"Emergency medicine involves the immediate care of urgent and life-threatening conditions found in the critically ill and injured. These physicians are really specialists in breadth — their broad-based training encompasses acute problems that span several clinical disciplines. No other specialty can match the astounding variety of patients found within the emergency room. You will see, hear, and smell things that most doctors will not. In just one shift, an EP may care for patients presenting with asthma attacks, atrial fibrillation, gunshot wounds, dislocated shoulders, and even cockroaches stuck in their ears."
— Freeman, B. (2013). The Ultimate Guide to Choosing a Medical Specialty. 3rd Ed. Lange Medical Books/McGraw-Hill: New York. p.189.
M1 and M2 Students
What advice would you offer first- and second-year students who are interested in pursuing your specialty?
Attend as many Emergency Medicine Interest Group sessions as possible. Sign up to shadow in the ED — nights and weekends are particularly busy shifts. Consider research opportunities in the Department of Emergency Medicine. Contact Dr. Kontrick with specialty-related questions. Learn more about the specialty by reviewing topics in key EM journals (Academic Emergency Medicine, Annals of Emergency Medicine).
Strongly consider joining national student groups.
American Academy of Emergency Medicine/Resident and Student section is very inexpensive for medical students; the Scientific Assembly is free for students and is quite useful for M1s/M2s who want exposure to the field. They host a regional meeting for students annually in Chicago at the end of the summer.
The Society for Academic Emergency Medicine also encourages student members. The annual meeting includes a Medical Student Symposium (topics generally focus on the application process for an EM residency) and a Medical Student Ambassador Program (allows students to attend the meeting for free in return for some donated volunteer effort during the conference).
How important is a research experience in your specialty? If important, does it need to be in the specialty itself?
Important, but not essential. Since many students decide on EM later in their medical school experience, it is common for applicants to have research experience from other fields. If your are interested in doing your AOSC project in the department, please contact Dr. Kontrick as early as possible with project ideas so we can determine availability of appropriate mentors. Research experiences in EM definitely sets you apart, at least in that you'll have something to talk about during interviews. Consider the “Reflections” section of AEM for possible publication opportunities without research data. Consider the various medical student grant programs and research competitions.
M3 and M4 Students
- Orthopedics/sports medicine
- Infectious disease
Because the practice of EM calls upon knowledge of many specialties, using your fourth year to fill in gaps specific to your experiences is important.
Yes. These rotations should be done after completion of the required FSM EM rotation. We suggest doing the FSM EM clerkship in May or June. This will give you the most flexibility in scheduling an away rotation.
Summer 3 at the latest. Applications should be complete and on ERAS by Sept. 15 at the latest. Final letters of recommendation from away rotations should be uploaded as close to Oct. 1 as possible. Programs may need to be notified of grades and letters available after the Oct. 1 MSPE release.
Does your specialty recommend that all letters of recommendation be written by members of your specialty?
No. Ideally you should have one EM letter from our department and one from your away rotation. The other one to two letters should come from clinical faculty on MS3 clerkships that know you well and can describe your individual strengths. A research mentor may also provide a detailed, thoughtful letter about your work ethic and potential for an academic career. The ideal collection of letters is student-specific and will be discussed in greater detail with Dr. Kontrick and your adviser.
If letters can come from other disciplines, do you have a recommendation as to which disciplines are more highly valued?
It should be at least an assistant professor.
During the winter of the M3 year, students should attend the specialty information night sponsored by the Department of Emergency Medicine. This session will describe expected daily life and practice of an emergency physician, as well as allow opportunity to meet attendings and residents.