Physician Shadowing

I am wondering as to whether I should put a little more variety into my shadowing experiences. I currently shadow a pediatrician once a week at the local children’s hospital, two physiatrists at the VA, a cardiothoracic surgeon once every two weeks, and an EM doc once a week. Some have said that a longer length of time spent with one doc is better than a variety of experiences. Can anyone comment?

Other than the doc that works UFC fights with me, I have had no D.O. exposure, nor have I collected any D.O. LOR’s yet. Any advice as to this too?

Thanks, Jaysun


This is the part where I chime in and say, “My goodness, that is an extremely impressive shadowing resume. . .what more could you possibly do?”

Plus, you already work in healthcare. Umm, your competing against people like me who spend 50 hrs a week thinking about ELECTRIC POWER, not health, and will be damn lucky to get in my 4 hrs of EM volunteer work every week, let alone extra physician shadowing.

Now, snarkiness aside, I say if you want to go learn more about other specialities, then by all means do it, but I think you are safe for the adcom! (Congrats on getting your ducks in a row and being able to get so much time in, BTW. That IS awesome.)

It is surprising to hear that, most of the folks I have met are spending an enormous amount of time with volunteer and shadowing, which I can’t do because I work. The biggest thing I have worried about is that I do have prior experience in health care, and I need to demonstrate that I’m not just going to fall back on it and that this is something that is important to me. Perhaps others can speak to this, but the advice I received is that instead of being a fresh slate, I have to prove that I am teachable and willing to follow the course of study without bias or conflicts due to my previous training. Additionally since my grades aren’t the greatest, I need to makeup as much ground as I can in the other areas. Perhaps it’s just my own perception of the situation, but because the bias that I often encounter I am working even harder to overcome it. Thanks for all of your advice…Jaysun

Healthcare experience is a positive. It demonstrates that you have had real-life exposure to the field of medicine. Therefore, you have had the opportunity to run away if it sickens you. I can’t imagine anyone using it against you. For that matter, having a “Plan B” is generally considered a virtue. The only way I could see that being a problem is in the case of someone who repeatedly dropped out of his/her program and went back to his old job.

Your shadowing experiences are vast, and your hours are plentiful. If you are planning on applying to osteopathic schools, you may very well need to secure a DO’s LOR. Would the fight doctor you mentioned write you a good one? Have you met any DOs who work with your various mentors? Think about how you could build a meaningful relationship with a DO.

If you want to diversify your EC experiences, perhaps you might consider doing something community service oriented such as free clinic, hospital volunteer, or even Salvation Army or Goodwill volunteering.

Dr. Holleman will write me one, he replied to my inquiry today. My family doc has asked me to write it, and she will sign it. Seems a little dishonest to me, but I suppose she simply doesn’t want to take the time. I have several years of free clinic work as part of my job, and I serve in the free clinic run by my church. I suppose that it looks good on paper, but it just doesn’t seem like enough. Perhaps I am simply being a little neurotic about the whole thing. How do you like OSU? I have thought about applying there…thanks again for your input…Jaysun

Jaysun…I too am neurotic about the amount I volunteer. For instance I currently volunteer with the March of Dimes(right now I’m just doing fundraising for a walk that is taking place soon); Positive Tomorrows (a school here in Oklahoma City that is for kids living in homeless shelters) I go and tutor on my lunch hour once a week there and read to the kids, so that is twice a week; then on Saturdays my son and I take our dogs to this literacy campaign at the library where kids with disabilitys come and read to the dogs, it’s a new program that the library system in our town is trying…and so far it seems to be going great, the kids like it because the dogs don’t judge how they read so reading to them seems easier I guess. It’s awesome. Then I just signed up with Susan G. Komen to volunteer with them. And I volunteer at the humane society when I get a chance…although they have so many volunteers now that they only need me to do office work because that’s my niche so I mostly just take that home with me.

So see none of my stuff is clinical which is stressing me out because I have the helping my community out down…and I love doing it but I’m not exposed to medicine at all and my crummy job helping these rich companies get richer (gag) isn’t exposing me to medicine either!!! I need to get out there and shadow!

  • Jaysun0373 Said:
...My family doc has asked me to write it, and she will sign it. Seems a little dishonest to me, but I suppose she simply doesn't want to take the time....Jaysun

You might want to check the archives on this topic of writing your own letter. I have commented on this multiple times, and get nearly apoplectic on this subject. Short answer...don't do it.



The worst thing you could do is write the letter yourself. Try hard to have academics write LORS for you, meaning your profs and such.

I know it looks good to you to have a letter from your family doctor, however, think of the thousands of applicants every application process that have their letters from family docs and other family acquatances. Their generic and have been done too many times to count. You want to seperate yourself from the herd.

Agree with Maddux. DO schools like to have a letter from a DO that attests to your understanding of the DO “philosophy.” (I am only putting it in quotes because most DOs have told me that there really isn’t a substantive difference, but that is not the point of my post.)

But aside from that non-academic reference, there is no room in your application for attestations from acquaintances, mentors and such. They’re worthless. One that you write yourself is even more worthless. Sorry to be blunt. But everyone can find someone to write that they’re a great guy/gal who hung around the clinic asking great questions. It just doesn’t tell an AdCom member anything helpful about the applicant. As Maddux said, LORs should focus on your academic qualifications.


I have gotten letters of reference from my Cell Bio/Histology professor (chair of dept) my Chemistry professor, my Pathology professor, and my Physics professor. I also have letters from Docs that I work with co-treating patients. The only mentor/shadow letter I have is from the Chief of Staff at the local VA where I have worked and shadowed. I asked my friend to write one because he is the only D.O. I know. D.O. schools are my Plan B because I don’t want to move, not for any philosophical reason. I hadn’t done much with the D.O. avenue because they are so rare around here, it is hard to get any shadowing experience with them. There is maybe one for every 500 M.D.'s here in Portland, but I would expect that to change in the future. Thanks for the advice.

OK then your friend the DO should certainly write a letter for you. Sorry I misunderstood.