Wednesday, June 5, 2013

A med student with issues wants to be a general surgeon

A medical student with some major issues wants to be a general surgeon.

Check out the question and answer on the Ask Skeptical Scalpel blog.


artiger said...

I'll comment here, for no particular reason.

I sympathize with the medical student, as I did not have particularly good marks early on. I did OK (like B level) on my third year rotations, but I was nothing special. Still, I pretty much knew that surgery, specifically general surgery (is that an oxymoron?) was what I wanted to do. Unlike her, though, I was in the "young" group, age 25. That was about 20 years ago.

With my not so hot grades and mediocre test scores (but nice recommendation letters), I didn't match initially, so I took a prelim spot at a program that wasn't exactly at the top of my list...actually wasn't even on my list. I worked hard that first year, impressed the right surgeons, and was rewarded with a categorical spot, although starting as a first year resident. About a month or two after that, I was informed that a couple of second year residents at a highly regarded nearby university surgery program had decided to drop out, and that I was invited to sign on as a third year resident the following July. I wound up finishing my residency there, on schedule with my 5 year plan at age 30 (noted as hard working but not stellar academically, no doubt).

My advice to the student would be to seriously examine the desire for general surgery. Is that what she wants to do, or is she looking for hearts, vascular, plastics, breast, etc.? 33 is not that old, but fellowship does add to the degree of difficulty. Does she have kids, family life? I have noted that in some of the "older" medical students that have worked with me, they have turned out to be some of the best docs after it's all said and done, probably due to the maturity factor. If general surgery is truly what she wants to do, my advice would be to seek out a prelim surgery spot, or maybe even a transitional, rotational internship, and work like hell. Then, get some good recs and reapply after a year (if she isn't fortunate enough to stumble upon a program that has had a surgery intern drop out, but that does happen). 5 vs 6 years? If debt and family life aren't that big of issues, go for it. If they are, consider that surgery might not be the best choice after all.

Skeptical Scalpel said...

Artiger, that's an interesting story. It's great that you made the most of your opportunities.

artiger said...

Thanks Scalpel. I was lucky, but lucky has been described as the point where opportunity and preparation meet. My take home message to the student would be to get a prelim spot now, and hope to get lucky. It is also a way of truly finding out how much she likes general surgery, and it is certainly good preparation for about anything else.

Anonymous said...

My understanding is that General Surgery these days isn't all that competitive, and certainly less competitive than GI and Cardiology. (Money talks.) The OP is certainly at a disadvantage, being old, a D.O., and academically bad.

The top 2 competitive residencies (for MD's) remain Ortho and Radiology.

Skeptical Scalpel said...

I have to disagree with you.

In the 2013 match, general surgery filled 1180 of 1185 available positions for a vacancy rate of 0.4%. While cardiology had 1.3% and GI had 3.4% of positions unfilled, internal medicine filled but with 40% of slots taken by international graduates.


Radiology is in trouble. I blogged about that last month.

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