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Deciding Factors: Choosing Your Specialty in Medical School

One of the great things about medical school is just how many different experiences you’ll be exposed to. Can all of those options make it tough to narrow down your choices and pick one specialty in the end? Sure. It’’s one of the most important decisions regarding your career you’ll ever make. Luckily, you won’’t be alone.

When it comes to choosing a medical specialty (which by the way, there are whole books dedicated to), a few crucial deciding factors come into play: your life experience, rotations, and mentors.

Life Experience

This might be what led you to study medicine in the first place. Remember what first inspired you to become a doctor. If you’’re passionate about making a difference in people’’s lives directly, that might mean you’’re more suited for a specialty with frequent patient contact instead of something like radiology.

The specialty you end up choosing has to be something you love and something you are good at. A culmination of your life experiences brought you to this point—, now build on them by taking advantage of the first-hand practice you’’ll receive from clinical rotations.

Rotation

When you’’re choosing your rotations, remember to keep an open mind! Think of every rotation you enter as the specialty you’’ll be practicing every day for the rest of your career.

For example, say you have your heart set on emergency surgery. If you breeze through internal medicine or pediatrics without being present, what happens if you get to the ER and suddenly realize you don’’t want to be a surgeon? Remember: you had a part in choosing these rotations. Find the positives in each, or for the ones that are particularly hard. Learn from the negatives!

Mentors

The attendings and residents you work with can be your biggest resource in choosing a specialty. It’’s important to identify mentors who can teach you the ins-and-outs of a specialty in the hospital, but try and find someone who can show you what it will be like in the everyday. How will this specialty affect your family life? As an OB/GYN, will you spend more of your time in a delivery room or in an office?

As a med student, you have access to physicians in a range of specialties, not just the ones you’’ve worked with in your rotations. Seek out role models who have taught or inspired you along the way. They’’ve all had to make the decision, and the wisdom they’’ve gained through years in their practice will absolutely help you.