What’s the Best Way to Pick a Specialty: Orthopaedics or Otherwise!

Amiethab Aiyer, MD | Jonathan Kaplan, MD | Matthew Varacallo, MD

September 2, 2020


Whether you are in college thinking ahead, or post-call from your surgery rotation, making the decision to choose orthopaedics or any other field is challenging. Although some have known their career of interest for a long time, experiences during medical school may cause this to change!  In today’s post, we will share some things that can help guide your decision making on which specialty to select, whether it be orthopaedic surgery or anything else.

1Keep an Open Mind

No matter what experiences you have had thus far, give yourself opportunity to explore all specialties, even if orthopaedics is at the top of your list. You may be pleasantly surprised which fields pique your interests; whether diversity of pathologies, procedural capabilities, or the patient population, shadowing various clinicians can help you gauge which specialty sparks that feeling of passion. Virtual opportunities for shadowing are now probably more important considering the pandemic at hand.

2Take Advantage of Social Media

More and more specialty-based accounts are popping up on various social media platforms; this is a great way to connect with physicians in the fields of interest and get a sense of what attracted them to their specialty. It’s also a way to gauge perspective on how they find harmony between their personal and professional lives.

3Set Up Virtual Meetings With Attendings/Residents From Various Fields

Given difficulties with in-person shadowing, reaching out and connecting with attendings in a virtual setting is a great way to explore the field indirectly. Take the time to get to know these potential mentors and dissect what facets of the field spark their interests, from both a clinical and research perspective. Plant those seeds of mentorship by connecting with these folks regularly and get to know them beyond the white coat.

4Take Time to Explore Research

Doing research in a given field is a great way to connect with potential mentors, and also get a better understanding of the more academic nuances of a given field. This becomes even more important in light of limitations with shadowing secondary to the pandemic.  Research in general demonstrates your ability to think analytically, work in teams and complete projects; even if the research is outside of your ultimate field of choosing, this can still be beneficial (even for residency applications).

5Hands On vs. Hands Off

Some folks will gravitate towards working with their hands and others may not. It’s certainly worth taking the time to shadow some clinicians in surgical or office based procedural settings to identify if this is something you enjoy. Talk to residents as well to gauge their perspectives, given that they are closer to the specialty selction process.  If this is not for you, then no worries at all! You can make a difference in patients’ lives no matter what field you enter.

6Lifestyle

While everyone in medicine works extremely hard to care for the plethora of issues that exist, some specialties may be more lifestyle-friendly than others. This is important to many for a variety of reasons and it is important to be honest with yourself in this regard when deciding on a given field.

7Find your passion

The best way to pick a specialty is to find one that makes you truly happy; this will enable you to stay engaged with your patients, with research and ultimately happy!


DISCLOSURES: Dr. Aiyer American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society: Board or committee member, Delee & Drez Orthopaedic Sports Medicine (Elsevier): Publishing royalties, financial or material support, Medline: Paid consultant, Medshape: Paid consultant, Miller’s Review of Orthopaedics (Elsevier): Publishing royalties, financial or material support Dr. Kaplan Medline: Paid consultant, Wright Medical Technology, Inc.: Paid consultant Dr. Varacallo This individual reported nothing to disclose.

Read the AAOS Code of Conduct for Discussion Group Terms, Conditions and Disclaimers HERE.


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