Wednesday, 23 November 2011

what kind of research should residency applicant do?


Today's post is regarding the type of research a residency applicant can consider to enhance their chances of match. Assuming that you are doing or want to do research, the following table discusses the results of 3 scenarios (non degree course, masters degree or doctorate degree) with 2 types of research (basic sciences versus clinical research) with 2 outcomes (unfinished versus finished).
The research experience has been listed on a color coded heat map with the least favorable at the top (red) and the most favorable at the bottom (green). see figure 1.

Type of research for US medical residency applicants
As you can see most of the unfavorable research experiences that lie in the red zone are ones with unfinished outcome (column 3 - completion). In fact, this may influence your application negatively, since the PD or faculty will be left to think if you have issues with commitment and hard work. Thus the first 6 are unfinished research experiences tiered by - clinical more important that basic, and doctorate more important than masters and non degree. 


This is assuming that you have started working on your project and made progress and not abandoned the project in a day. Of course this also does not take into account extenuating circumstances where one had to leave a project due to social, family or other personal issues. In case this happens, make sure you address that during the interview or in your personal statement.

Then the green zone research experiences are those where applicant has successfully completed the project and demonstrated competence in the skills required as a researcher. In this case doctorate degrees are given a lot of importance and again clinical science is given more weight that basic. This is not to discount basic research because there are very good areas of basic science that have direct clinical relevance and are guaranteed to help the applicant. Some areas of research that I can think of are atherosclerosis research (ox LDL, statins, new developments), stroke research, obesity and DM research, autoimmune disease research, these are all very relevant to medical applicant. Basic research like iron transport in microbes or adenovirus pathogenesis are little more remote than direct clinical relevance and will not be as useful for residency applicant. 

Clinical research is usually done with multi university centers with patient populations, patient or samples. There is direct patient care involved though as a graduate student you will not come in contact with patients themselves for most part. you will be involved in data collection, analysis and write up mostly. 

The rest of the scenarios are listed in the figure. I have not included masters of public health here or even health administration for that matter as they are not technically research - in the sense of discovery and innovation. Hope this grid helps you decide what you want to do as far as research is concerned. And dont forget, USMLE scores are still the criteria for selection so remember to study for the boards and crack the exam.

11 comments:

  1. I CAN NOT SEE ANY TABLE! CAN U PLZ HELP ME?

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    1. as in can you not see the figure in the article? try pausing ad block and reload the page. See if it helps.

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  2. Hi, this is a very informative blog.

    I have a question for you. I have the opportunity for research at an IMG friendly University hospital under the associate program director (Clinical research in Infective endocarditis) but I dont have any family at this place.

    My other option is a very big University hospital which has no IMGs( ranked top 5 among US) where I have a chance for research with a recently graduated fellow in cardiology(a field that I like).I have family there. I dont know whether research at the IMG friendly university is more helpful than the AMG friendly University as the letter will be given by senior and junior faculty respectively.

    Since there are only 2 months for the match I am confused as to which one to join. I would appreciate any advice from you.

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    1. IMG or AMG friendliness of the university does not matter when it comes to research, what matters is the kind of research, what you will get out of it at the end, the Principal investigator (PI) whom you work with and the institutional ranking in the global grants scale. Pick a place which has a name, chose the PI who is a heavy hitter and whose letter of recommendation will count. chose a place where the PI is well connected and one phone call from him could be enough to grant you that elusive interview. Also take into account logistical issues like family proximity, subject of research and the project that you will do. In any case, use this opportunity to network contacts. Hope this helps!

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    2. hey ansari..u seem from pakistan.. i have some questions regarding research. m from pakistan just graduated.. msg me, fieranx@gmail.com ur help kindly appreciated..

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    3. Thanx for the advice, I matched at a very good, IM University program in MO.. I very happy, And @ fieran what would you like to know? How I got into research is what everybody asks. Email more than 1000 physicians by finding their email addresses from the University websites, introduce yourself, ask if you could do free voluntary research, Also Having GC or Citizenship also helps. Good luck, My 2 year long journey from preparing for steps to joining residency finally paid off...

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  3. I am a final year international medical student got an research elective opportunity in a top notch university. But my professors research is purely laboratory based. To describe it more clearly it is about the molecular mechanisms (Epigenetics) involved in the causation of Hepato-cellular carcinoma. This research elective is only for a short duration of 3 months and I can surely predict that I won't be able to get a publication in such a short duration of time that to in a lab based research like this. Please advice me what's the right thing to do. I am an international medical student, should have to travel to U.S.A only for this research elective. Is this experience worth the trip & the money? If so please also suggest me how I can utilize this opportunity to the fullest.

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    1. the best way you can utilize this opportunity is work hard and impress the PI get a strong letter of recommendation from the his prof. Since it is a top notch university, his letter will have lot of weightage. The second most important thing you can do is get in touch with clinical faculty at this institution when you are there, even if you get 4-6 weeks of observership in this institution and a letter from the clinician you will have gotten the best of this opportunity. Look at this opportunity as a networking mission make contacts that you can then use when you apply for residency.

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  4. does top notch university of my country count as to where i do research. adn can i get a LOR from my professor in pakistan? would that count?

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    Replies
    1. hello Dr. fieran, please check this article: http://www.mleresidencytips.com/2012/04/10-ways-to-improve-residency-chances.html
      research outside of US may not count as much as within US

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