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"Anesthesiology is dedicated to the complete medical and anesthetic care of the surgical patient. It is a precise, technical, and intellectual specialty that requires high standards and attention to detail. Anesthesiologists care for the whole patient before, during, and after the operation. They administer powerful anesthetics, render patients insensible to pain and stress, provide respiratory support, and manage every medical need of the patient throughout the surgical experience. To do so, anesthesiologists closely monitor and treat the acute pathophysiology of multiple organ systems: cardiac, pulmonary, renal, endocrine, hematologic, and neurologic. It is a specialty that ties together the cerebral nature of internal medicine with the procedural interventions and life-support of critical care medicine."

— Freeman, B. (2013). The Ultimate Guide to Choosing a Medical Specialty. 3rd Ed. Lange Medical Books/McGraw-Hill: New York, p.159.

M1 and M2 Students

 What advice would you offer first- and second-year students who are interested in pursuing your specialty?

Students should focus primarily on understanding all that is presented during the preclinical years with the motivation of doing as well as possible on USMLE Step 1. Understanding the mechanism of disease is of paramount importance.

 How important is a research experience in your specialty? If important, does it need to be in the specialty itself?

Research is not an absolute requirement. If a student pursues a research endeavor, it should be a focused, well-conducted effort that they can speak to, not a "formality" that serves to merely flesh out their application at the expense of more worthwhile pursuits.

M3 and M4 Students

 What M4 electives would you recommend to a student who is interested in pursuing your specialty?

We generally advocate no more than two anesthesia-specific rotations. The core rotation in clinical anesthesiology will give students the best representation of our specialty. In addition, student may elect to take obstetric anesthesia or pain medicine. We recommend a broad scope of clinical experience with some focus on higher acuity care and rotations that emphasize dynamic physiology. As such, critical care medicine (specifically neuro-critical care), cardiology and pulmonology are particularly helpful.

 Does your specialty recommend doing away rotations?

The decision to complete an audition rotation is made based on a balance between students' overall competitiveness (compared to their peers nationally) weighed against the relative prestige of the school they most desire to matriculate to. This requires a very honest appraisal of their qualifications with their adviser and program director. For example, a third-quartile M4 with USMLE scores at or below national mean (but within at least 1 SD below the mean) will very likely need to audition to increase their desirability for a given program.

 If your specialty recommends doing away rotations, how many "aways" do you recommend?

This again is related to the explanation for the above question. In general, more than two away rotations compromises an otherwise enriching experience that can be gained from the fourth-year electives and starts to look less than desirable on a transcript. An audition is simply that: an opportunity to exhibit one's work ethic, fund of knowledge and personality in an attempt to increase the chances of a successful match. It is not to get further training in anesthesiology. That is, of course, what residency training is for.

 If away rotations are necessary, when should they be completed?

To be effective, away rotations should be conducted between the months of July through December.

 Which month do you recommend taking off to interview?

Very competitive candidates (first- or second-quartile students, AOA and/or USMLE above the NU mean) can expect offers for invitations in December. Students in the third or fourth quartile with average to lower USMLEs should anticipate interviewing in January. This temporal scale may frameshift earlier if the Dean’s letter (MSPE) is distributed earlier.

 Does your specialty recommend that all letters of recommendation be written by members of your specialty?

Decidedly not. The type of clinician writing the letter is completely inconsequential (though at least one letter should come from our specialty; it would odd to have done an anesthesia rotation with no written validation of performance). We value a letter that clearly articulates the qualifications of a student from someone who really knows the person well. That is far more powerful and influential than a standard form letter from someone who happens to have a notable stature in academic medicine.

 If letters can come from other disciplines, do you have a recommendation as to which disciplines are more highly valued?

See above; there is no preference.

 Does the academic rank of the letter writer matter?

Well-written, personal letters are of greatest value, regardless of the rank of the author. That said, an applicant’s application would be more complete with some range of academic rank among the letters submitted.

 Does your specialty require a letter from the chairman?

We do not require it. It helps modestly.

 Anesthesiology Specialty Session - Winter / Residency Application Information

During the winter of the M3 year, students should attend specialty sessions sponsored by the Anesthesiology Department to allow opportunity to learn more about the specialty as well as to meet attendings and residents in the field.

Please reference these guides:

Request an Anesthesiology Advisor

Specialty Career Advisor:

Matthew G Hire, MD
Associate Residency Program Director
Department of Anesthesiology

For More Information

Department of Anesthesiology
Northwestern University
Feinberg School of Medicine
251 E. Huron St., Suite 5-704
Chicago, IL 60611-2908