I came into medical school fairly confident that I wanted to be an orthopaedic surgeon. I spent my first two years of medical school creating relationships with orthopaedic faculty and devoting a significant amount of free time towards research projects. Reality set in this past month when I had to plan my fourth-year schedule. The timeline for exploring and applying to specialties is basically this: apply for away rotations in early March, rotate in desired specialties at your home institution from May-July, get LOR by late-August, submit VRAS (residency application) in mid-September. Essentially 3/4 of M4 year is completed after a career decision is finalized.
As the commitment to a certain specialty became more real, I naturally started questioning if orthopaedics was truly the best match for me. In reality, I believe there are several specialties, both surgical and non-surgical, that I would find enjoyable and fulfilling. However, we just don’t have the time to explore every single specialty. Though there is adequate time to shadow during M1/M2 years and though shadowing gives perspective on what a career may be like, it is difficult to understand actual responsibilities without being an active member of the healthcare team. As M3s, we still have a limited perspective on post-residency life. For those interested in surgical subspecialties or lesser known medical specialties, the current M3 curriculum does not give us adequate flexibility for career exploration. One of the appeals of the new curriculum change here at Michigan is that it will increase the number of electives students will be able to rotate through before VRAS is due. This will allow students more time for in-depth comparison of specialties that they would not otherwise be able to gain exposure in, like radiation-oncology or otolaryngology.
I arranged my M4 schedule around preparing an application for orthopaedic surgery, with EM and family medicine as backups in case I decide orthopaedic surgery is not for me.
P.S. Switch weekends are great. Go Broncos!