5 Tips for Making the Most out of Residency

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Maryam Afshar, MD gives advice for new medical residents to make the most out of their experiences during residency.

Congratulations! After years of schooling, you are now a resident physician and in the final stretch of your training! Residency has been one of the best experiences of my life.

Residency is the opportunity to do what you really love and at the same time learn how to excel in your specialty, and work alongside those who share your passion. It goes by really fast and before you know it, it is coming to an end! Having said that, I’d like to share a few pearls to help make the most out of residency.

  • Never say no to scut work— learn the work the nurses and staff do— and learn it well. For example: setting up the surgical tray, doing wound dressings, assisting in surgery, calling patients back, etc. Soon you’ll be out of residency, and perhaps starting your own practice. You’ll need to be able to teach your nurses and staff how to do those things.


  • Take advantage of all opportunities while you are a resident— research grants, meeting scholarships, away electives, expert-lead and hands-on training workshops, volunteer trips, etc. They may not be available or offered to you once you are an attending, and you will be glad that you did not miss a valuable learning opportunity.


  • Do not underestimate the value of not only vertical, but horizontal, mentorship. Over the course of my residency, I was very lucky to have multiple people in my life whose careers and work/life balance I admired and whose life path I wanted to emulate. I spoke with these individuals regularly, and heeded their suggestions often. However, a lot of times, it was my co-residents who offered me invaluable advice. Your co-residents may be the people at work who know you best, who know all the options, and who can help you make the best decisions about your career path.


  • Leave all your options open! Don’t limit yourself by honing in on a fellowship choice, career path, etc. Medicine is a wide field with opportunities for basic science research, clinical research, academia, private practice, part-time, full-time, inpatient, outpatient, etc.! Explore all avenues.


  • Life outside of residency is important! There is never going to be a perfect time to meet someone, get married, start a family, etc. Once you start a job post-residency you are going to be just as busy if not busier! Don’t put life on hold. That work-life balance will make you a happier person and a better doctor.


And most importantly, have fun!


Maryam Afshar, MD is currently Chief Resident at the UC San Diego Dermatology Department. She has authored 16 scientific publications and four book chapters, received nine research and training grants, and presented her work around the world at over 20 scientific meetings. Dr. Afshar’s 2015 accomplishments include the American Society for Laser Medicine and Surgery Preceptorship Award and Women’s Dermatologic Society Mentorship Award.


Ariel Jacoby
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