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Questions to Consider

  • Where do you see yourself in ten years? Twenty years? 
  • Will the community in which you want to live determine your options, or will career advancement guide your moves? 
  • Do you follow a mentor, pursue the rotation that you most enjoyed, or go after the most lucrative career? 
  • What is your tolerance for ignorance, and does that change based on whether it is a patient or an administrator who is displaying ignorance?
  • Is teaching in your future? Administration? 
  • Does the type of hospital you are working in matter? 
  • Are you more interested in a hospital that has other residency programs to support you and your learning, or will the key be having access to educational opportunities that you want to capitalize on yourself?
  • What kind of care do you want to provide to your patients? 
  • Is lifestyle a key influence, or is being a physician the lifestyle you are seeking? 
  • What is the future going to look like for the specialty that you are interested in pursuing?

The dividing point for students early on is whether to pursue a medical or surgical specialty. And, specialties are divided into primary care or specialty.

Specialty Factors

Another way of looking at specialties is to consider how they are organized. Some are organ based and look at only one system within the body. Others are population based and deal with specific groups of people (women, children, the elderly, etc.).

There are specialties that are defined by location: hospital-based specialties include radiology, anesthesiology and pathology. Radiation oncology is another specialty that is limited to a specific location.

For many physicians, specialty training is a stop on the way to subspecialization. General surgery is a necessary background for practice in trauma, vascular, ear, nose and throat, oncologic, dermatologic or urologic surgery. Internal Medicine may be a foundation for practice in cardiology, gastroenterology, rheumatology, or geriatrics.