(2016 NRMP Program Director Survey)
While not a requirement, having medical research experience certainly provides candidates, especially international medical graduates, with a much-needed competitive edge to obtain their dream residency. According to the 2016 NRMP Program Director Survey, as detailed by program type in the graph below, 44 percent of program directors surveyed across all specialties cited involvement and interest in research as an important component for selecting applicants to interview. Although factors such as personal statements, USMLE scores, and letters of recommendation are ranked higher with regards to importance, medical research is a worthwhile pursuit so long as it does not interfere with other areas of your application. Often times, when residency programs are facing a challenge in choosing between two otherwise equally competitive applicants, research experience can be a deciding factor. You will be doing research during your residency as well, so having a foot in the door and already being situated with some of the work will make for a smoother transition and even greater competitiveness if you decide to pursue a fellowship. Finally, benefits such as developing close professional connections, meeting strong potential LOR writers, and finding new talking points for future interviews are reasons to look into conducting or assisting with medical research.
What kind of research?
Although any type of research demonstrates strong initiative and time management skills to recruiters, generally it’s a good idea to find a lab that is geared toward your specialty. Clinical research and quality improvement research, both of which are more directly related to patient care, are regarded with more esteem than general science research as well. Quality of experience and institution matter, too – try to do hands-on work with a reputable, large organization or university. Research is more valuable the longer you stick with it, so if all other aspects of your application are on track, sticking with a research project for 6 months gives you a higher chance of being able to list a publication in your CV.
How do I get started?
Seeking out research opportunities can seem daunting, but fortunately if you don’t have a pre-existing project proposal and lab connection, there are still simple shortcuts to fill out the Activities and Publications section of the ERAS application. Analyzing data or generally assisting current researchers, doing case reports, and completing poster presentations are all relatively quick and low-effort ways to get involved with research.
So where do we come in?
At Residents Medical, we can help connect you to coveted, paid research fellowships at universities based in teaching hospital specialties, which in turn open doors for potential abstract/publication submissions in medical journals.