As I write this, I am on the last couple of days at my visiting clerkship at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN. Even if you don’t think that you are going to match at a Hopkins, or a Mayo or a Harvard, you should apply for and do a clerkship at one of these programs. Why should you do this? You should do this for the learning experience. There is a very strong reason why Mayo Clinic consistantly keeps the reputation as an outstanding teaching, clinical and research institution.
First, the attending physicians are the best in the world at what they do. My mentor here, Dr. Geoffrey Thompson is a top-flight endocrine and general surgeon who has patients from around the world that have come to his service. He is an outstanding teacher and author who gets cases that I would not have seen anywhere else in the country. Many of his patients have been referred from top medical centers because other surgeons have been unable to operate successfully. I have been exposed to surgical techniques that I could only dream about seeing. The latest and best are always being explored here at Mayo. This has been part of the challenge of keeping up here. Having Dr. Thompson as a mentor means that I will be able to contact him at any point in my career for consultation. This will be of tremendous benefit to my future patients. I have also met some of the top researchers and writers in medicine here in all specialties which has been of great benefit. Everyone here is very approachable and very willing to share information.
Second, if you are selected for a visiting clerkship, many places will grant you an interview and you might end up matching. By doing a visiting clerkship, you put yourself directly in front of the Chairman of the department and the residency director. While this can be of a disadvantage if you screw up, it can be of tremendous advantage for acquiring letters of recommendation and phone calls to other residency directors in the country.
Third, you will be exposed to excellent teaching. I have been grilled over and over on how to think clinically and how to investigate very complex patients. This exposure will be invaluable to me as I move into internship. I have never studied so hard and so long. Are the questions harder here at Mayo than at the other clerkship venues that I have attended? Yes, they ask for more detail and demand that I work at a very high level. I am not doing the numerical quantity of cases that I did at my previous clerkship but I am doing more complex cases. No matter where I end up matching, my clinical abilities have been strengthened by this experience.
Mayo has a scholarship program that will cover the cost of spending a month here in Rochester. They also have campuses in Jacksonville, FLA and Scottsdale, AZ. I am certain that Harvard, Stanford, and Hopkins have similiar programs. These are worth checking out as you move into your third year.
I have missed being at home and I was able to fly back for a couple of days because I had an interview. Getting a scholarship enabled me to so this. I know it might be difficult to leave the family for a month but the time goes by very quickly. It took some incredible planning but I was able to fit this in. The other student here with me in General Surgery has a family and pretty much shares my feelings. His family is a little closer than mine though and he has very young children.