Hi I am considering to shadow a mutiple D.O.s before I apply to med school next year but when should I start shadowing ? If I shadow a doc right now and ask for recommendation a year later, how is she/he going to remember me? Is it better to shadow a doc just a couple of months before I submit my application? Also are shadowing and volunteering the same thing?
Instead of shadowing a doctor, because the new HIPPA rules might give you an issue, try asking your local EMS squad to be an observer for a day. I am a 12 year veteran, who decided recently to go to medical school, and I remember last year we had an observer. On the very first call of the night (his last call ever) we had a massive trauma. A guy was trying, very stupidly, to cut down a very tall tree in his yard at about 9:30 at night. The tree wound up going into his leg and ripping it off.
Anyway, this is just one call. You will have more exposure to many different medical problems riding an ambulance than you would by shadowing a doctor. Also, you get to see which specialty you might like.
Once I get into medical school, god willing, I will either specialize in Emergency Medicine or Trauma surgery.
Now is a good time to start. I shadowed a doc last Fall and at the end of my time there, I asked him if he would be willing to give me a LOR. He agreed and told him to expect to hear from me in the early Spring. It went very smoothly.
It’s not too soon to start lining those LOR’s up!
This is kinda disorganized, my apologies - I had lots of thoughts on this question!
Also, please see an old thread that addresses in much more detail the question of how to handling LORs:
application year time-line
One thing your question demonstrates is why you’ll be thinking several steps ahead as you enter the application process. Think NOW about how you are going to handle LORs: are they going to be sent individually to the schools to which you apply? sent to a central distribution service? (there are schools that do this) sent to a premed committee at a school you’ve attended?
This helps you in approaching your potential letter-writer. If you’re using a service or committee, you can find out how soon the author can send a letter - perhaps eliminating your worry about whether you’re remembered. If the letters will go directly to the schools you’re applying to, you’ll still want to ask him/her well in advance. (they just ought not to arrive before your application does.)
But don’t go into this thinking that you won’t be memorable. A shadowing experience, especially for a D.O. recommendation, ought to be in-depth enough that you ARE memorable. If you spend a small amount of time with someone every week for several months, they ought to remember you and you should make SURE that you engage them in discussion, ask good questions, demonstrate lots of interest - the sorts of things that will get you remembered easily.
And if you part ways long before application time, plan a few things to keep the memory fresh: a thank-you note, e-mail contact, etc. When it is time to request an LOR, be sure to enclose a copy of your CV and personal statement - that will help the LOR writer recall you in detail.
Shadowing is different from volunteering. The purpose of shadowing is to learn more about the doctor’s role; the purpose of volunteering is to serve others. Although you MAY get to “do stuff” in a shadowing role (e.g. take vital signs or help with procedures), that’s not really the point of the experience. If you’re volunteering in a health care role, “doing stuff” is obviously part of your service.
Shadowing isn’t necessary, strictly speaking, but I know that applicants to D.O. schools are strongly recommended to have at least one D.O. LOR - shadowing’s often the best way to get it. Shadowing may also serve the purpose of giving you exposure to what medicine’s all about. More than ANY other thing, I think most medical schools want to know that you have a notion of what you’re getting into. They really don’t want people who are going to start clinical rotations in third year and respond, "I had no idea it would be like this! Get me outta here!"
Volunteering does not have to be medical. Schools do want to have some gauge of your altruistic tendencies. Virtually all pre-meds write some version of “I want to help people” in their personal statements. If their lives do not demonstrate that desire, med schools rightly wonder about them… so volunteering is pretty important.
If you could volunteer in a clinic working alongside a D.O., you’d be able to achieve all these ends at the same time!