Medical specialty choice under the microscope in 2015

Amy Farouk , Past News Editor

We’re continuing a weeklong look at five top topics that struck a chord with the medical community in 2015. In the No. 2 slot is specialty choice. From selecting a specialty as a student and applying to sub-specialty fellowships as a resident to evaluating life within a specialty as a practicing physician, specialty choice has been top of mind this year.

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Practicing physicians took time to reflect on life in their specialties this year as they took part in a new series to help medical students make informed choices for their careers. In its 2015 installation, AMA Wire’s® “Shadow Me” Specialty Series profiled more than a dozen physicians who offered honest advice, observations and resources. Among the insights offered up were:

  • What the most challenging and rewarding aspects of caring for patients in their specialties are
  • How their lifestyles match or differ from what they envisioned in med school
  • What a typical week in practice looks like

On a broader scale, a survey of more than 94,000 physicians looked at important aspects of their residency experience, including career guidance, schedule flexibility for pregnancy and other life events, program culture, and clinical diversity. AMA Wire provided a breakdown of how the specialties were ranked.

Students also received recommendations from a physician advisor for specific questions they should consider when choosing a specialty to help them find the right fit. Among the insights provided were the five things students generally overlook when they make their specialty choice.

2015 was a record-breaking year as 9,538 applicants participated in at least one fellowship match of the National Resident Matching Program Specialties Matching Service®. AMA Wire took a look at which subspecialties drew the most applicants and which ones were the most fiercely competitive.

The gender breakdown of residents in different medical specialty programs also revealed trends that may influence choice of specialty. An AMA Wire piece also explored reasons that physicians of different genders are attracted to certain specialties.

Specialty choice remains an important topic for the medical community, and AMA Wire will continue to provide insights throughout the year ahead.

Among these posts will be the continuation of the “Shadow Me” Specialty Series. If you’re a practicing physician who’s interested in sharing your experiences, send us an email to be considered for a potential profile in this series.

Students also will have a special opportunity to speak directly with physicians about their practices during the annual AMA Specialty Showcase, which will be held in conjunction with the 2016 AMA Annual Meeting in Chicago. Participating physicians will share information that can help students learn more about their preferred specialties.