Career Development Program Helps Students Choose Medical Specialty, Residency
Medical students face numerous questions related to career specialty and residency program selection. To help student make these important decisions, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine offers a comprehensive Career Development Program.
The program, based in the Augusta Webster, MD, Office of Medical Education (AWOME), includes career courses and seminars, as well as an advising program led by Sandy Sanguino, MD, associate dean for student programs and career development , with assistance from Marianne Green, MD, associate dean for medical education and competency achievement, and John X. Thomas, Jr., PhD, senior associate dean for medical education.
“Drs. Sanguino and Green and I meet with students at all stages of medical school; we guide them along the process of choosing a medical specialty and residency program,” says Thomas, who helps students to narrow their focus by posing questions about their preferences in areas such as intellectual content, age of the patient population, and inpatient versus outpatient care. “The key to our role is listening, as students often have conflicts between head and heart.”
In years one and two, students gather information about career options by attending specialty interest group programs, brown bag lunches that introduce physicians from a variety of specialties, or grand rounds. Many Feinberg students also use supplemental tools like the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator or the Association of American Medical Colleges’ web-based Careers in Medicine Program.
In year three, all students enroll in a year-long Interdisciplinary Medicine course, which allows them to gain knowledge about the residency match process and the unique characteristics of residency programs. They also receive guidance on networking, informational interviews, creating a curriculum vita, and more. Additionally, throughout their schooling, college mentors and career advising coordinators grant students access to faculty across the medical school for shadowing opportunities.
“The goal of our Career Development Program is to encourage students to get to know themselves on a deeper level,” says Sanguino, whose office maintains a confidential database that compiles information on Feinberg graduates, including board scores and residency placements, to share with students during individual advising sessions “In the end, students’ career choices depend on a number of factors, including academic success, mentors, and the level of competition for specific specialties or residency programs.”
Graduates Achieve Career Success
Alumna Emily (Schwartz) Todd, MD ’11, now a first-year resident at the University of California, Los Angeles, says that her early uncertainty regarding her future actually proved beneficial to her medical school experience.
“I didn’t decide on psychiatry until late in the game, so I approached every clinical rotation as a potential career â envisioning my life as a specialist in that field,” she says. “I was truly better off for it.”
While weighing the alternatives between residency programs and psychiatry tracks (research or non-research), Todd sought the advice of Thomas and others who helped her to evaluate her life goals.
“Dr. Thomas reviewed the credentials of Feinberg graduates who entered psychiatry internships in years prior. It was reassuring to see someone like me achieve their goals,” Todd says.
Another alumna, Emily Roben, MD ’11, now a first-year resident at Children’s Memorial Hospital, kept a personal journal to help her along the path to choosing a specialty. But, she says, it was a combination of her detailed pros/cons list for each clerkship, the AAMC’s Careers in Medicine web site, and countless meetings with Sanguino that led to her ultimate decision to pursue pediatrics.
“Having a trusted advisor is really key â someone who is dedicated to helping you pick the best career path for you,” says Roben. “For me, deciding on a specialty was incredibly difficult, but I am glad that I put in the work. I am incredibly happy and know that I made the right choice.”