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How to Write a Cold Email As a Pre-Med

Are you interested in shadowing a doctor, but don’t know where to start? You do not know how to write a cold email as a premed. How do you contact them? What do you say? What is the proper etiquette? Here are some tips and examples you should follow:

  1. Figure out what you want

Before you start searching for physicians to shadow, you have to know what you are looking for. What specialty are you interested in? Pediatrics? Neurology? Do you want to shadow in the hospital or the clinic? Do you want to shadow in a private practice, academic center, county facility, or an accountable care organization like Kaiser Permanente? These are all questions you must answer to help you narrow search.

||Read: Physician Shadowing and the One-Minute Mentor||

  1. Get email addresses

There are two main approaches to obtaining email addresses. You can either find them online or get them from personal contacts. If you do not have anyone to refer you, the best way to find email addresses is to do to a Google search.

For example, let’s say that you attend University of California, Irvine (UCI) and are interested in shadowing a neurologist. You would first Google “UCI neurology faculty”. From there you find the link that best matches what you are looking for. In this example, you can click on https://www.neurology.uci.edu/faculty.asp, which is the first link. Then you find the physician you want to shadow and obtain his or her email address. Most physicians’ email addresses are public online so if you search hard enough, it’s not too hard to find them. You can also search for whether or not they have a LinkedIn account.

Make a list of people you would like to contact and include any other information that might be relevant. For example, you may want to include clinical or research interests.

John Doe MD,
Clinical interests: Huntington’s Disease, Movement Disorders, Myelodysplasia
Research interests: Huntington’s Disease

||Read: Physician Shadowing – What to Expect and Gain||

  1. Write an effective email

Do not email everyone on your list at once if they are all in the same department. You must write a personal email to each person so that they know you are not just spamming everyone in their department. I would wait for a response from one doctor before emailing another doctor in the same department unless they never respond to you. Keep your email short and follow this formula:

Subject: Premedical student interested in shadowing


  1. Your name, major, and school.
  2. How you got the email address
  3. What you are interested in and why you are emailing

(Note: If you know that you need training or a certification before you shadow, make sure you take care of that first and let them know that you have done so)

  1. Ask if they are willing and what is convenient for them

Dear Dr. John Doe,

My name is Peter Smith; I am currently a sophomore physiology major at UCI. I found your email through the UCI neurology faculty website. (Alternative: I was told by __mutual acquaintance that you often have undergraduate students shadow you during inpatient rounds) I am interested in the field of neurology and would like the chance to shadow you to see what being a neurologist is like firsthand. I have already completed the necessary HIPAA training. If you are willing, please let me know when and where is convenient for you.


Peter Smith

||Read: Tips on Shadowing a Doctor ||

  1. Follow up

Doctors get many emails a day and they might not see yours. If you have not gotten a response after a week, do not hesitate to send a follow up email. Do not make them feel guilty for not responding to your previous email; simply send the same email again. Email them once a week and always wait a week before you send another. Be patient and persistent. If they do respond positively, be flexible and work around their schedule.

Final notes:

  1. Residents are not as far removed from medical school and often are more willing to let you shadow them.
  2. You might not get responses from a lot of people. Do not be discouraged. Keep emailing away.
  3. It is much easier to get a shadowing opportunity if you know someone personally or are referred by someone. Cold emailing isn’t necessarily the first option but often the only option.
  1. Try Shadowing Online

Shadowing a physician in person is not always a possibility – especially if you are looking to shadow across dozens of medical specialties. If this is the case, you are in luck. The Virtual Clinical Education series from MedSchoolCoach allows you to shadow more than 20 medical specialties. Plus, you can also earn Certificates of Completion for each so that you can compile extracurricular hours from the conform of your own home.

Before you contact any physician to shadow him or her, make sure you know your school’s shadowing policy. Some schools require you to be part of a formal shadowing or volunteering program.

Edward Chang

Edward Chang is the Co-founder and Director of Operations of ProspectiveDoctor.com. He graduated from the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and is currently a urology resident at the University of Washington. He also attended UCLA as an undergraduate, graduating with a major in Molecular, Cell, and Developmental Biology. If you are interested in contributing to ProspectiveDoctor.com, please contact him at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @EdwardChangMD and Prospective Doctor @ProspectiveDr.

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