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Clinical Electives Vs. Research Electives

By Dr. Umar Tariq. Take with permission from

All the rules of generalization are wrong.
Before everything, finalize the specialty of your choice! And if you find a research elective in the specialty of your choice, go for it e.g an elective in rheumatology wont be of any use if you plan to be an opthalmologist.... I personally believe on the basis of all the information I have that a research elective LOR from Opthalmology is way better than a clinical elective LOR from Rheumatology for getting into an Opthalmology program...

Whatever u get in the field of your interest....its better than anything else!
If its not in the field of your interest....then you can say clinical electives are a better option....
my preference order is different for different specialties...Always remember one simple thing in mind.......if there is no disadvantage of doing something then there is definitely some advantage of doing those who say research electives are of no use....dont listen to them...there is nothing like 'useless' in the world
You can go for research electives whenever you like.......from 1st till final year.....
Any question you ask regarding steps, electives, research etc.......its answer would depend on a simple fact... which specialty you want to pursue your medical career in....e.g clincal electives are always considered superior to research electives for surgery/medicine fields, however research electives carry far more weightage than clinical electives in feilds like Pathology, Radiology etc.
If its a clinical/ primary care field like medicine, family practice, surgery etc.
1. clinical electives in the specialty of your choice
2. research+ publications
3. research without publication
4. research elective
If the specialty of choice is a non-clinical specialty like Pathology, Radiology etc
1. research + publications
2. research without publications
3. research elective in the specialty of your choice
4. clinical elective
Some people think research electives gets visa with difficulty. Visa does not depend upon research elective but on the university you are going e.g John Hopkins never gets rejected and Albany, as far as I know, rarely gets accepted....
Duration is always can do it for 4-12 weeks but generally minimum 8 weeks are recommended.
If you get a publication then they are better than anything else....even than most clinical electives....even if you dont get them there are two uses of them....first you establish faculty connections/contacts and second you get a good LOR which might be able to get you good clinical electives later on when you apply in final year.
I did a 3 weeks observership in Internal Medicine in US in start of 4th year waiting for my result.....many said observerships are of no might not have been of much use in getting a residency but it was definitely of great use when I was applying for electives/research whatever you can get...grab that opportunity....always remember....every experience in life teaches you a useful lesson for the future experiences of they are not wasted...they carry the same importance as your school carried for your college and ur college carried for ur medical college... nothing is useless....never run away from any experience....grab whatever you can get....because always remember.....chances are not available....they are always created....and if you find one...dont miss it..


  1. I have want to go for research electives duribg my 3rd year summer vacations...preferably to canada...but amerixa is good too...but firstly I can't decide where to go since research electives are limited to a certain institutes...secondly I have no idea exactly what speciality I would pursue in the future (probably, paeds or surgery..clinical for sure though)...should I still go for research electives and if I do, exactly what discipline should I apply to?!


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