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FAQs


What is a Cardiologist?

My Cardiologist has F.A.C.C. after his name, what does it mean?

How much training does a Cardiologist receive?

How long does it take to become a cardiologist?

What education or training is required to become a cardiologist?

What classes do you take to become a cardiologist?

What license is needed to be a cardiologist?

What is an Interventionists cardiologist?

What is the difference between a Cardiac surgeon and lets say a interventional cardiologist?

How long is medical school?

What qualifications do you need to become a doctor?

What is the USMLE?

What is a good USMLE score?

What is AOA?

What is a residency?

What is an internship?

What is a "preliminary" year? A "categorical" year?

What is the Match?

How many hours do interns/residents work?

What does "board certified" mean?

How do a choose a residency program? I need to declare a medical specialty before long, but I have so many conflicting feelings and thoughts about various clinical areas. How can I make the right choice?

Q: What qualifications do you need to become a doctor?

A: The first step is gaining acceptance to medical school. Here are key attritibutes that greatly improve the success of a candidate:

3.6+ college gpa, 30+ MCAT score, volunteer/research experience, physician shadowing, individuality/well-roundness, good interviewing skills

Each medical school will be looking for slightly different characteristics to fill their class. However, the process is more random than expected. Good grades and test scores are simply not enough. Grades are likely the deciding factor of whether a school will offer a candidate an interview but an interview is far from acceptance. The candidate must present him/herself as unique in order to stand out among the sea of highly qualified applicants.

Following acceptance, a future doctor must complete 4 years of immense course work which will include patient interaction. The cost of a medical education ranges from $120-300K. After 4 years, the title 'doctor' is granted. However, before a doctor can actually specialize in a field of medicine, 3-10 years of residency training are required (which pays about $40-60K/year).

4 years of college, 4 years of med school, and a 3-10 year internship called residency. A 1-2 year fellowship may also be required in order to specialize in a particular area of medicine (such as gastroenterology).

Q: What is the USMLE?

A:  In spite of its resemblance to the words "U SMILE," it's not a happy thing. USMLE stands for United States Medical Licensing Examination, and the website may be found at <http://www.usmle.org>. There are three parts to it (the first two parts consisting of a one-day, eight-hour exam and the third part consisting of a two-day exam), and in virtually every state you must pass the parts in order to get licensed. The examination is now offered on computer at testing centers, and may be taken whenever the student wishes. See the USMLE web site for more information. The parts are: Step I, taken after your second year Step II, taken in your fourth year Step III, taken at the end of your internship year

Q: What is a good USMLE score?

A:  A good score is one that is (a) passing and (b) passing, a fact that the USMLE apparently realized because rumor has it they are going to make the exams pass/fail in the near future. For now, keep in mind that the national average (which has been rising, probably through artificial means) has been around 215 in 1997-98. The cut-off for a "good" score once was 200 (when 200 was set as the statistical mean, or 50th percentile score). Now, though, "good" scores start around 215 and go up from there. And yes, it is sad but true that some residency programs use USMLE Step I scores as a preliminary cut-off point for sending out secondary applications and/or interview requests. Generally the programs that do this tend to be the more competitive ones - surgery, orthopedics, ENT, neurosurgery, etc.

Q: What is AOA?

A:  Alpha Omega Alpha, or "AOA," is a national medical honor society that was founded in 1902 to promote and recognize excellence in the medical profession. Most, although not all medical schools have a chapter of AOA. Each school's chapter selects a small group of students to join the society, generally in their junior or senior years. "Junior AOA status," or being selected as a junior, is considered superior to "senior AOA status." In order to meet the minimum requirements of the national society, students must be in the top 15% of their class academically, and possess leadership and community service attributes. Academic activities such as research, performance in clerkships and electives and extracurricular program participation are generally included in the selection criteria. Individual chapters may also elect to induct outstanding alumni, faculty and house staff to AOA. Induction ceremonies are generally held just before graduation and are highly specific to the individual chapters. Having AOA on your curriculum vitae is considered an asset when applying in the very competitive post-graduate programs such as dermatology and surgical subspecialties. Note: Stanford, the University of Connecticut, and Harvard are the schools that do not have AOA

Q: What is a residency?

A:  Upon graduation from medical school, you become a "doctor" having earned the M.D. or D.O. degree. However, this isn't the end of formal medical training in this country. Many moons ago, back when almost all physicians were general practitioners, very few physicians completed more than a year of post-graduate training. That first year of training after medical school was called the "internship" and for most physicians it constituted the whole of their formal training after medical school; the rest was learned on the job. As medical science advanced and the complexity of and demand for medical specialists increased, the time it took to gain even a working knowledge of any of the specialties grew to the point where it became necessary to continue formal medical training for at least several years after medical school. This training period is called a "residency," earning its moniker from the old days when the young physicians actually lived in the hospital or on the hospital grounds, thus "residing" in the hospital for the period of their training.

During residency, you and your classmates practice under the supervision of faculty physicians, generally in large medical centers. Many primary care specialties, however, are based in smaller medical centers. As you grow more experienced, you assume more responsibilities and independence until you graduate from the residency, and you are released to practice on your own upon an unsuspecting populace. The length of residency programs varies considerably between specialties and even a little within individual specialties. In general, the surgical specialties require longer residencies, and the primary care residencies the least time.

Lengths of Some Residencies:

All surgical specialties - 5+ years
Obstetrics and Gynecology - 4 years
Family medicine - 3 years
Pediatrics - 3 years
Emergency Medicine - 3-4 years
Psychiatry - 3 years

Recently a new type of residency has emerged, the so-called "combined residency." These residencies train physicians in two medical fields, such as internal medicine-pediatrics, or psychiatry-neurology. As these types of residencies are new, they are relatively few in number; they provide an opportunity for the physician to become "double-boarded" and receive board certification in each of the two specialties. Usually these residencies last one or two years less than the total years that would be spent doing both residencies.

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