Create Your Own Opportunities

One of my favorite research mentors in medical school pulled me aside.  We were at a conference and were in between sessions.  He described to me a paper he had recently read in a radiology journal examining how often articles within the radiology literature are cited.  He told me to review the paper and to see if we could perform a similar analysis on the urology literature.  Six months later, we published this analysis of the urology literature.  Several months passed and I was looking for new project opportunities that I could complete with a rapid turnover time to augment my research portfolio prior to applying.  I thought back to the literature analysis project that we completed in urology.  I realized if I could take a project idea from a radiology study and complete it in urology, then I could take that same idea and translate it to any field.  I contacted other medical students to gauge their interests and soon enough had started conducting this study in general surgery, plastic surgery, oral and maxillofacial surgery, orthopedic surgery, obstetrics and gynecology, dermatology, and otolaryngology (all of which have been published, accepted for publication, or presented at a national conference by this point in time).  Since then, I have started this same project in pathology and ophthalmology.

Image by Arek Socha from Pixabay

This is the epitome of creating your own opportunities.  All of these projects were initiated and completed by medical students.  While I allowed my friends to include an attending on the projects (particularly if it would be helpful for them in their relationship with a mentor), there was minimal attending involvement.  In fact, one colleague specifically did not want to include an attending and listed me (as a medical student) as the senior author.  This series of projects examining the literature became one of the largest portions on my CV when applying for residency, and these efforts propelled me to the top of my applicant class.  I have witnessed several other medical students use a similar approach replicating a study in various fields with equal success.  Don’t rely on attendings or residents to provide you with opportunities.  Seek out innovative ways to create your own opportunities and take control of your success. 

Other ways to maximize research on your residency application:

What opportunities have you discovered? Do you need help assessing the practicality of turning those opportunities into reality? Comment below or contact Med Student Edge directly. 

Back to other research resources.

Carter J. Boyd, MD, MBA
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