Should I Take a Year Off to do Research?

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

June 4, 2021

So you’ve spent some time in the clinic and the operating room and you’ve decided orthopedics is right for you, but you are interested in wading into the research pool. Some may consider taking formal time off for research. Taking time off to do research is often related to two major considerations: (1) those who are genuinely passionate about research and (2) those who need or want to strengthen their applications.

1I Love Research

Many in this group have done well academically and want to take the year off because they are passionate about research. This can amplify the quality of a letter of recommendation as mentors highlight the fact that a student chose to do a research year out of sheer interest

2Boosting Your Application

For those who may have had lower step 1 scores, lack of clinical HONORS in the 3rd year clerkships, minimal research in college or medical school, or some combination therein, considering a research year can help to demonstrate your commitment to that field. It’s always a good idea to

discuss with faculty advisors and mentors whether a research year would be helpful to increase your chances of matching.

Time to hustle; regardless of why you are taking a year off, programs will look to see how you have used your time. Get involved with projects as soon as you can, so you have something to show for it at the end of the year. Talk with your research fellowship mentors about getting started with case reports, invited manuscripts or book chapters (i.e the “slam dunk” publications) while starting more research intensive projects that take more time to come to fruition

Other considerations:

1Productive Mentors

Try to connect with those research mentors who are consistently publishing and who have a track record of having students in their laboratory or clinical research team that go onto match in the specialty of interest 


Try to find out early if funding is available for the research year; you want to also talk with your advising deans about taking time off and whether your financial aid can help supplement research stipends you may garner

Taking a research year is a big commitment, but let me be the first to tell you that it can pay huge dividends for your career. Amiethab did a year off after not matching and he is  still close with his mentor from Philly all these years later. In fact, it has helped him tremendously with his academic pursuits‼️

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.

Copyright© 2021 by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons

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