Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation

This specialty has been largely undiscovered by most medical students. Positions in physical medicine and rehabilitation (PM&R) are available for nearly any interested student. Like most specialties, however, competition for the most highly ranked programs is intense. In the preclinical years, pursue outside interests that relate to the practice of physiatry, like working with disabled people, athletic events, or public health issues. Research experience will definitely provide a distinct advantage when attempting to attract the interest of the top academic-based training programs. But just because applicants to PM&R do not have publications or presentations listed on their resumes does not mean that they are locked out of this specialty. It is certainly by no means a requirement. This specialty is, after all, broad enough to attract physicians with a wide variety of talents, education, and personal backgrounds. So go ahead and pursue your own interests and extracurricular activities. Just make sure to study enough to earn an above average score on the Step I board examination. This will place you in a comfortable position to be competitive during the application process.

In the clinical years, solid performances in the internal medicine, neurology, pediatrics, and surgery core clerkships are important. Complete a PM&R subin-ternship or elective early in the fourth year to make sure that it is the right specialty for you. Depending on the specific institution, audition rotations may have some benefit. If you want to enhance your chances of matching at a certain hospital, make sure to work hard during an away elective because selection com mittees will keep a close eye on you. You will need three letters of recommendation, with at least two of them from PM&R physicians and the remainder from other core fields. Obviously, if you are interested in pediatric rehabilitation, a reference letter from a pediatrician with whom you have worked is logical. Likewise, if someone has an interest in sports medicine, a letter from an orthopedic surgeon who practices sports medicine would be suitable as well. Just be sure, however, that the accompanying personal statement is truly personal, honest, and well-written. Make sure to explain genuinely how you became interested in this field of medicine. Be creative, but avoid gimmicks.

Depending on their credentials, most candidates apply to around 10 programs to ensure a match. If possible, have a well-placed connection make a tactful phone call on your behalf to a program director. Most important, never say that you chose this field because of the lifestyle, or that PM&R is a backup specialty after orthopedic surgery. It will be doing yourself and that residency program a huge disfavor.

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