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What MU-COM Alumni Have to Say About Dermatology Residency: Part 4

Jessica R. Caruso '23 | October 22, 2020

Choosing Dermatology Residency

I sought out the five MU-COM alumni who matched into dermatology to learn more about how and why they chose to pursue this field. All five alumni agreed to answer my questions in hopes of helping students. Dr. Ben Farthing '17 and Dr. Sonya Zarkhin '17, both part of the first MU-COM graduating class, discussed the diverse nature of dermatology. From the class of 2018, Dr. Joseph Aleshaki and Dr. Robert Dazé highlighted the need for passion. Finally, Dr. Samantha Pfeifer '19 gave insight on the humanity of the profession.

What do our alumni recommend students do over the summer between first and second year?

Following the fundamental ‘why' question I proposed, I asked for more tangible plans and ideas for pre-clinical medical students. What would the physicians suggest students do in the summer between first and second year? As a first year student, I was worried about the time in between years and pulled in directions of simply enjoying my final summer vacation and ensuring I did not fall behind my peers.

Dr. Robert Daze

Dr. Dazé '18: The summer between the first and second year is probably the only "summer" that you technically have in medical school. I actually went back home to work over the summer, but I would highly recommend looking back to invest yourself in some form of research. It doesn't necessarily have to be dermatology-based, but it is favored. I know that Marian University offers a special summer internship at Eli Lilly which is a fantastic opportunity. I applied for it, but I was not selected. If you have time, I would suggest you start to shadow a dermatologist in your area to be exposed to the specialty. Shadowing a dermatologist may also come with the opportunity to help write up case reports to submit for publication which would be very beneficial for your CV. I would not however begin studying for boards as it's a little too early for that.

Dr. Sonya Zarkhin

Dr. Zarkhin '17: Research. Research. Research. Research can be benchwork, journal articles, or visiting a community dermatologist for a shadow day to make sure that dermatology is the right fit for you. I wouldn't focus too much on the subject matter of the research. A lot of disciplines are applicable to dermatology. Ideally, it would be nice to have publications/benchwork that deal with skin related issues, but sometimes that's hard to secure. I certainly wouldn't take "time off" because dermatology is very competitive. You should be able to demonstrate that some sort of growth and learning happened that summer.

Dr. Ben Farthing

Dr. Farthing '17: I personally went on a medical mission trip in between first and second year and picked up some pharmacist shifts at CVS. I would recommend either a medical mission trip and/or attempting to reach out to programs you're interested in to ask about helping with research or other ways to get involved in dermatology to boost your CV.

Dr. Joseph Aleshaki
Dr. Aleshaki '18: Don’t limit yourself to focusing solely on dermatology. I would speak with your school counselors, friends, and family to network with other physicians. Go shadow them and see what they do on a daily basis. Committing to a specialty is a major decision and you want to know what you’re getting into for the rest of your career. If choosing dermatology, shadow dermatologists and do whatever you can do work on research. Reach out to program coordinators, residents, and dermatologists. It can be anything from case reports to systematic reviews. Getting your name on papers is very important.
Dr. Samantha Pfeifer
Dr. Pfeifer '19: I think there is a big emphasis on research in this field, so I would recommend that. I personally did the Eli Lilly Internship and worked on the drug Taltz, which I thought was super beneficial. If you are unable to do research, I would try and volunteer or shadow the specialty and try to make more connections in the field.

The overwhelming response to this question: RESEARCH. Dr. Zarkhin even repeated it four times to drill in the idea that to be a competitive applicant, one needs to do some kind of research during this in-between time. Trying to have a balance between research and relaxing offers an enjoyable and productive way to spend your final true summer break.

Thank you to the alumni for their time!
These former MU-COM students provided me with a great deal of insight into the intricacies and challenges that accompany dermatology. I am grateful for the time they spent to respond to me and answer my questions. What do MU-COM alumni have to say about dermatology residency? Be passionate. Do research. Persevere. Commit. Be unique. Take initiative.

About the author

Jessica Caruso, OMS-II

Jessica Caruso is a second-year medical student at Marian University College of Osteopathic Medicine (MU-COM). Prior to Marian, Jessica graduated from Loyola University Chicago with a Bachelor of Science in Biology and a minor in Spanish Language and Literature. As the Mental Wellness Chair at MU-COM, she promotes activities and events to help students unwind and fights to end the stigma against mental illness. Additionally, she serves as the treasurer for the Pediatric Student Interest Group, promoting adolescent and pediatric outreach and education. During the summer, she worked in the 3D-Visualization Laboratory to develop models, videos, and other projects that allow better education of anatomy to students, physicians, and patients. She volunteers as a Crisis Counselor at Crisis Text Line, helping people in crisis through active listening, collaborative problem solving, and safety planning. When she isn’t busy studying or volunteering, Jessica enjoys reading, kayaking, and playing games with friends.

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