Medical 'speed dating' helps students meet their match

Dr. Mark Scarborough, M.D., division chief of orthopaedic oncology at UF talks with second-year medical students at the recent Medical Speed Dating event. Photo by Kim Libby

As the sound of the “Hokey Pokey” signaled the next round of conversation, medical students formed new faculty connections to prove finding a specialty is really “what it’s all about.”

About 70 second-year medical students met with faculty for the annual Medical Specialty Speed Dating event hosted by the Office of Student Counseling and Development in the UF College of Medicine. The event was held on both March 23 and 25, as an opportunity for students to ask questions of professionals in order to steer their career toward a specialty after graduation.

The event featured different tables for each area, including non-clinical career options, where students spoke with a physician from that field for 15 minutes. Students picked their top two choices upon registering to ensure they could meet with the physician whose specialty they were most interested in. This year, the event also focused non-clinical career options to provide exposure to practicing clinical medicine. For example, Todd Husty, D.O., spoke about his experience as a medical correspondent for WESH 2 News.

“It’s been growing in success since we started it four years ago,” said Karen Eberhart, a second-year medical student and the class-elected representative for the Association of American Medical Colleges. “We got the ‘speed dating’ idea from the national AAMC conference, and it’s a great way to provide a resource of intimate guidance for students.”

Most of the professionals, who were either seasoned medical speed-daters or fresh representation, began by introducing themselves and illustrating “a day in the life” in their field. The students were encouraged to ask questions about hours, salary, life outside of work, and the benefits of that chosen path. For some of the students, like second-year Bob Seifert, it was the prime opportunity to pick faculty members’ brains.

“Most of my questions have been admissions-focused, especially in light of the recent Match Day,” he said. “The specialists are aware of the competition today to get into programs, and they know of avenues to achieve it.”

Seifert said he is involved in a variety of interest groups and clubs within the college that provide information on a variety of options, but a more personal setting like speed dating helped him ask specific questions that were tailored to his curiosity. Other students, like second-year student Haley Parks, also felt the event helped to narrow down the specialty options.

“Right now, I’m thinking of going into neurology or radiation, but I am keeping an open mind and listening at every table,” she said. “They give great lifestyle tips that I can compare with my own personality to see what I’ll like.”

Students listen as Dr. Lisa Dixon, M.D., a clinical assistant professor at UF's dept. of immunology, pathology and laboratory medicine, talks about a typical day in the

Crossword puzzles, for example, are often a hit among potential anesthesiologists who can take a methodical approach to them, said anesthesiology physician and department chair Kayser Enneking, M.D. Anesthesiology also employs different doctor-patient relations than specialties like pediatrics, which involve strong, personal connections with a patient and his family. Some specialties involve being around students, some involve worrying about astronomical chance, and some jobs will involve needing to hire and fire, so students were able to find out which could mesh with their personalities.

Yet, all of the specialists involved had the spirit that whatever a student’s chosen path, a commitment to excellence was key.

“I’m not here to recruit people for pathology, I’m just here to tell them more what it’s all about,” said pathology physician Lisa Dixon, M.D. “This is a great setting in that in their careers, students will have to interact with someone from each area here, regardless of what they choose. They will be able to work together in a better way if they have a basic knowledge of and appreciate all forms of medical care.”