The first time I was told to pursue a competitive specialty I was dumbfounded. But now two years later, I’m telling you to do the same.
To be clear, I’m not arguing we all attempt to be plastic surgeons or dermatologist. Props to those who can stand the OR and/or skin rashes.
We just need to get into the mindset as if we trying to be one.
This change in mindset has led my CV to go from subpar to top tier!
The Difference in Mindset Between Those Who Choose Competitive Specialities:
This isn’t true for all but I’ve found a difference between my classmates pursuing Ortho and those knowing they wanted to do primary care.
Both groups are insanely smart, but the Ortho bros are more likely to seek out opportunities (research, conference, faculty interactions, etc.)
Again not true for both. I know plenty of future primary care docs who are machines in their accomplishments.
But the ortho bro knows he needs to be competitive in a competitive specialty.
Thus he works hard at getting good grades, doing well on Step 1, excelling on rotations, and also cranking out research results.
The pressure of competitiveness pushes them to ask, “what else can I accomplish”.
- My Own Journey:
I haven’t talked much about my own specialty desires on the blog much.
It’s not because I’m actively trying to hide it. I just found many specialties to be interesting.
But one specialty I looked at for the longest time was Radiation Oncology.
I’ll spare you the reason, but due to the importance of geographic friendliness for residency and as an attending, I choose to no longer pursue.
It’s a great field and pursuing it led me to crank out 4 publications in one year.
It also kept me motivated to do really well on my rotations.
Now I’m between two less competitive specialties. But my CV is much more competitive for these fields because of my pursuit of radiation oncology.
More Opportunities Will Open Up To You:
Honestly, I think this heading should read “You will open yourself to more opportunities”
The pursuit of a competitive specialty forces you to seek out a variety of experiences.
As you continue to do more, more experiences will open themselves up to you.
This includes a bigger role in research projects, relationships with well-known faculty, scholarships, etc.
Why Residency Application Becomes Less Stressful:
Don’t get me wrong, applying for residency will never be stressfree.
But if you plan to apply for a competitive specialty early, your application will likely have the required experiences when it’s time.
In addition, like me, if you choose to do something less competitive, you still have numerous experiences to show off your hard work. That pressure of doing research, shadowing, etc will likely not be there since you’ve probably done them.
So What Specialty Should You Pick?
If you are torn between two specalities of different difficulties – pursue the more competitive one.
Continue to explore your interest in both obviously, but the pursuit of the more competitive specialty will raise the quality of your application.
If you are pursuing two competitive specialties then pick either and explore both. You’re going to have a stellar application either way.
Honestly, it doesn’t come down to specialty – it comes down to mindset. Get in the habit of asking of what more you can do. Your application will take care of itself.
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Until next time my friends…