There is much talk about the need to “shadow” MDs but what does that mean? Is it a one day visit for an hour or two, or is it a multiply day (once a wk for x number of weeks) thing? I’d really like to know what is acceptable to ask for. I have met an MD who has offered that I come to her office to see what she does but I don’t want to push my welcome past what is acceptable to ask for. I’m sure she knows what “shadowing” is if I were to ask her whether I could shadow her but I’d like to know what I’m asking.
Any help in the demystification process would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

It can mean any and all of those things. I think its appropriate to show up for an afternoon, follow them around to see what it is they do, and if you enjoy it, ask if it is alright if you come back again some time. Nine times out of 10 they’ll have you back. It can also be a time to discuss career aspirations…give you a chance to ask what it is they like/disklike about their career, etc.
There is no ‘minimum’ shadowing time required by medical schools but it’s a good way to let schools know that you know some of the aspects of the health care environment.

I shadowed a pediatric oncologist as he visited and treated his outpatient children at the hospital. I stayed with him for 3 hours. I did it 5 times over a 3 month period. A friend of mine shadowed a doctor at her office for 6 months every other week. In my view it is used for getting a small look behind the scenes to see what a doctor does in a different context, something other than you being the patient.
I would ask her after the first time if you could return a few times.
Some people put this on their application. I never did. I did it for my own benefit and didn’t feel like it was enough of a thing to include it on my application. I have brought it up during my interviews though.

Wow! Another ex-IBM’er (there are lots of us these days)! :wink: I worked for IBM (actually for ROLM, one of their subsidiaries) from 1987-1993…pretty close to the same timeframe as you!
Re: the shadowing question, the term “shadowing” refers simply to the act of accompanying someone during the course of their workday. It’s generally understood that you’re basically watching and learning, and asking some questions along the way. I think shadowing is a great way to see what doctors actually do, and encourage anyone interested in medicine to spend time with some physicians so they can actually get a feel for what being a doctor is like. “Real life” is a lot different than TV, and some people are actually surprised by this (as a resident, I had a pre-med shadowing me briefly in the ER one time, and they couldn’t get over how “slow” it was compared to the TV show, and how much “boring” primary care we did.)