As a first or second year medical student, exploring PM&R as an option can be done through shadowing, contacting local residents and faculty, and through pursuing research on a PM&R relevant topic. There are some “externships” in PM&R available at certain institutions to first year medical students during the summer between first and second year. Click here for a Medical Student Roadmap.
As a third or fourth year medical student, you may wish to consider rotating through a clerkship in PM&R. Understanding the depth and breadth of PM&R is crucial in expressing your interest in the field in your personal statement and during interviews. The rotation serves both for you to get to know a particular residency program and for the program to get to know you. Making a good impression on a program by being proactive, motivated, and interested can help your application. Identifying faculty members who can write you a solid letter of recommendation during this time is also important.
The major components of a residency application are board scores, medical school grades, Dean’s letter (a compilation of your evaluation and summary of your performance in medical school), letters of recommendation (at least one from a physiatrist), personal statement, CV (professional resume), and your performance on your interview (if you are invited for an interview). Because physiatrists work with teams of other healthcare professionals to care for a patient, program directors not only look for solid grades and board scores, but also team-oriented students with good communication skills. Research experience is not required for residency application, but may make your application stronger. The research does not have to be in PM&R. If you are looking for research in PM&R, talk to residents or faculty members at your institution and let them know you are interested in helping out.
If you are applying for both categorical positions (4-year programs) and advanced positions (prelim/transitional + 3-year PM&R), you do not necessarily need to write 2 completely different personal statements for PM&R and for the prelim/transitional year programs. For the prelim/transitional personal statement, you can add or revise the end of your statement to reflect why you are applying for a preliminary or transitional year program.