Published online by Cambridge University Press: 08 August 2009
If you ask college students taking the required premedical science courses and studying for the MCAT exam why they are doing so, the obvious answer that they will give is, “I want to become a physician.” The focus of these students' efforts, justifiably, is on getting into medical school, preferably the one of their choice. They quite naturally must defer the issue of what specialty they wish to work in as physicians for an appropriate later time. Once they are enrolled in medical school, this major issue comes to the foreground all too soon.
Making the selection of an area for postgraduate training is a key life decision that requires very careful consideration. It is a complex task, for it involves (a) candid self-assessment of your interests, abilities, and lifestyle needs; (b) becoming knowledgeable as to the many specialty options available; and (c) careful execution of the varied components of the timetable relative to securing a residency. (See front matter, Message To the Reader section.)
Professional activities associated with the practice of medicine are extremely diverse, medicine being a composite of many areas of specialization. Also, there is a wide disparity between specialty activities of, for example, an allergist and a urologist in their approach, skills, and practice (although though they have had a common educational core of knowledge and experience). Complicating the choosing of a specialty is the fact that the exposure of students to specialties and subspecialties during medical school is very brief and limited in scope.