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Careers in Medicine FAQ

Are there some personality types that should not go into some specialties?

There are many different MBTI types in every specialty. Knowing what your personality type is will help you understand who you are and what your preferences are…it will not tell you what specialty you should choose.

What is AOA, and is it really required to get into good residencies?

Alpha Omega Alpha is the medical honor society which began in 1902. Visit the Alpha Omega Alpha website for more information. While it is certainly an honor to be inducted into this society, it is not a requirement to obtain a competitive residency. Usually 15% of the top students of the 3rd and 4th year classes will be inducted at MUSC.

Do my grades for the first and second years really matter that much?

The COM is a Fall/Pass/Honors system. Rather than grades or GPA, programs tend to emphasize board scores, personal statements, letters of recommendation, and clerkship comments as the primary determinants on whether or not students get invited for an interview.

Is there a list of physicians in my specialty of choice who I can shadow?

Yes. Many physicians are eager to have students follow them and teach them about their specialty. 

When should I write my personal statement for residency applications?

You should keep a current personal statement, like your Curriculum Vitae (CV), with you to reflect changing goals in life. Guidelines for writing your statement can be found on the AAMC Careers in Medicine website under "Getting Into Residency."

What is a CV?

Your Curriculum Vitae is a resume of sorts that you will use for the rest of your life for residency application, fellowship applications, career advancement, etc.

Other than the fact that it is required, why is it important for me to attend CiM functions?

CiM will help to direct you early and help you to make your residency decision while in your medical school. It will also help you to learn more about yourself, your values, skills, etc. This is your one-stop shop for career decisions.

Is there anything, aside from CiM requirements, that I should be doing my first 2 years to help me decide my career path?

Yes – using the CiM website for researching your options, exploring yourself and keeping yourself focused on choosing a specialty that may suit you is of utmost importance. There are certain specialties that look for applicants with some research background – radiology, dermatology, orthopaedic surgery – so how you spend the summer between your 1st and 2nd year will be important. All of that will be presented and discuss in a January Summer Opportunities meeting.

When should I start thinking about recommendation letters?

Beginning in your 3rd year, you will begin your clinical rotations. It is during this year and the first 3 months of your 4th year that you will need to obtain Letters of Recommendation. The best time to ask is immediately upon finishing a rotation when attendings and residents are more likely to remember your performance and be able to comment on it in a meaningful way.

Is there a map of the hospital anywhere?

View the campus map.

When should I start thinking about STEP 2?

Step 2 has two parts – the Clinical Knowledge Exam (CK) and the Clinical Skills Exam (CS). The Clinical Knowledge Exam is must be passed prior to graduation. As a result, it is recommended that you take it no later than December 31st of your 4th year. This would give you plenty of time to retake it, should you not be successful on your first attempt, and graduate on time. The Clinical Skills exam must be taken prior to graduation – no passing score is required.

Where is a good place to find a list of available residency programs?

 The FREIDA website lists all residency and fellowship programs as well as useful information regarding them. You can search by region, state, specialty, etc.

How do I know if I might like the specialty as a community practice if I did not have a good experience on my 3rd year rotation?

This is a tough one as our students do not get a lot of community experience during their education at MUSC. However, we have many alumni that are willing to work with students on a one-on-one basis to show them what their community based practice is like.

What is the difference between academic medicine and community medicine?

Academic medicine contains three areas or aspects of academic faculty work: clinical patient care, education of trainees, and research. There is no fixed distribution of time among any of these three and a fourth related area, administration, can also be considered part of academics. In some, but not all institutions, a distinction may be made such that those who do not do a substantial amount of externally funded research are referred to as “clinical faculty” and have the word “clinical” added to their faculty title as in “clinical professor of medicine”.

In community medicine, most physicians are dedicated to the clinical aspect of the profession only. Employment can range from a one person practice to a large, non-teaching hospital. However, many community physicians have clinical privileges at their local hospitals to perform procedures but are not considered a member of the institutions faculty.

How early should I begin setting up away rotations for my 4th year?

Unlike the first two years and more so than the third year, your fourth year schedule is very dynamic and subject to constant change. Planning for this year should begin as soon as you have chosen a specialty. A planning meeting will be held in February of your third year to discuss this at length.

How difficult is it to "couples match"?

“The NRMP allows students to participate in the Match as a couple. Each partner enrolls individually in the Match and notifies the NRMP of their desire to participate with a partner. The student couples form pairs of choices on their primary rank order lists, which are then considered in rank order in the Match. The couple matches to the most preferred pair of programs on their rank order lists where each partner has been offered a position. Couples can mix specialties, program types, and geographic locations. The Match rate for couples has been greater than 90% since 1985, a rate comparable to the match rate for all US seniors. Applying as a couple should not influence program directors' selection decisions. There is more information on Couples in the Match at the NRMP web site.”

Gauging the “difficulty” of couples matching is impossible to state as there are too many factors involved in a successful match or one or two people.

What is the average Step 1 score for individual specialties?

There are no published reports form individual specialties and/or programs that succinctly answer this question.

Is it better to interview early or late in the interview process?

There is some conventional wisdom that says you should not make your first interview at the program in which you are most interested. “A number of studies on interviewing show that programs’ ratings of applicants becomes more favorable as the “season” progresses.” - Iserson’s Getting into a Residency

Should I do an away rotation at a program that I am considering for residency?

You should consider doing an away rotation at a program you are interested in as a means by which to assess your suitability to that program- not as an “audition” rotation. Obviously, you cannot do an away rotation at all of the programs you are interested in so doing one is not “required” for a match to occur.

How and when do I get an adviser?

You will receive a faculty advisor in your first year as part of the MEDCOM (MEDICAL EDUCATION DEVELOPMENT AND RESOURCE COMMITTEE ) program. After that, you will be assigned a clinical advisor based on your specialty interest late in the spring of your second year.

Can I change advisor's if I change career interests?

Advisors can be changed as often as a student changes their specialty interest.

Could you explain the Match Process?

Visit the National Residency Match Process website for more information.

What residencies are involved in the "Early Match" and what is this?

The “Early Match”, also known as the San Francisco Match, is limited to Child Neurology/Neurodevelopmental Disabilities, Neurotology, Ophthalmology, and Plastic Surgery.

How do I get involved in the Careers in Medicine Committee?

Each year, Statements of Intent are solicited from the first year class by the College of Medicine Student Council Vice President. Once all statements are received, the Student Council chooses two members to serve a four year term on the Committee.