Many people see shadowing a physician as a checklist item that they need to do just because they need to apply to medical school. However there are many reasons why medical school admissions committees want you to have this kind of clinical exposure. For more information on what to expect and gain while shadowing a doctor, please visit here.

1. Help confirm whether or not you want to be a doctor

This is by far the most important reason why you should shadow. Before you commit yourself to at least 7 years of medical training (medical school and residency) and thousands of dollars of loans, you need to be certain whether you actually want to commit. There is no absolute way to know just by shadowing exactly what your life as a physician would be like. However, shadowing physicians and asking them questions about their jobs and lives gives you a glimpse of your future. Don’t just watch. Write questions down. Ask them why they chose their specialties. Do they regret their decisions? This is the time to pick their brains without being annoying.

2. Build relationships with physicians

While you are confirming whether you want to be a doctor, you are also building relationships with the physicians you shadow. If you shadow multiple physicians then you can try to find out which doctors you mesh with so that you can build a long term relationship with them.The best way to do this is to shadow the same physician (that you like) multiple times. When you get to know them better, you can get to know them even better by working with them. Perhaps you can do research with them or work for them as an administrator. The better the relationship you have with doctors, the better they can advocate for you especially when it comes to the next point.

3. Obtain a letter of recommendation

Many applicants underestimate how important letters of recommendation are. They don’t prioritize it because they know how important they are. Letters of recommendations can make or break your application. That is why having a strong relationship with a physician you have shadowed and possibility even worked with puts you in the best position to get a strong letter of recommendation.

Shadowing doctors is not an impressive part of your application. It is simply a window of opportunity that you can use to find a mentor, get research opportunities, and have a strong letter of recommendation written for you. Don’t underestimate its importance.

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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 edwardchang@prospectivedoctor.com. Follow ProspectiveDoctor on Twitter, @ProspectiveDr.

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