Dermatology (Preclinical Years)
The preclinical years of medical school are important for students considering a career in dermatology.
"In schools with non-pass/fail grading systems, high grades may be an important factor in class ranking for nomination to the Alpha Omega Alpha (AOA) Honor Society and for the residency application," writes Dr. Ali Alikhan. "Additionally, because the vast majority of dermatology applicants are outstanding, there is no need to take students with low basic science grades."
With so many highly qualified applicants, dermatology residency programs also look for involvement in extracurricular activities, community service, leadership, and research. According to the 2016 NRMP Program Director Survey:
Leadership qualities are cited by 76% of programs as a factor used to make interview decisions.
Demonstrated involvement or interest in research is cited by 61% as a factor used to make interview decisions.
Volunteer/extracurricular activities are cited by 67% of programs as a factor used to make interview decisions.
The preclinical years are an excellent time to build these credentials.
3 Ways To Build Your Credentials In Dermatology As a Preclinical Student
1 Almost all applicants to dermatology will have performed research, and therefore if you're considering dermatology as a career, you may wish to participate in research between the first and second years of medical school. Research experience has significant educational benefits. Beyond those benefits, research allows a student the chance to develop a relationship with their research supervisor. Establishing a mentor-mentee relationship will prove useful during the residency application process when your mentor can provide a strong letter of recommendation, based on significant personal interaction, as well as advocate on your behalf at other programs. Your involvement in research may lead to publication and presentation, both of which are highly valued in the dermatology residency selection process.
2 Dermatologists are active in the community, and students have opportunities to take part. Students can take part in Camp Discovery, Camp Horizon, Camp Sundown, and Camp Wonder, all of which provide wonderful experiences for children with a variety of skin diseases. Through the Melanoma Awareness Project, medical students teach children about the sun's effects on the skin, sun protection, and skin cancer. Miles for Melanoma is a program to raise funds for the Melanoma Research Society. You can seek out local opportunities as well. A number of dermatologists are invovled in local clinics that provide care for the underserved.
3 Joining your school's Dermatology Interest Group is an excellent way to learn more about the specialty. Through this group, you will be more aware of meetings, volunteer events, workshops, and research opportunities in the field. According to the Dermatology Interest Group Association (DIGA), 63 medical schools have an interest group. If you'd like to establish a group at your own school, a guide is available at the DIGA website.
For more information on how to stand out in Dermatology as a preclinical student, turn to our book Success in Medical School: Insider Advice for the Preclinical Years.