Saturday, March 1, 2008

David discusses the neurosurgery interest group

All medical schools have a wealth of student interest groups in a variety of medical specialties such as psychiatry, OB-GYN, IM, family med, surgery, etc. These groups can be extremely helpful; they provide students with information about the specialty, the associated lifestyle, potential practical workshops, networking opportunities, and some useful guidance about how to strengthen a residency application for that field. Still, I find it a bit curious that our school has a neurosurgery interest group.

As many people know, neurosurgery is not one of those fields someone just wakes up and decides to enter. It is one of, if not the most competitive specialties, and demands a kick-ass application with top board scores, clinical evaluations, recommendations, and probably some strong research too. Those qualifications – and I know it is nearly forbidden to say people can’t do something if they really, really, really try – are realistically beyond the average, above-average, and maybe even the near-excellent student. If I devoted my life to becoming a neurosurgeon, there’s a ridiculously strong chance I just wouldn’t cut it no matter how much I wanted it. Out of the 20,000 or so med school grads that match each year, only ~150 are able to do so in neurosurgery. That’s more or less one spot per med school in the entire country, meaning one has to be, on average, the top pre-NSG student in one's school to snag a spot. Even Best Medical School has a snowball’s chance in hell of sending more than a couple in a given year. So while learning about future career options is extremely valuable, and no one should ever be discouraged from dreams/ambitions, all of this seems similar to having a Fortune 500 CEO interest group in B-school or NFL player interest group in a DIII football program.

OK, enough musing. I’m running late for my plastics interest group meeting…


gcs3 said...

This is one of the misgivings of North American training, in my opinion. In Australia, after an intern year and 1 or 2 more junior years in which you have to do medical, surgical and emergency terms of 10 weeks you are then eligible to apply for advanced training. I "fell" into neurosurg after a great term with fantastic registrars (our term for residents) and consultants who suggested I take up a neighbouring hospitals unaccredited neurosurg registrar job (we have many unaccredited terms in most disciplines where you get experience in the field before committing to training). 12 months later and I turn up for the neurosurg society interview and what do you know - I'm in. Of course the application process still requires decent references, polished CV. We also have to do a post grad basic surgical exam.
I would have find it difficult to choose a career when still a medical student, when exposure to the specialty is limited.
My path from high school - 3 years radiography applied science bachelor degree, 4 years med school, 1 year intern, 2 years general resident, 6 years neurosurg training with anticipated 1 year overseas fellowship. 17 years all up is a fair committment

D said...

That's a good point. I agree that it's a bit strange for US med students to choose a permanent specialty after having such limited experience with the wide variety of available fields.