getting LOR from a dr

I need some input about getting a LOR. I work at Johns Hopkins hospital as a medical social worker—I counsel patients on emotional issues, adjustment to illness, grief/loss, discharge planning, substance abuse, nursing home placements, etc. It's been a great opportunity to work in a hospital and to work as a team with the doctors and all the various allied professionals (PT, RT, nursing, etc).
On the service that I'm assigned to, I work closely with the interns, and occasionally with residents. I don't cross paths with the attendings very often. A lot of the other social workers at the hospital work have more contact with the attendings, but that just isn't how my particular service is structured.
I'd like to try and get a LOR from a doctor here, and I think given that I work in a hospital, it will look bad if I don't have one. But I'm feeling stuck since most of the attendings would barely recognize me if they passed me in the hallway. I'm thinking my only choices are 1) get one from an intern–they are doctors after all, and are familiar with me and my work or 2) approach an attending who I barely know. Neither one seems like a great option----any suggestions?

would it be possible to get one of the interns you know to write and sign it and ask for the chair of the department to co-sign it? This would seem to achieve both purposes - someone you know writes it, but it is validated by someone of more academic stature.

Hi Beth,
Option 2- Approach an attending you hardly know-- How can you do that in a way that is comfortable for both the doc and you? If you're not at ease walking up to a stranger who has a lot their mind and introducing yourself(who is?)—Write a short letter to the Doctor and explain what it is you are doing and what you need! Ask to shadow or come in a talk for a few minutes(you might get to talk for a while), or invite them to your office to see your work and what it is you do. Let them know about your services. You might have to write several letters, but just one bite is all it takes to get what it is you need.
Also, get a LOR from your director. Some of the med school secondary applications ask for a LOR from a doc or someone that knows you in a professional capacity. Some have forms for the doc to fill in. You will get all sorts of variations–and you will have to play it by ear. Hopefully you will find a doctor that is sympathic with the process and goes with the flow. Let the doc know up front how many schools you plan to apply to. This will give them the heads up as to what to expect. Make sure when the time comes you send stamped addressed envelopes to make sending them that much easier for the letter writer.
You can do it. Write write write to everyone. It is not so bad. That's how I did it. I wrote to 6 docs, only one replied–but he was great and I'm in! Also, I did shadow someone else, but he seemed to be in a daze when it came to the question of writing a letter. I don't know why. Maybe he wasn't comfortable with writing. Who knows these things? Just don't take anything personally, and keep your focus on what it is you need. You'll get it.
Have Fun.

I would avoid getting an LoR from an intern or resident. Those LoRs are not held to be as substantive as one written by an attending physician. Invest the time in a shadowing experience. If you know an attending well enough, simply express to him/her that you are considering medical school and would appreciate the opportunity to shadow them for a few weeks with the possibility of a LoR at the conclusion of the experience. If you do not know an attending well enough or the one you asked is not willing, your intern/resident friends would be excellent people to ask for recommendations as to whom you might approach. They know who the best & most patient teacher are…believe me!

thanks for the input, everyone. I decided to send 2 of our attendings an email, explaining that I’m applying to med school this year, and asking each if she would have some time to talk with me over lunch about what to expect, her experiences in the field, etc.
One of them sent back a very nice email saying she’d be glad to meet with me over lunch. smile.gif I’m thinking that this will be a good opportunity to ask questions and get her perspective on medicine & her specialty. I would love to shadow her, but I don’t think hospital policy allows it. However, I’ve worked with her on several cases, including one complicated one, so I’ve had a chance to “see her in action” and she’s familiar with my work, even though she doesn’t know me well personally.
My thought is that I could follow up later to thank her and ask if she’d consider giving me a reference. Of course I would give her a copy of my resume, ECs, personal statement etc so that she has more information to go on. One of my coworkers thinks I should ask during the conversation over lunch, but I’m afraid that will seem pushy. what do you all think?


I think these are the sorts of things you can play by ear over lunch - if talk comes around to the application process “these days” and all the hoops you must jump through, i’s to dot, t’s to cross - LoRs might come up naturally - if not, if it doesn’t feel comfortable or natural, or if the conversation has stayed away from you and on her and it would be awkward to swing it around to you and your needs, you can always bring it up another time.

that sounds about right, Lisa. She and I are supposed to meet over lunch today and I’m ridiculously nervous! I feel like I’m going on an interview. If anyone’s browsing the forum and reading this, send good vibes this way! smile.gif

Done! good luck!

thanks, efex! your good vibes must have worked; it went really well. I got some good input from her, and she offered to do me a LOR without me even having to bring it up. Yay! biggrin.gif

Awesome! I am posting from a biology lab that is my second home now while I study for the MCAT. I am here on spring break studying my rear end off and every now and then I need an OPM/SDN/MomMD break he he. I am happy to hear that your interview went well, when are you applying to med school?

thanks, efex. smile.gif I’m applying this year. I’m in major MCAT study mode too–I can’t believe the MCAT and application time are coming up so fast!!

Aghhh! I know, I am freaking out!!!

The second doctor who I approached finally got back to me, and we had a great talk over the phone about her specialty (PM&R). She really loves her work and I think it could be a great fit with my social work background. She’s going to see if she can get permission for me to sit in on patient rounds for a couple of days, which would be really great. smile.gif I’m so glad I finally got up the nerve to approach some doctors–it’s been well worth it!