Kenneth V. Iserson, M.D., MBA
Professor Emeritus, The University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ

Remember the relief you felt when you decided to embark on a medical career? Personally, I think that you made a wonderful choice! Don’t relax yet, though. Your most crucial career decision still lies ahead—which specialty to choose. That decision will determine how much you will enjoy your medical career.

The medical specialty you enter establishes which patients you will see: their age, sex and the nature and acuity of their problems. It also influences the hours you will work, your income, and the number and intensity of the procedures you will perform. What you may not have considered is that it also determines your chance of being sued, and how easy it will be to change practice locales, if you desire to do so.

Deciding on a specialty that fits your interests, skills, personality, and life goals is difficult. Therefore, begin investigating different specialties as soon as possible to optimize your chance of choosing the specialty/subspecialty that best fits your needs.

Subsequent columns in this series will help guide you through this process. They will discuss:

  • The wide range of specialties and subspecialties
  • What you need to know to make a reasoned career decision
  • How to choose a mentor
  • How to test a tentative specialty choice
  • What you need to know about the specialty’s training programs
  • How to choose to which programs to apply
  • The benefits and dangers of “audition” electives
  • Successful application strategies
  • Special considerations for IMGs
  • How to survive the residency program visit, and
  • The matches and matching strategies.

In sum, these columns should provide you with the basic guideposts you need to traverse the road to a successful specialty choice and residency match. Enjoying your career, doing your best work, and making the most of your future require finding the right specialty fit. These columns should help you do that.


Based on: Iserson’s Getting Into a Residency: A Guide for Medical Students, 8th edition
Tucson, AZ: Galen Press, Ltd.


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