To Take a Year Off Or Not?

I recently spoke with a relatively well informed individual who advised me to take a year off before my fourth year of medical school in order to do more, deeper research in neurosurgery.

As an aside, I’m going to make this decision by reading a lot of old uncleharvey posts (you haven’t heard of uncleharvey??? what???? go to http://www.uncleharvey.com immediately if you have even an inkling of pursuing neurosurgery), speaking with our dean, chairman, the chairman of two or my top program choices and a couple other recent grads. Right now, this individual is the only one who thinks that I should take a year off, but most of the conversations are still in process.

For what it’s worth, my board scores and number of publications (in related clinical field, but not in neurosurgery journals per se) are in the top 25% of neurosurgery applicants based on charting outcomes in the match, and I don’t yet know whether I will be AOA. I attend a non-top 40 (USNWR and NIH$ # 40th-60th) med school without a home neurosurgery program.

My biggest concern about taking a research year at this point is whether I could find a problem to solve or skill to acquire that I could get really excited about. I don’t believe in taking a year off for its own sake. I would have to want to build a skill, which requires knowing what skills I need to build, which requires having a vision of the state of the field of neurosurgery, the direction its going, and how I can help.

At first blush, it seems that the key advances that can be anticipated in neurosurgery include immunology (anti-tumor viruses / vaccines), endovascular materials (flow diverting stents, coils, etc), and radiology (improved imaging to combine with improved interventional techniques). The holy grail would be to eliminate the craniotomy as a procedure for all neurosurgical conditions except acute hemorrhage – basically, to eliminate neurosurgery as a treatment for neurological disease.

But before I get all excited – my decision basically comes down to one question. Is there a skill that I will need to be a successful academic neurosurgeon which I should spend a year developing now, before applying to residency?

Any neurosurgeons out there in internet-land, please feel free to weigh in.

 

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