Is My Specialty Research? Here’s What To Know

When you’re vying for an acceptance letter to your program of choice, doing research is just one of those boxes everyone tells you should check off to be able to fit into a crowd of almost doctors. In fact, test prep company Kaplan encourages students to prepare an answer if they are asked during their admission interview why they didn’t participate in research. Whether it is financial or time limitations, Kaplan advises students to have a prepared response to this question.

Just to provide another perspective, during my admissions interviews, I was never once asked about the absence of research on my list of extra-curricular activities. No one ever asked me why I didn’t do research. (In case you’re wondering, I also did not do any community service, another “must have.”) In talking to my classmates (other admitted students), they were not asked about research. Doing research is important, certainly, for certain programs such as dual degree programs with a PhD. It may even be a requirement. But, I would not take the words “highly recommend” to mean “absolutely mandatory.”

This is all to say that many pre-medical students think they should do research because it is highly regarded and provides an additional boost from an admissions perspective. I don’t think it matters so much that you conduct research as much as the value of the research to you personally and how doing research enhances your existing credentials. Ultimately, your application should tell a story – the story about you and your life and your path to becoming a doctor.

At the time of my application, I hated the idea of research. I really didn’t enjoy biomedical science and the thought of doing some random genetic test with lab rats did not sound appealing. It still doesn’t. Now, I am simultaneously working with two clinical professors in two separate specialties. My research projects are not biomedical; I have never liked that area of research, and I know I never will. I learned, though, that I do enjoy research projects that have direct application to clinical and patient care. Since I am transitioning from the classroom to the clinic, it has been such a rewarding experience to not only have great mentors, but also learning skills that are applicable to my own learning.

In my class of about 90 students, there are only 6 students who participate in research. That’s a mere 6% of the whole class. Of course programs will be different and there may be more interest among students in a class to do research. After learning that I do research during the year, a friend of mine said she “felt” like she should do it too. Just because. I advise – and this is what I told my friend – to analyze that “feeling.” Is it a feeling of genuine interest? Or a feeling of guilt for not doing something other than study during the school year?

I would suggest you to reach out to faculty members you may be interested in working with during the semester. Some schools may also have paid summer research programs that would allow you to focus on your academic work during the semester.

At the end of the day, you have to do things that are meaningful to you. Not because everyone is doing it. And definitely not because you think someone else will appreciate it – whether it is a residency director or future employer. If it means nothing to you, it means nothing to them, too.

Need more insight into the research field? Here’s why you shouldn’t do research

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sonal-kumar

Sonal Kumar

Sonal Kumar is passionate about combining science and storytelling. She has vast experiences outside of healthcare including marketing and advertising, print and broadcast journalism, including TV/radio production. Sonal is an alumna of Columbia University. She tweets @sonalkumar2011.