Shadowing Advice Needed

I am about to apply to volunteer in the NYC area, and would like to spend some time over the next year shadowing a D.O. and an M.D. (Many D.O. schools seem to require shadowing of a D.O. specifically, but I am still undecided as to which field I would prefer). Any suggestions as to how to arrange to shadow someone? Anyone have any good experiences in New York - someone you would recommend shadowing (I’d imagine probably best to send a name in a private message)?

The American Osteopathic Association has a mentoring program (with a fancy new website!) where they try to match you with a DO. I managed to find a specialist DO in the Boston area (a rarity) and really enjoyed shadowing her for a day:

Also, network like mad: If the only physician you know is your own doctor and you feel comfortable with her, you could also ask her if she had any colleagues with whom you shadow.

Alas, be prepared to be turned down a few times. It’s usually nothing personal; docs just have really busy schedules, and it can be a bit like baby-sitting to have someone looking over your shoulder for a full day or more. Then again, some docs are more than willing to take people into surgery with them… good luck!

My “professional” background is in journalism, and to be a successful journalist, you have to “network like mad” as the previous poster, jlr18, said. So this is something I’m actually pretty good at.

First, I notice from your signature that you are starting a post-bac program this year @ Columbia. That’s awesome, way to go! (I’m starting a post-bac this fall as well.) That gives you a little time, so don’t freak out too much. You can do some shadowing this summer, and also some next summer, if your program is 2 years like mine is.

Some tips that have helped me with networking:

  1. Start with people (medical personnel) you know. Doctors, nurses, etc. who are friends or family. Ask if you can shadow them (the MDs/DOs) or if they know people you can shadow (the RNs, CNAs, etc.). As jlr18 said, your own doctor can be a resource too, either to shadow him/her or his/her colleagues. Remember: you don’t get what you don’t ask for. So ask.

  2. You mentioned that you are going to be volunteering. If this is clinical volunteering, you may be able to ask someone there. But get to know the person first; asking them on the first day is a bit forward.

  3. Get in touch with your alma mater (both high school and undergrad). This has actually been HUGE for me. Through a connection I made with an alum from my undergrad, I’ve gotten a research lab job for the summer, and a chance to shadow someone in surgery (an anesthesiologist). Contact your alumni office, post on your alumni group’s Facebook or LinkedIn page, do whatever you can to make your presence and interest known. You never know what will surface.

  4. Get to know your advisor / professors at Columbia, and once you’ve made a good connection, ask them if they know anyone who you can shadow. They probably have lots of people asking them this question, but if you’ve made a good impression, you may get lucky.

  5. Once you’ve made contact with someone, use that contact to make MORE contacts. Ask whether they know someone ELSE you can shadow for a day or two (in a different specialty, preferably).

  6. Keep track of your dates/hours (as well as contact info), and write down your observations/reflections right after you shadow (if you wait, you’ll forget – trust me). This will make for great personal statement material. And you’ll need your dates/hours and contact info for AMCAS.

  7. Write thank-you notes / e-mails after you shadow someone. Not only is this the courteous, right thing to do, but the person may be more willing to let you shadow them more, or give you their colleagues’ names and contact info.

    Anyway, this ended up to be a long post … hope it helps, at least in some way! Good luck!

Thank you so much! You both have given sage advice! It is much appreciated.

you can also contact the local medical school and see if tghey keep a list of alumni whom you may eb able to contact and shadow. i am not sure how this works if you are not a student but it is worth a shot, especially if you are interested in attending that school.

Have any of you old premeds had an opportunity to shadow a doctor? If so, what did you do to secure the doc. Do we as experienced adults really need to shadow a doctor to have a strong application? I spent 2 1/2 years at Texas Children’s Hospital while my little girl fought a loosing battle against cancer. I’ve had plenty of exposure to the field and know what I want. Do you think that would be good enough? Until my wife finishes nursing school I am working fulltime and taking 6 - 12 hours at school. Any shadowing will have to be done at the last minute. Any advice?

People with more experience in the DO realm may confirm or refute this, but I think DO schools want you to have had contact with DOs to show that you understand what the DO philosophy is about. As for MD programs, I think they are looking to make sure you understand what medicine is all about across a spectrum of issues (as do DO schools). You will have to convince them of that.

Good luck!!