Docs Answer: How Do I Land a Research Position At an Outside Institution?

Dear Doctors,

I’m a first-year medical student and I have been cold-emailing physicians in NYC whose research align with my (possible) future career goals (Neurology, Radiology, and Orthopedic Surgery.) However, I have yet to hear anything positive. Any advice on how to continue to approach this would really appreciate it.

– Looking for Research

Hi Looking for Research,

Your method is one tried and true method, but the name of that game is VOLUME. I know it is discouraging to hear so many no’s (or more likely, NO replies at all…doc’s suck at replies!), but it really is a numbers game. Without an “in” somewhere  cold emailing is where a lot of us start. You won’t want to hear this, but for maximum success you may also probably have to either 1) broaden where you are willing to work (i.e. through a summer program out of state), or 2) broaden the type of research (i.e. outside of those specialties or qualitative research rather than bench, etc).

I’m assuming that you’ve exhausted research program options/mentors at your home institution – but if you haven’t that is ALWAYS the first place to start 

That being said, a lot easier way is to find a mentor through a pre-existing program. The program does the leg work of finding mentors eager to take on learners, and they tends to select for mentors who are great teachers. With your method, even if you were to find a research mentor whose research aligns with yours,  there’s no good way to know until you get there if they will be a good mentor and help take your interests to the next level. Something to think about.

Here are some resources for programs. NIH is king of course, in terms of prestige. I would also suggest you go to the med school website of every school in NYC and check their research page for programs.

Best of luck!

– Dr. Brittani

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Dr. Brittani James

Brittani James, MD is an Attending Family Medicine Physician who practices on Chicago's South Side. She co-founded Med Like Me with her twin sister, Dr. Brandi, as a passion project. She is dedicated to working with underserved and vulnerable populations and mentoring the next generation of diverse physicians.

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