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Tips for premeds on shadowing doctors


One of my interns asked me about shadowing doctors. Shadowing any professional is a great way to learn more about a field. In their new book, Decisive, Chip and Dan Heath point out how we often make career choices with very little knowledge of the professional reality in that field.

For assistance on this question, I emailed our network of 60+ intern alumni, who are mostly in or just emerging from medical school, and asked for their advice.

Here's what they said would be considerations in shadowing doctors...


  • Emergency departments
  • Specialty clinics
  • Community health centers
  • Private practices

The type of work that you want to see

  • Interventional
  • Surgical
  • People/talking
  • Family-heavy
  • Research
  • Administration

What do you want to learn/establish from the experience?

  • Get the gist of what a clinic feels like
  • Mentorship relationship with one of the doctors
    • If they are an alumnus of a certain school that you are applying for, this could be very helpful in the application process
  • Research positions
  • Guidance on the application process  
    • The practice of medicine is so varied and individual, so you should take this time to explore in a broad and open way
  • You do not need to choose a specialty at this point in time; it is more important to determine what type of activity drives you
    • Eventually, you will find “your people” with whom you’ll enjoy spending 80 hours a week during residency and for the rest of your career
  • Because medicine is such a long road, you should love it to get through it
    • The only way you can know is if you experience a doctor’s life
    • After the experience, do a self-reflection and be honest with yourself about whether medicine is the right thing for you

How to contact doctors 

  • Email request or in-person
  • 1 paragraph statement of interest/your background
  • Mention if you have already worked with patients



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