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Preclinical Years

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The preclinical years of medical school are important for students considering a career in General Surgery.

General Surgery residency programs value involvement in extracurricular activities, community service, leadership, and research. According to the 2018 NRMP Program Director Survey:


  • Leadership qualities are cited by 61% of programs as a factor used to make interview decisions.

  • Demonstrated involvement or interest in research is cited by 54% as a factor used to make interview decisions.

  • Volunteer/extracurricular activities are cited by 44% of programs as a factor used to make interview decisions.

In our book, Success in Medical School: Insider Advice for the Preclinical Years, we provide you with a detailed blueprint on how to do just that. 

The preclinical years are an excellent time to build these credentials

3 ways to Build your Credentials in General Surgery as a Preclinical Student

  • Opportunities to perform research following first year are available at U.S. medical schools. Research may also be arranged through national organizations. The American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons offers the Medical Student Research Initiation Grant to medical students interested in performing clinical or laboratory-based research on diseases affecting the colon, rectum, and anus. Preclinical students may participate in the Summer Intern Scholarship Program established by the American Association for Thoracic Surgery. This program introduces students to cardiothoracic surgery. Medical students interested in vascular surgery may apply for the William J. von Liebig Summer Research Fellowship at Harvard Medical School.

  • Medical students interested in a surgical volunteer experience can search through a database of opportunities at the Operation Giving Back website. Operation Giving Back is a program of the American College of Surgeons. The database can be searched based on geographic location and specialty. Through Operation Smile, medical students interested in reconstructive surgery can observe operations in 25 different countries. The Cinterandes Foundation, based in Ecuador, provides free surgical services to patients in rural areas. Through their “Mobile Surgery” program, patients living in rural areas without access to surgery can undergo operations in a mobile operating room housed in a van. The Foundation has teaching programs for medical students which are typically 8 weeks in length.

  • The Association of Women Surgeons encourages female medical students to participate in the Medical Student and Resident Poster Competition. This event is held annually, and selected students are able to present their research at the AWS meeting.

For more information on how to stand out in General Surgery as a preclinical student, turn to our book Success in Medical School: Insider Advice for the Preclinical Years

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