Although there are many specialties and practice settings to consider, career decisions don't need to be made right away. Typically, Vanderbilt medical students choose a specialty at the beginning of the fourth year. They make other career decisions after residency training.
It may helpful to think about career decision-making as a two-step process:
1. Know yourself.
2. Know the specialties.
The first step—self-assessment—begins upon matriculation. Vanderbilt's Careers in Medicine Program helps students understand their distinctive personality types, skills, interests, and values, as does the formal learning style assessment conducted by Dr. Cathy Pettepher. Second-year students take a multi-specialty course of their choosing where they shadow attending and resident physicians in various specialties and subspecialties. This course lays the groundwork for specialty selection.
Class-wide career events focus on the specific needs of students at each level of training. First-year students enjoy Specialty Speed Dating, a fun and fast-paced introduction to numerous specialties. Second-year students explore specialties in depth with small groups led by College Mentors. They also participate in a Career Fair at the University Club. College Mentors work with third-year students and Dean Fleming to assist in specialty selection. Seniors receive extensive support as they move toward residency.
The Vanderbilt School of Medicine, in addition to the larger university, has many highly active specialty interest groups which bring speakers to campus, host special events, and organize gatherings. The Flexner Deans' Lecture Series spans the entire medical school calendar year with wide-ranging, pertinent topics in medicine presented by renowned experts.
Finally, Dean Fleming is always available to help guide students through the career decision-making process and to direct them to members of the Vanderbilt community with specific expertise.