"Pediatrics is the specialty of medicine that focuses on the comprehensive care of children – beginning from birth and continuing through the adolescent years. …In addition to the primary care and preventive medicine of general pediatrics, pediatricians can choose to focus on acute problems requiring immediate treatment (critical care, neonatology, emergency medicine) or a wide range of technical procedures (cardiology, pulmonology, gastroenterology). …It is important to note that caring for kids is not just about treating their physical and medical problems. Every good pediatrician also addresses the mental and emotional health of his or her patients, which is equally as important as organic disease."
— Freeman, B. (2013). The Ultimate Guide to Choosing a Medical Specialty. 3rd Ed. Lange Medical Books/McGraw-Hill: New York. p. 349.
M1 and M2 Students
What advice would you offer first and second-year students who are interested in pursuing your specialty?
Do as well as you can in your classes. Pursue at least one extracurricular activity related to children to see if it’s a good fit, especially if you have not worked with kids before. Many students participate in Chicago Youth Program tutoring or clinic, or Camp Wildcat. If you are assigned an ECMH that sees pediatric patients, it is a great place to get further exposure. Join the Pediatric Interest Group. If more clinical exposure is desired, you can contact Dr. Higgins, Dr. Bockrath or Dr. Koressel and we can help you get in touch with faculty in their areas of interest.
How important is a research experience in your specialty? If important, does it need to be in the specialty itself?
It isn’t required, however, if the student is motivated, they should pursue it in an area of potential interest. There are many Lurie faculty who are AOSC mentors and have expertise in many different types of research. Some academic pediatric residency programs, especially the most competitive ones, consider research experience as a component of how they evaluate applicants. Research does not need to be in the specialty area itself, and programs will understand if you were initially considering another area (at the time of your research) and your decision to pursue pediatrics was made later in your medical school career.
M3 and M4 Students
It is not necessary to do away rotations. If you have an interest in a very specific program or geographic area and would like to experience the program first-hand, you may elect to do an away rotation. You should do so in consultation with your pediatric advisor.
They are not necessary, but if you would like to do one, we recommend completing it in the late summer to early fall.
In most years, programs begin interviewing the end of October and continue through beginning to mid-January. Students should have at least one block off in that time frame but may need more if interviews return to in-person post-pandemic. Remember that programs typically do not interview the weeks of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s. Even when they do, it is not ideal to interview during these weeks since there may be fewer residents during this period as others are on holiday break. Students with academic records that place them in lower quartiles of the class may get interviews later in the application cycle, and we recommend leaving some time in January open for interviews. There is no advantage to interviewing in November versus January.
Does your specialty recommend that all letters of recommendation be written by members of your specialty?
If letters can come from other disciplines, do you have a recommendation as to which disciplines are more highly valued?
Internal medicine physicians, an ECMH preceptor, or an AOSC/research mentor are all good options as long as they know you and can speak to the qualities that would make you a good resident. You may consider a letter from a pediatric surgeon or pediatric surgical sub-specialist ONLY if you developed excellent rapport and know them quite well. Always ask if the faculty member is able to write a “strong” letter of recommendation.
The academic rank of the letter writer is less important than the fact that know you well enough to speak to the type of attributes that would be desirable in residency and can speak about your rapport with patients and families, your clinical skills, and your professionalism. It is helpful if they have an academic appointment and can place your skills in context of other current applicants to residency programs. Community preceptors with limited contact with medical students over the course of the year may not be the best option for this type of letter.
Not all pediatric residency training programs require a chair letter, but many still do. We organize this at Lurie as a joint advising/chair letter which is written by your advisor. Our goal is for you to develop a rapport over the course of 3rd and 4th years with your advisor so they can get to know you and speak to your personal qualities. A meeting with the chairman is also required, typically in August/September. The letter is then co-signed by your advisor and the chair and comes from both individuals.
During the fall/winter of the M3 year, students should attend the specialty session sponsored by the Department of Pediatrics to learn more about the specialty and meet attendings and residents in the field. We will assign all students interested in pediatrics a faculty advisor who can help navigate the process.