek advice about the many steps that he or she will be required to take on the path to becoming a physician. You need to have a realistic goal, based on your prior academic achievements and experience, and to ask the right questions to help you make good decisions along the way. Advisors, faculty members, mentors, peers, older professionals, alumni and an array of resources can all be very useful. But don’t just rely on these. Go beyond them to build up a network drawn from people you meet. It’s a myth that anyone who isn’t an MD can’t advise you. Talk to strangers in local, regional and national meetings. Recent residents and fellows can help you to navigate the day-to-day process of submitting residency applications, and more.
Also keep in mind that one mentor is not enough. You need one mentor to see the trees, and one to see the forest. The trees are what is happening right now, and the forest is the big picture. Sometimes advice from a doctor who graduated 20 years ago, though well-meaning, is not relevant if you’re applying for residency in the current environment. The process and nature of competitiveness is different now. What you need to do now to be successful may be different from what it was in the past. You should make sure to stay in touch with your advisors on a regular basis.
Preparing for Success in the Residency Match
Halfway through your core rotations start to think about your senior electives, based on the specialty or specialties in which you are planning to apply for residency. If you want to go into emergency medicine, make sure that the electives you choose help you achieve a career in that medical specialty. At Ross University School of Medicine (RUSM) this is the time to call a clinical advisor and also to get advice from students who have recently matched in that specialty. For the senior electives you have three choices; to stay at the hospital where you did your core rotations, to go to another hospital within the RUSM track system, or to go outside this system. Any of the options will help you get a competitive residency if chosen carefully and completed successfully.
Around the time when a student is between completing the fifth core clerkship and beginning the senior electives, he or she needs to ask the right questions to prepare for the residency match. The career advisors in the Office of Student Professional Development (OSPD) at RUSM can guide students and help them with writing a personal statement, obtaining letters of recommendation, doing a CV, and MSPE (Medical School Performance Evaluation) which are components of the application to residency programs. At RUSM we have developed a series of webinars, offered in real-time and also available for later viewing, on several common specialties, on how to do the ERAS (ERAS (Electronic Residency Application Service®) and also on interview skills, how to rank the programs, and many more.
Help is also available from RUSM advisors to make a residency action plan and to choose a program and career, as well as assistance in deciding on the number of programs to which a student should apply.
Don't Be Afraid to Ask Questions
There are students who may be afraid to ask questions because they are concerned about sounding foolish. That cannot be further from the truth. The only way to make sure you get specific answers to those matters arising from your individual situation is to ask several advisors or mentors.
There may be all kinds of questions that crop up in a student’s mind, and they should be put to rest so that you achieve peace of mind and are able to devote your energies to your studies and training. To answer your questions there are clinical advisors, OSPD advisors, and advisors from financial aid and the registrar’s department. At RUSM we will let you know the kinds of questions you should be asking. It is then up to you, the student, to formulate your queries, depending on your circumstances, and reach out to the advisors and mentors who can help you get the answers you need to succeed.