We sat down with Dr. Korgavkar, a dermatologist in New York and MedSchoolCoach advisor. We wanted to find out what a medical student interested in a competitive subspecialty, such as dermatology, should be doing when they shadow physicians!
Dr Korgavkar, what do you think are the key aspects students should have in mind, while shadowing a doctor? Is there anything in particular that they should observe and learn?
Yes, I think a large part of shadowing a physician is not necessarily to see the technical duties they perform throughout the day but also to witness the nuances of medicine. They should pay attention to the patient-physician relationships, how physicians develop rapport with patients, how the doctors show they are listening to the patients, through their body language or other ways. These could also be things that might affect the patient’s care that might not be directly medical; thinking about the patient’s home situation, insurance, helping them to find a way to get the best health care within their own circumstances. So I think it is important to watch how physicians are able to do that. Also, think about whether that is important to you. There are a lot of people who enjoy that individual connection on a daily basis and almost need it to have a good day at work; while for some people it isn’t their primary goal. So you should question yourselves, ask yourself if you want to feel that individual connection, and rapport every single day with your patients.
So then what advice would you give to students interested in your specialty?
Dermatology is a very competitive specialty; it is very important for you to get involved early on to explore your interest. A lot of times medical students don’t have an interest in Dermatology or other competitive specialties like ENT. People who do know earlier on get involved in activities that will make their applications more competitive. These could be activities such as research, presentations and the like. So if you have a budding interest in something, get out there and get to know people, because connections are important; in specialties such as these, people usually know each other. You want to find physicians to shadow; try to get involved in research and exposure in the field in you want to follow. The other important thing to do for competitive specialties is to ask yourself prior to deciding to apply to it whether that is what you really want to do. It is very tempting to apply for a less competitive specialty, something on the ‘easier’ side. All residencies are very difficult; no matter what people ultimately think of that specialty. Dermatology residency is just as busy as internal medicine residency, which is what I did for my first year. But the most important question is what you really want to do for the rest of your life, because if you choose something based on competitiveness, or lifestyle you won’t be happy, you want to keep the bigger picture in mind.
“Before you decide to apply for a competitive specialty, ask yourself whether this is what you really want to do. All residencies are very difficult; dermatology residency is just as busy as an internal medicine residency. “
Great. Do you have anything else, any other advice for students looking to do a competitive subspecialty?
The main thing is to get involved early on. It is always important to find someone who is a mentor to you whether that’s a faculty member or even a resident or someone who has recently gone through the process. There are many nuances within competitive specialties that you wouldn’t otherwise know. It’s important to have somebody who could walk you through the major things.