4 Reasons Why You Should Do Research After Your First Year of Med School
I applied during the January of my 1st year for a summer research position. Thankfully, I was accepted. It was a paid clinical position. Things I was able to accomplish during my "job": gutted our house we just bought, remodeled the house, helped my wife plan and prep for our wedding, binge-watched Prison Break, and impressed my PI (he said I was the fastest working med student he'd had in years). I'm not saying this to toot my own horn. I'm saying if you find the right research project, it will be easy and seamless for you to integrate into your life. Yeah, I pulled a few late nights to get it done, but I worked from home 98% of the time, so I chose that. Now, I have 4 abstracts and a soon-coming paper.
Don't know what field you want to go into? That's alright. I'm not here to tell you need to do neurosurgery research. I'm not here to tell you that you need to do anything, actually. But if you are like me and enjoy maximizing your time, I recommend a summer research project. If you're on the fence, keep reading.
Experience is better than no experience regardless of what field you want to go into, AKA- pad your resume. The residency and job markets are competitive, unless you've fully committed to internal med, family med, peds, or psych. Pretty much any medical research you put on your resume becomes part of your story. It can and will be used to distinguish you down the road. When in doubt, pick a harder subject. This communicates ambition.
2. Flexible Work Arrangements & Traveling
Working doesn't always mean delaying your vacation plans. Find a research position where you can work from home. This definitely works best with clinical research/chart review. Set up remote access (typically only takes a call to IT) to your healthcare network so you can access EPIC or whatever EMR you need from your laptop. If you're starting a project from scratch (not recommended), make sure your PI chooses a clinical project that only requires chart review and analysis.
I would recommend joining a clinical-based retrospective study already in progress. This allows you to negotiate working from home and work whenever you want plugging in values to an Excel document started by someone else. By doing the majority of the legwork (raw data collection), you have the potential of getting 2nd author, maybe even 1st. By picking up someone else's project, hopefully all the kinks of the project have been worked out and you're not responsible for the variables chosen in the study. Wanna take this strategy to level 10? Use your work-from-home arrangement to travel during your first summer. Read Tim Ferriss's "Four-Hour Workweek" book. What an amazing read! He gives step-by-step examples of how to use your work-from-home job to travel the world.
3. Mentorship and Future Letters of Recommendation
Your PI (or someone with an MD) will spend a considerable amount of time with you if you are doing research for them. In fact, by working directly for an MD, you have an important place in their work life and they will get to know you whether they want to or not. Bottom line: You are making them look good, so they should return the favor. STAY IN CONTACT with your PIs over the next 2 years and hit them up for career advice & a Letter of Recommendation when it comes time to apply for residency.
Research pads the resume and the pocketbook. Do your homework and find a position in a field that you are at least remotely interested in, and the work won't really feel like "work". There are few positions in med school that people unanimously agree upon as legitimate ways to make money while a med student. THIS IS ONE OF THEM. If you have to focus 100% to pass your future courses, you won't get a paycheck for at least another 3 years... Think long and hard before passing up this chance.
Want to search for research programs? Here's a starting point for you- Indiana University has a list compiled of opportunities for 1st year summer students:
There many more lists. Just use Google!