Choosing your medical specialty is one of the most important decisions you will make during medical school. When deciding on what medical specialty to go into, there are many factors to keep in mind.

FREIDA™ Specialty Guide

The AMA’s specialty guide offers the details medical students need to know to simplify the specialty selection process.

One way to help with choosing a medical specialty is by shadowing a physician in practice. To help students get an inside look at different medical specialties, we compiled this year’s best-read entries in the AMA’s “Shadow Me” Specialty Series.

  1. What it’s like to specialize in psychiatry: Shadowing Dr. Hart

    1. As a psychiatrist, Dionne Hart, MD, understands that living with a mental health disorder can be isolating for many individuals. “My position provides me the privilege to be available to provide support, crisis management, and treatment for these patients in a timely manner without judgment,” she said.
  2. What it’s like to specialize in hematology: Shadowing Dr. Lee

    1. For Alfred Lee, MD, PhD, hematology is a very interesting and complex field that crosses all disciplines. “In order for me to do my job effectively as a hematologist, I need to constantly think creatively, have a solid understanding of medical topics not only within but also outside of my own specialty, and feel comfortable navigating in areas where not a lot of research has been done,” he said.

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  3. What it’s like to specialize in aerospace medicine: Shadowing Dr. Ortega

    1. Hernando J. Ortega Jr., MD, MPH, had never heard of aerospace medicine but was encouraged to try being a flight surgeon. “I volunteered to be a flight surgeon and went to an overseas F-16 fighter unit,” he said. “What a great time: great patients, challenging medicine, world travel, and flying in fighter jets! I haven’t looked back.”
  4. What it’s like to specialize in gynecology: Shadowing Dr. Ring 

    1. Brandi Ring, MD, believes the most rewarding aspect of gynecology is being part of her patients’ lives. “They trust you to deliver their new baby or to operate on them, or sometimes both,” she said. “As you see patients for longer periods of time, the relationship gets even better and you get to follow their lives and know you had a part in it.”
  5. What it’s like to specialize in otolaryngology: Shadowing Dr. Jones

    1. When evaluating residency options, Shawn Jones, MD, enjoyed otolaryngology’s variety of procedures and patients. As an otolaryngologist, he finds patient and family interactions to be the most rewarding. “I love the cards that some of the kids will make for me following a tonsillectomy. They have to really like you to make you a card following that surgery!” he said.
  6. What it’s like to specialize in physiatry: Shadowing Dr. Sholas

    1. Maurice Sholas, MD, never dreamed he would be a medical executive who practices in a small specialty many have not heard of. “I have always selected the path less traveled and that has been the source of great joy and originality,” he said. “I feel my clinical work makes the world better one family at a time, but my consulting work affects whole systems and communities through policy and programming.”
  7. What it’s like to specialize in lifestyle medicine: Shadowing Dr. Bansal

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    1. As a board-certified lifestyle medicine physician and hospitalist, Ankush Bansal, MD, found his medical specialty was busier than expected. “Twelve-hour shifts aren’t healthy or sustainable and while we counsel our patients about work-life balance, we don’t practice it ourselves,” he said. “That is one major reason I do locum tenens exclusively—I set my schedule.”
  8. What it’s like to specialize in pathology: Shadowing Dr. Riddle

    1. While the general public often thinks pathologists “just do autopsies,” Nicole Riddle, MD, finds this medical specialty to be very rewarding. “The most rewarding aspect is knowing that the right patient care starts with the correct diagnosis—and I provide that,” she said.
  9. What it’s like to specialize in dermatology: Shadowing Dr. Jones

    1. If a medical student is considering dermatology, Evelyn Jones, MD, suggests seeking out opportunities with different physicians to evaluate likes and dislikes. “Dermatology can be a steppingstone for diagnostic testing. Many times, the skin changes and diseases are a reflection of other systemic issues in the body, making a visual inspection and possible biopsy easier access for diagnostic testing,” she said.
  10. What it’s like in urologic oncology: Shadowing Dr. Mirza

    1. While urology is a demanding surgical specialty, Moben Mirza, MD, shares that it fits many lifestyles, which allows physicians to choose how busy they are. “But they have to be able to balance inpatient work, surgeries, consults and outpatient work all in the span of one day,” he said. “We generally don’t dedicate ourselves to one activity or another but have to multitask efficiently in all patient care settings.”    

The AMA’s Specialty Guide simplifies medical students’ specialty selection process, highlight major specialties, detail training information, and provide access to related association information. It is produced by FREIDA™, the AMA Residency & Fellowship Database®.

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