Over the years, my career in medicine has been forged by hard work, luck, and a bunch of good advice.
While serving as a mentor to future healthcare providers (pre-med undergraduates, medical students, interns and residents), I’ve been asked numerous times by my trainees for my thoughts on what it takes to get into an academic program or how to survive in practice.
Over the next several blog posts, I’d like to pass along the Top Ten pearls that my mentors have shared with me that I’ve found especially helpful. Some are from medical school, others are from residency, fellowship and private practice.
“Publish, Publish, Publish. Publications are the currency of medicine.”
This was one of the first great nuggets given to me by Dr. Jonanthan Prenner back in 2002, who at the time was the third year resident at the Scheie Eye Institute while I was a medical student at UPenn rotating in ophthalmology.
The context was that if I wanted to match in an ophthalmology residency, it would be easier to get a coveted spot if I had some publications on my CV. Come to think of it, this piece of advice is not only pertinent to residency applications, but also to getting into medical school, fellowships, academic faculty appointments, tenure, and even undergraduate schools.
Sure you’ve got to have great grades, decent MCAT scores, a penchant for service, and thoughtful recommendations from your faculty mentors to get into medical school, but having even just a single publication on your dossier can put your application into a separate category: The A-list.
In medicine, we are constantly bombarded with health information whether it is new data from a phase 3 clinical trial of a novel therapeutic, a tweet from the CDC regarding the Zika epidemic, or an AARP newspaper clipping a patient brings to you about some $400 pair of sunglasses to prevent cataracts. You’ve got to be able to discern good science from bad.
The process of writing a peer-reviewed, scientific paper worthy of publication in a respected medical journal or presenting at a medical conference is no small accomplishment. The design of the study, be it a randomized clinical trial or a single case report on a rare disease, takes organization and mastery of the subject you’re presenting.
You’ve got to do a ton of literature research on the subject, figure out why your topic is novel, and then write about it in a concise, structured manner while convincing your peers why it’s an important contribution to medicine.
If you can do that, then you’ll have obtained an incredible skill that can serve you well as a doctor in the future.
Your interviewer (also an academic) and you will have something more meaningful to talk about making your interview much more enjoyable.
A fun interview is a relaxed one and one that can get you the position!