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How to get a good residency to become a surgeon?

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Richard’s Answer

Get good grades in medical school.. Strive to impress your attendings during 3rd and 4th year. Do away rotations in surgery at the institutions to which you will apply. Get good scores on USMLE

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Blake’s Answer

Hey Jeff,

I was always told that volunteering, especially in the medical field, and research help.


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Estelle’s Answer

Niaz and Richard are spot on! Start with good grades, do well on STEP exams, and commit to hard work on your surgery rotations. Strong letters from surgery attendings hold weight in residency applications, and they all network to help students find the best fits for residency. Also, the hard work pays off because a good reputation is important, and a bad letter can be very damaging to your applications.
Practice knot tying...Amazon has practice kits, and YouTube has excellent lessons.
Good luck!

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Niaz’s Answer

Richard above gave a great answer, but if you're like me and need extra (maybe too much) information here it goes! To start, I am a medical student at an osteopathic medical school interested in pursuing a surgical specialty.

I am not sure if you are already in medical school, but first you want to get accepted into medical school which is it's own process. You can go to either DO or MD schools. Depending on what kind of surgical residency you want to pursue, an MD program may be better for you than DO. It is not impossible to get into competitive surgical residencies as a DO, but it is harder and some residency programs are known for only allowing MD students. Some of the more competitive surgical residencies include plastic and reconstructive surgery, neurosurgery, otolaryngology, and ophthalmology.

Pursing any specialty in medicine, you want to make sure that you show your dedication and commitment to the field, additionally most surgical specialties look for students with research publications. Some residency programs may put less emphasis on having research publications so you need to learn which field you want to go in, and check AAMC for the average accepted students statistics. They will include average board scores of students accepted into the specialty and average number of research publications.

During your first two years of medical school and, if possible, into your third and fourth years, you want to show your commitment to the community by volunteering in addition to holding leadership positions in orgs at your school. You don't need to volunteer thousands of hours or be president of the SGA, but try your best to be involved and show that you're an integral part of the medical school and community.

Another great thing to do is join the American College of Surgeons (ACS) and/or American College of Osteopathic Surgeons (ACOS). ACS has great modules for students online, and they both have great conferences you can attend to learn more about the field and network with other surgeons. I've met great mentors at their conferences.

During your academic years, try your best to get into the honors societies. That means being top 10% of your class to get into the AOA for MD schools and top 25% to get into Sigma Sigma Phi for DO schools. This shows that you are the top of your class, and when you do great in your courses then you will most likely be better prepared to do well on board exams (USMLE or COMLEX).

You want to get as great of a board score as you can get. If you want to do rural or community surgical residencies their average accepted student board scores may not be as high as some others, but you always want to try your best no matter what. BUT, if your score isn't as competitive, then you have your clinical years to improve your application and show that you are going to be a great surgeon. That means taking your rotations (surgical and non-surgical) seriously. Show up early, stay late, try to help, step out of your comfort zone, and help as much as you can. You can get great letters of recommendation from your surgical rotation preceptors, to help you apply to surgical sub-Is or audition rotations at the residencies you want to apply for.

Additionally, I started practicing suturing and knot tying my first year to be prepared for rotations. This is extra, but it is a skill that takes time to perfect so why not start early!

One thing to remember in medical school is to not spread yourself thin, overly commit yourself and do poorly in class or burn out. Commit to things you are truly passionate about, and not just to cross it off your list.

The general outline for what you can do overall:
First year: join ACS/ACOS and your schools surgery interest group. Do well in courses. Volunteer. Apply for leadership positions. Start research throughout the year or at least start it in the summer going into second year.
Second year: Continue everything from first year. Start board studying.
Third year: Put your heart and soul into rotations. Do well on second set of boards. Apply for audition rotations
Fourth year: Put your heart and soul into your audition rotations. Apply for residency :)