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Family Medicine

"In the tradition of this community-based specialty, family physicians are well integrated into their communities and actively address issues in their patients' lives other than medical problems. This is why family medicine doctors serve as advocates for patients, health care systems, and social change. No matter the role, these physicians emphasize health maintenance, disease prevention, and chronic illness management, always aware of the psychosocial dimensions of their patients' lives."

— Freeman, B. (2013). The Ultimate Guide to Choosing a Medical Specialty. 3rd Ed. Lange Medical Books/McGraw-Hill: New York. p. 207.

M1 and M2 Students

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

Get involved in the Family Medicine Interest Group, but please remember to put your academic responsibilities first. It is very easy to become over committed with special interest activities.

Stop by and introduce yourself to the Department of Family and Community Medicine. Even if you change your mind down the road, you are welcome in the office and we would like to be involved in your professional development at Feinberg.

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

Scholarly productivity is definitely important, but this does not mean that bench research is required part of your portfolio. Community-engaged research, quality improvement experience, team science scholarship, translational research and educational scholarship would showcase your commitment to scholarly pursuits.

M3 and M4 Students

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

This question is best answered in an individual advising session.

 Does your specialty recommend doing away rotations?

This question is also best answered in an individual advising session. It is not required, but students may find it helpful in their decision-making processes.

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

It is best to schedule an appointment for academic planning. Recommendations will be personalized to the student’s interests and career goals.

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

Students should have at least one Family Medicine letter of recommendation. If the student has not rotated in a family site during their Primary Care rotation, then they should do a Family Medicine elective in July or August to obtain a letter of recommendation.

 Which month do you recommend taking off to interview?

There is no specific time off necessary, just time to accommodate interviews in November to January. I would not worry about early verses late interview placements; programs have ways of tracking all applicants throughout the season.

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

Yes. At a minimum, students should have one Family Medicine letter of recommendation.

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

I recommend that students ask faculty members for letters of recommendation who they have worked with clinically and have a good relationship. This personal connection may help them stand out from those that are written from a personal statement and academic history. It is also okay for students to add a quantifier into the request for a letter of recommendation. For example: "Dr. Ryan, would you be willing to write a strong letter of recommendation for me?" If there is any hesitation, ask another faculty member for a letter of support.

 Does the academic rank of the letter writer matter?

Not necessarily. Focus on the clinical experience and relationship to a faculty member over academic rank.

 Does your specialty require a letter from the chairman?

A chairman’s letter is not required but is an option if students wish to have one for their application. For students who wish to have a chairman’s letter, they must submit their personal statement, CV and access to their academic history at Feinberg in advance. After these documents are submitted, the student will need to set up an interview with the chair. The chair will write a letter based on the documents submitted and the interview.

 Family Medicine Specialty Session - Winter / Residency Application Information

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

For More Information

Department of Family Medicine
Northwestern University
Feinberg School of Medicine
710 N. Lake Shore Dr., 4th Floor
Chicago, IL 60611-3008
Phone: 312-503-1273