This month, we are focusing on medical student recruitment into vascular surgery. In many medical schools, students do not get any exposure to the field of vascular surgery (or to vascular surgeons) during the preclinical years, and even during the clinical years, vascular surgery can sometimes be a late find. The introduction of Vascular Surgery Interest Groups (VSIGs) aims to change this “initial exposure” problem.
Here’s my story: I am currently a third-year medical student at the University of Michigan, an executive board member of the vascular surgery interest group (VSIG) on campus, with aims to apply to vascular surgery residency programs.
My involvement in VSIG was quite coincidental. As I mention above, vascular surgery isn’t highlighted in pre-medical training in undergraduate study and only sparsely mentioned in medical school compared to other fields. I came into medical school thinking I wanted to go into a procedural field and work with the circulatory system—which I have always found fascinating. My plan therefore, was to explore fields related to those two criteria. I had no idea that there was an entire field solely devoted to surgery and the circulatory system. Well, I quickly came across interventional radiology, cardiology and cardiothoracic surgery. One day, a friend from my class reached out inviting me (and other M1s) to join the VSIG executive board. That email started a chain of events leading to my exploration of vascular surgery and eventually becoming an active member of the club.
VSIG-UMich helped me learn what vascular surgery really was during my first and second years, when I had limited exposure to vascular surgeons. I remember attending a technology day that was hosted during my MS1 year where company representatives brought stents and simulators, and walked us through their use, indications and deployment. Events like these, as well as panel events, career day presentations, and case walkthroughs were integral for my exposure to the field. VSIG also allowed me to interact with vascular residents, fellows and faculty, and solidify my career choice.
I was lucky to have a VSIG and an engaged section of vascular surgery at my medical school. However, if someone wanted to establish a VSIG in their medical school, there are two key components that I can envision being extremely helpful. The first is a faculty mentor to sponsor the club, and the second is reaching out to an established club at another institution. The faculty mentor can provide resources and input from the department, and the outside club can provide event ideas and a framework to build off. Once the club is started, reach out to the vascular residents! They are closest to medical students in training and often have invaluable advice and contacts to help further your club along.
The great thing about vascular surgery is that the faculty and residents are often very personable and willing to help. VSIGs increase the early exposure to vascular surgery in medical school and if you need assistance starting one, please reach out.
Akul Arora, BS, is a medical student at the University of Michigan Medical School in Ann Arbor, Michigan.