How to Get Into Dermatology: A Life Hack

surgeon.jpgDermatologists love to cite that the most difficult specialty to get into is dermatology. There is no way to prove this and of course other specialties such as Plastic and Orthopaedic Surgery are also highly competitive.

But just how competitive is it to get into dermatology?

According to the The New York Times, medical students who matched into dermatology had the most research experience, the second highest board scores, and the highest percentage of students in the Alpha Omega Alpha honor society, yet they had the lowest match rate of the specialties reported.

Only 61 percent of seniors at American medical schools whose first choice was dermatology received a residency in that field last year, compared with 98 percent for those whose first choice was internal medicine and 99 percent for those seeking family medicine ….

So how do you get into dermatology? The same way that you achieve any other monumental goal in life:

  1. Work harder than everybody around you.
    • Imagine yourself the Tiger Woods or Lance Armstrong of your medical school class. Be the first one in and the last one to leave the gross anatomy lab. Round on your surgery patients at 4.30 AM. (Yup, that means getting up at 3.30 AM). Know the surgeries you will participate in that day. Know the anatomy you will see in the OR like you know your own name.
  2. Be generous with your knowledge and your time.
    • Share notes with your classmates. Help out your teammates when their patient load gets too heavy. You can never get to be number one if you’re all alone.
  3. Accept criticism gracefully.
    • If your resident says you’re wrong, then you’re wrong. Move on.
  4. Never complain. Never, never, never complain.
    • Not to your classmates, not to your intern or resident, not to your attending, not to your girlfriend or boyfriend, not even to your mom.
  5. Realize that life isn’t fair.
    • Sometimes you will deserve to get a question correct or will deserve a better grade. It’s part of the game; it’s part of life. Just pick your ball up and move on to the next tee.
  6. Believe that you can be number one.
    • Really believe it.
  7. Be confident without being arrogant.
    • When someone beats you, take your hat off and congratulate her or him.
  8. Be funny.
    • Humor goes a long way in building rapport with people, and it’s hard for people to be “gunning for you” if they really like you.
  9. Elevate the game of everyone around you.
    • Lead. Make your study group the best in the class, your team the best team on the wards, your class, the best class in the school.
  10. Take care of your patients. In the end, it’s all about them (and about what you do for others).
    • If, after all the above, you give up your precious exam study time to sit with a lonely patient for 10 minutes, then you have what it takes to get into dermatology.
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15 thoughts on “How to Get Into Dermatology: A Life Hack

  1. These attributes of leadership and excellence must slide gradually to the wayside throughout residency.

  2. Bottle up and work 20-hour days for years?… All that just to be a derm doctor?

    How about a career in financials instead? Or Allergy, if you want to stay in medicine?

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  5. Wow! And how many years does it take to be a dermatologist in the US?
    If I remember well, that’s at least 9 years of studies in Morocco.

    I really admire doctors for their hard work and dedication. But I also wonder: do they have lives? Do their families cope with their exaggerating-ly overloaded schedules?

    PS: It will be a good idea to add a comment subscription plugin!

  6. OMG!!!
    I’m one of international medical student who really want to have dermatological residency in US.
    After read this article, Not only great USMLE score that I have to get, but also harder work and self preparation.
    Lucky me that read this, so I have a good guidance for my future.

  7. Random question but what did you major in for your undergraduate degree? I’m a freshman in college and considering medical school and was just curious.

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