Obstetrics & Gynecology
"These multidisciplinary specialists practice preventive medicine, deliver new lives into the world, and perform life-altering surgery. Half of their patients are healthy young women who come for prenatal care or annual physical examinations. However, with the longevity and desire for a healthier life, the rest of the practice consists of physically active mature women who are concerned about ‘life surrounding and after menopause.’ More than just experts on the pelvic region and reproductive tract, obstetrician-gynecologists must handle problems that require highly technical medical and surgical skills, and, at the other end of the spectrum, be sensitive observers who can give psychological support.” "
— Freeman, B. (2013). The Ultimate Guide to Choosing a Medical Specialty. 3rd Ed. Lange Medical Books/McGraw-Hill: New York. p. 297.
M1 and M2 Students
What advice would you offer first- and second-year students who are interested in pursuing your specialty?
In terms of contemplating OB-GYN as a career choice, come and interact with our department. There are many opportunities to shadow in Labor & Delivery through the OB-GYN Student Interest Group. In Labor & Delivery, you’ll have access to many attendings and residents and will be able to learn more about why they went into our specialty. If you think you’re interested in a specific area of OB-GYN (family planning, maternal-fetal medicine, gynecologic oncology, urogynecology, reproductive genetics, reproductive endocrinology and infertility), let Mallori know and we can arrange a targeted shadowing experience for you.
In terms of maximizing your chances of getting the residency of your choice, become familiar with the Careers in Medicine OB-GYN profile. It is not necessary to conduct research, but it does help bolster an application with less-than-ideal grades/STEP scores. If you’d like to participate in a research project within our department, please contact Dr. Dana Gossett or Dr. Melissa Simon. Participation in women’s health-focused activities is not a pre-requisite, but it does strengthen an application and reflects your interest in and commitment to our field.
Lastly, any student at any time can meet with Dr. Garcia or Dr. Goldsmith to discuss whether OB-GYN might be a good career option and to request an OB-GYN adviser. We are happy to begin the process of guiding you through the career selection process whether you apply in our specialty or not.
How important is a research experience in your specialty? If important, does it need to be in the specialty itself?
As above, in terms of maximizing your chances of matching, in is not necessary to conduct research but it does help bolster an application, especially for top-tier programs. The NRMP data shows matched and unmatched students had the same number of research experiences, but matched students did have a very slightly higher mean number of abstracts presentations compared to unmatched students. If you’d like to participate in a research project within our department, please contact Dr. Dana Gossett or Dr. Melissa Simon.
M3 and M4 Students
What M4 electives would you recommend to a student who is interested in pursuing your specialty?
A single M4 experience in OB-GYN is sufficient preparation. It is not necessary to do multiple M4 electives in OB-GYN unless you are in need of letters of recommendation, want to solidify your career choice or prefer to examine a particular program up close before ranking it highly. We prefer that you prepare yourself for residency by having broad exposure to fields of medicine that will round out your education. Infectious disease, cardiology, dermatology, rheumatology and radiology are all good choices. Don’t spend a lot of time in sub-specialty areas of OB-GYN, as that is what residency is for.
Does your specialty recommend doing away rotations?
Away rotations can be helpful if your application is not quite stellar enough to get an automatic interview at a desired program. Making a great impression and working hard may be able to tip the scales in your favor. However, make certain you check with your adviser and discuss whether a particular program is within your reach.
It is not necessary to do "audition" rotations. While they can provide an up-close view of a program in which you may be interested, they also represent a double-edged sword. Sometimes, when rotating quickly through various divisions and departments, you may not hit it off with everyone or make a good first impression. Proceed cautiously. If you want to see what a particular program is really like from an internal perspective, consider doing an elective in obstetrics anesthesia or neonatology at the institution at which you are interested. This allows you some up-close observation of them without their scrutiny of you.
If your specialty recommends doing away rotations, how many "aways" do you recommend?
If away rotations are necessary, when should they be completed?
Which month do you recommend taking off to interview?
Like many other specialties, OB-GYN programs are beginning to interview earlier and earlier. Some programs grant interviews soon after ERAS opens for uploading applications. Some programs interview in October, but most interview dates are in November and December. Some programs will still have interview dates in January. February dates are rare.
Does your specialty recommend that all letters of recommendation be written by members of your specialty?
Most letters should come from OB-GYN faculty members. One letter from an outside department is absolutely fine, especially if it is from a research mentor or someone who knows you particularly well.
If letters can come from other disciplines, do you have a recommendation as to which disciplines are more highly valued?
Any faculty member who knows you well is a great source for a letter. If a surgery faculty member can attest to your surgical ability/dexterity, that may be helpful but is not necessary.
Does the academic rank of the letter writer matter?
The fact of the matter is that senior people often write better letters and have a broader range/duration of exposure to students. So, when a senior person writes, “this is the best student I have seen in five years,” it is usually from a denominator of hundreds of students. When a junior person writes the same sentence, it may not carry the same weight. However, a person who knows you well and can speak to your specific, personal attributes may be more important than an impersonal form letter from a departmental “heavyweight.”
Be strategic early on. Get to know faculty members and try to have some consistent exposure to them. Ask for a letter when you are completing your time with them; don’t wait until a year later to ask for a letter. When asking for a letter of recommendation, look them in the eye and ask, “Do you think you could write me a strong letter of recommendation?” If they hesitate, move on to the next person on your list. No matter from whom you obtain a letter, make an effort to get to know them and summarize your accomplishments for them.
Does your specialty require a letter from the chairman?
Our department requires that all students applying in OB-GYN meet with the chairman and head of undergraduate medical education in order to provide advice and to write a letter of recommendation.
M3 Students: Obstetrics & Gynecology Specialty Session
During the winter of the M3 year, students should attend specialty sessions sponsored by the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology to learn more about the specialty and meet attendings and residents in the field.
For More Information
Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology
Northwestern University, Feinberg School of Medicine
333 E. Superior St., Suite 490
Chicago, IL 60611