Hospital Conferences and Grand Rounds
Being based at a big academic medical center means that there are plenty
of conferences, presentations and journal clubs to attend. This can be a great way to explore possible specialties and research interests. Most weeks, I attend the pediatric neurology journal club. This has allowed me to learn about progress in the field and get to know the residents and faculty in this specialty. One-off talks and conferences also are frequent. There always are posters up telling you about upcoming talks on a variety of subjects related to medicine, from social issues to molecular biology. I’ve even been able to go to two talks by my own former mentors! No matter what you’re interested in, there are
opportunities to learn more about it.
— Peppar C., M1
Medical Specialty Interest Groups
“I want to be a cardiologist; I’ve always wanted to be a cardiologist! … But wait, Anatomy is easily the coolest course, and the doctor who gave that peripheral nerve lecture was incredible. Maybe I want to be a surgeon! … Then again, I’d forgotten how much I love kids. Peds it is then! … Wait what does a radiation oncologist even DO?!” For many students it can be overwhelming to start medical school and realize we will soon have to decide which of the many medical specialties we will choose for the rest of our lives. For others, that choice was solidified years ago and the only question remaining is how to become more involved with it during the preclinical years. Luckily, wherever you are on this spectrum, the specialty interest groups at WUSM offer many opportunities to explore your interests and make new discoveries. These interest groups organize possibilities for preclinical students to shadow, network with physicians, seek out research possibilities and generally learn more about the different specialties. I would recommend engaging with as many of their opportunities as you can and getting exposure to many different fields, even those in which you’re not really sure you have a future professional interest. Whether you’re participating in suturing workshops, watching your first C-section while shadowing in labor and delivery, attending afternoon case conferences with neurosurgeons or coming into the cadaver lab on the weekend to learn and practice actual procedures alongside ortho residents, specialty interest groups offer an amazing range of experiences in virtually any medical field you can conceive. No guarantee it’ll make it any easier for you to decide, though!
— Ioana F., M1
Want to listen to a newborn’s lungs in the NICU? Watch an orthopedic surgeon consult in the Emergency Department? Experience the miracle of life (for real) on Labor and Delivery? Shadowing is a great way to gain exposure to different specialties’ “vibes.” I love shadowing at WUSM because physicians are invested in mentoring and have enhanced my medical knowledge. WUSM makes it extremely easy to shadow. There are several interest groups that arrange shadowing opportunities by contacting physicians, scheduling time blocks, and sending you the location, dress code, etc. All you have to do is sign-up! If there is no interest group for your desired specialty, you can easily email physicians directly. In my experience, all the physicians were more than willing to let me shadow them.
— Rebecca B., M1
Summer Research Before First Year
I conducted research on campus this past summer, and it was a fantastic experience! Since classes and orientation hadn’t started, I had uninterrupted time to focus on lab work during the day and free time on evenings and weekends. Working in the lab allowed me to learn about the research environment of the medical school, see the collaboration between labs, experience research talks and seminars, and interact with upperclassmen doing research too. There were about 12 of my classmates here over the summer as well, and we had tons of fun taking weekend hiking trips, exploring new restaurants, seeing the zoo, swimming, attending Shakespeare in the Park, etc. Also, I really enjoyed having time to get settled into the city before medical school began!
— Hannah B., M1
Research During M1
Getting involved in research at WUSM gives you the unique opportunity to work with some of the world’s most renowned clinicians and scientists. Although most students do research the summer after first year, you can also choose to work during the academic year, or even the summer before starting medical school. Why would anyone not do research here, when our students publish at twice the national rate, and have plenty of funding sources available to them? Many students work in labs during the first semester of school, and they don’t have any issues balancing schoolwork, especially since first year is pass/fail! If you’re interested in doing research, definitely email Associate Dean for Medical Student Research Dr. Koong-Nah Chung, who will give you the resources you need to find a mentor and get funding for your project. One unique thing about WUSM is the overwhelming support of the faculty, who will genuinely do their best to help you succeed in doing the things you love. And if you happen to love research, you are most certainly in the right place.
— Farah M., M2
Taking Time Off for a One-Year Master’s Degree
If you are into research and you decide that you want to take time off to complete a project, WUSM offers several programs that may interest you. Additionally, there are plenty of ways to get funded! I am taking a research year between my second and third years of medical school and I am enrolled in the MA/MD program, which is fully funded. There are no required classes for the MA degree, and the program allows you to focus on your research full-time. I took a research year because I had a great summer project that I wanted to finish and wouldn’t have had time during my third year to do so. I am also interested in a competitive specialty, so I am working on several publications to boost my résumé. I highly recommend looking into research opportunities at the School of Medicine as there are plenty of remarkable projects in every field!
— Elaine O., M2
Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP) Years
The first of many transitions in your MD/PhD career, going from a pre-clinical medical student to a full-time graduate student is an interesting one. Depending on your PhD program, you may still have one or two more classes left to take. You also have to TA a first-year medical school course, which does occupy some time. You’re also trying to get your research up and running, which, as you might expect, can be slow and frustrating at times. The great thing about our MSTP, however, is that less than one year into your PhD program, you have pretty much satisfied most or all of your graduate school requirements. From then on, your time is largely your own, free to shape as you will. In a sense, the graduate years are what you truly signed up for when you accepted the offer to enroll in the program. This is your opportunity to practice the art of science, hone your craft, and become an expert in a field. The best part is that the MSTP staff, your PhD program and your 20+ MSTP classmates will be there to support you along the way.
— Taka O., M2