Volunteering and Extracurriculars

Now that we have finished our second block of exams and I feel like I am finally getting into the swing of things (thanks for all of the anatomy tips by the way smile.gif ), I am wondering about extracurriculars etc.
What kinds of things should I be doing right now to help me down the road when I apply to residencies? I have thought about volunteering for a couple of hours a week in our ED just to help keep my perspective while I am bogged down in class. We really have no clinical exposure right now so it is hard for me to relate what I am learning to actually working with patients. Would volunteering be the way to go on this or is there something else I should/could do that would give me the clinical exposure but be more beneficial to my CV at residency app time? I try to spend most of my down time with my two-year old so I want to get the most out of the time that I do spend volunteering/doing extracurriculars. I have signed up for a couple of clubs but they have been MIA so far. I am not sure that they really do anything besides meet.
Also, how important is it to network/do research for my summer off? I have been making big plans to do a spanish immersion program in Costa Rica or Mexico and to start playing the piano (just thought of that one today biggrin.gif ! My list of summer 'I want to do…'s are growing by the minute). Is that going to be enough? Should I be doing something clinical as well? I can do a little volunteering in the hospital during the day in the immersion programs. Thanks!

Hi jblue!
First of all, I’m going to preface my 2 cents here with the caveat that you’re hearing from someone who graduated medical school some 10 years ago (I have some posts as “burnedoutmd” here, if you get curious about my backround story).
I can appreciate your frustration with the lack of clinical exposure in your first year. In my humble opinion, you need not do anything in your first year other than do well in the basic sciences in terms of looking good for residency applications. If spending a few hours in the ED/week would personally help you connect with clinical medicine, then I suppose you could do it but I would not let that be any sort of priority at this time. I remember talking to some mothers in medical school who really took advantage of the first 2 years in medical school to spend time with their children. So, I think that it is great that you are doing just that!
The summer between your first and second years of medical school will essentially be the only one you will have free as such - do with it whatever you feel will be best for you - I hate to think that you are worrying about whether your plans will be “enough”… but I can understand that you do want to make sure that you are on the right path of things and not missing out on anything! smile.gif If you have a drive to pursue a career including research, then I suppose you could use the summer for those types of opportunities but again, you won’t lose out if you don’t… You also do not have to do anything clinical if you don’t want, either. I rather like your thoughts about going to Costa Rica, myself! smile.gif Oh yeah, and playing the piano, too!
Well, I’ll let those more current here add their thoughts - I may be just plain out of things but in my opinion, this will be your summer! biggrin.gif

Hi, jblue!
CaliMD hit it on the nose. That summer between your first and second years is about all you’ll have for quite a while. So do with it what you really want. That said, there are many ways to build a CV without having to spend huge amounts of time away from your child or your studies.
For example:
Student groups often have Big Sib programs pairing you up with undergrad premeds. That only requires an evening or two a year.
You have student government/class/organization positions to be filled.
If your student organizations don’t seem to be active, check out your local MD organizations. They often have informational dinner meetings that student members are invited to attend at no cost and they are great for networking. Some of them have student liason positions.
Several members of my class organized activities that we could do in the community such as help with Habitat for Humanity, or a day in a soup kitchen.
You can also check out community health fairs. They like having med students help with checking BP’s, for instance.
There are also programs where you can be a buddy to a kid with cancer or their sibling. (I didn’t do this one because I couldn’t justify taking even more time from my own kids to spend with someone else’s kid.)
There will also be opportunities that come along later. For example, I’m enjoying some teaching opportunities in my fourth year. I helped some groups of incoming first years getting their feet wet with gross anatomy before their classes started. I’ll be precepting first and second years with physical diagnosis in upcoming months. Besides having a blast doing this small group teaching, I’m expecting it to help with residencies, especially university-based ones, where teaching med students and “younger” residents is a part of the job.
If you just watch for them, there will be opportunities that fit your schedule and suit your personality.
And for the record, my summer off was filled with family vacation, my kids, sleeping late, four Harry Potter books, and all the movies I had missed out on. Gotta enjoy the journey!! biggrin.gif biggrin.gif

WE don’t get a semester off. It really bites, but the program has an integrated PR/Kaplan Review course in MS-2. So it takes the summer and wipes it clean. I’ll never have another summer off again…unless I go into teaching…High School. tongue.gif
In any case, do what will make you enjoy the summer, I think. I’ll be at Ealing Hospital in London that summer twice a week. You should go to the beach. At least one of us can… biggrin.gif

Yes, the beach is high on my ‘to do’ list for the summer. Thanks for the replys everyone. We just had our EM club meeting yesterday and one of our advisors said we could shadow her anytime in the ED so I may just do that for a couple of hours every week or so. I think it will be fun for me to get some hands on experience again. It has been awhile since I volunteered.
Sorry about your no summer situation futrfysician. I don’t feel too bad for you though considering you can ‘pop’ over to Paris for the weekend tongue.gif ! I hope you find time to take advantage of everything available to you while you study in England. It sounds like a great adventure.

Last year the director of the radiology residency program told us that the research that you did during the brief 8 week summer would probably not be anything earth shattering and that it was better to go do something that you are really interested in, no matter what it is (travelling, shadowing, spending time with family, hobbies).
Hope that helps. Now back to the bugs and drugs.