If I could go back and do it all over again, I would do a few things differently. After all, hindsight is 20/20. Nonetheless, I am happy with my career path and I absolutely love my job. Below are some pieces of advice for medical students based on things I learned or wish I’d done differently.
1. It is never too early to start exploring fields that interest you.
Many medical school curricula can be quite restrictive until the 4th year, leaving little time for exploration beyond the traditional 3rd year core rotations. If you have even the slightest bit of interest in a specialty, meet with the Program Director at your institution to learn more.
2. Get involved!
Medical school is difficult, but it is a chance to be involved in leadership (run for class office), community service (take that international medical trip), teaching (it only makes you better), and research (don’t just read the literature, become part of it), among other things. You may learn that you love leadership, for example, and decide to make it part of your ultimate career plan.
3. Never let someone tell you that you can’t do something.
Dermatology is one of the most competitive residencies and applicants tend to be at the top of their class in grades and test scores, but as someone who reviews applications, I also look beyond scores and grades. I look at applicants who have demonstrated a true passion for the field (e.g. by conducting dedicated dermatological research and having strong mentor support).
4. The residency application process (including background research, away rotations, applications, interviewing, and ultimately ranking) has important consequences.
Take the process very seriously and learn everything you can about the available programs. Figure out which factors regarding residency training are most important to you. And which programs will help you achieve your goals and prepare you for the next chapter in life. While it may be tempting to choose a program largely based on location or institutional prestige, you may miss out on the program that suits you best and helps you develop your interests.