Basic Tools

See below for decision making support and timeline, AOA student resources, and Board exam information.

Deciding to Become a Doctor

We should make decisions, and not wait for them to be made for us. 

And, the decisions should be based on reliable information.  If you know yourself and what opportunities are available, then decision making is easier. 

Our goal is to help you learn what information you may need in order to make the big decisions, how to get information you may need, and what to do once you have the information.

The guidelines provided here will help with the flow of decision making and provides a framework for looking at your life, and the choices that need to be made or will be made for you.  The guidelines address:

  • What questions you need to ask yourself about who you are and what defines you.
  • What to do if the answers you are seeking simply aren't there.
  • What specific clinical rotations may be necessary to help you decide on a direction. 
  • What timelines need to be met to help you stay on track.
  • The decision points that are built into the system.
  • Whether you can decide to go off the track or outside the system and pursue other interests.
  • How to deal with decisions you want to make but may not be possible to carry out.

You can only reach as high as the bar that you set for yourself.

We are not the first ones to face the questions of what to do with our lives or to have to face the anxiety of having multiple choices that seem so different.

Even when the decisions are personal, and depend on who we are as people, and what makes us feel valued and connected to our work, there is a consistent series of steps to go through to get to an answer.

It is important to talk with family, friends and physicians who are at different stages of their training and career, to understand the process and the options, and to begin to orient yourself to the world in which you will become immersed. 

These questions take time to answer, and lots of quiet reflection.  Discussions need to take place with yourself, family, friends and others who know you well.  Those discussions can give you an understanding of the role and position of various subcategories of physicians.

Once the initial exploration and thinking is done, it is time to come up with a plan.  You have to ask yourself who you are and what makes you feel happy or fulfilled. Having a plan will maximize your chances of living the ideal life you plan for yourself.  We hope that the information here will be helpful to you in planning your career.

Decision Making Timeline

Decision making starts during your first year of medical school.

While you are adding to your pre-medical school understanding of the world of medicine, you will be learning about yourself and the terminology that is the basis for effective communication within medicine.  The timeline linked below provides a beginning road map for your exploration process.   

You may want to print this timeline as a reference for the future as you continue your journey.

View the timeline (pdf)

American Osteopathic Association Tools

The American Osteopathic Association (AOA) has provided a number of resources for students.

Board Exams

The issue of ‘board exams’ can be confusing, so let’s look at some definitions and examples.  

Licensure Board Exams

There is an exam which each physician must pass in order to qualify for a state medical license.  Osteopathic medical students/physicians take an exam called COMLEX (Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Examination), which is administered by the NBOME (National Board of Osteopathic Medical Examiners).

Changes are being made in the structure of the examination sequence.  In the future a 2-decision point competency-based assessment sequence will be implemented for the osteopathic medical licensure examinations.  A two decision point system does not mean two tests.

  • Currently, Part 1 is computer-based and taken while in medical school.  
  • Part 2 is subdivided into two parts—one being computer-based and the second being a hands-on exam.  These also are taken during medical school. 
  •  Part 3 is taken after medical school graduation, during residency. 

For more information:  http://www.nbome.org/.

Allopathic students take a similar set of board exams, known as USMLE (United States Medical Licensing Exam).  The knowledge-based parts are taken via computer on roughly the same schedule as COMLEX.  There is also a hands-on portion for Part 2—taken during medical school.  For more information:  http://www.usmle.org/.

Which Board Exams?

For licensure, an osteopathic physician must have successfully completed all parts of the COMLEX.  Some osteopathic students elect to take the USMLE for post-graduate purposes, as some allopathic residency programs will not accept COMLEX to fulfill the board test requirement for application to the residency. Each residency program determines which board scores to accept as well as acceptable scores.

COMLEX-USA infomation