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Cover Focus | Nov/Dec '20

Standing Out on an Away Rotation

"What are the top qualities that stand out in a medical student who is completing an away rotation at your program?"




Janice C. Law, MD

Some important qualities that may stand out in a medical student include:

  • Motivation and enthusiasm for learning;
  • A self-starting attitude or personal initiative;
  • Excellent communication;
  • Maturity, professionalism, and outward respect for patients, staff, and faculty; and
  • Dependability and willingness to go the extra mile.

Faculty are more likely to take interest in teaching and engaging with visiting medical students when they demonstrate enthusiasm and motivation for learning. This could be shown by seeking out additional educational resources (recommended books, websites, etc.) and then following up with faculty and residents on learned concepts. It is important to read constantly to increase your medical knowledge and to be able to synthesize book knowledge with what is being shown to you clinically.

Don’t be shy about showing what exam skills you do have and offering to participate in parts of the examination. You will not be expected to be competent in these skills, but it would be a great start to have some basic abilities in slit-lamp biomicroscopy and indirect biomicroscopy when you arrive. Show the faculty and resident team that you are dedicated to mastering the skills by practicing at every opportunity available. This demonstrates drive and personal initiative.

Faculty and program directors (and fellow residents) are looking for potential mature, professional house staff that communicate well with everyone on the team. This includes discussing any changes in scheduling and plans or giving faculty a heads-up that you’ll be joining their clinic. You will surely stand out as an excellent medical student when you show your dependability as a teammate in clinic or in the OR and do more than expected. This could look like anticipating when extra help is needed and jumping in to assist, following through on a task, seeking additional opportunities in the clinic, staying late in the OR, or helping to publish case reports or a literature search for potential research. Always show up early, say yes when given opportunities while on the visiting rotation, follow through, and send a thank-you card at the end.

Janice C. Law, MD
  • Assistant Professor of Vitreoretinal Surgery and Diseases and Director of Medical Student Education, Vanderbilt Eye Institute, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Nashville
  • janice.law@vanderbilt.edu; Twitter @macularstar
  • Financial disclosure: None
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