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Twelve years ago I was a confused third-year medical student, not having any idea about the next step in my education and professional training. Deciding on a career in medicine was easy; choosing a specialty, on the other hand, was agonizing. Like my classmates, I felt overwhelmed by the number of choices. I imagined myself as a future surgeon or emergency medicine physician, but after extensive research and clinical experiences, I soon discovered that anesthesiology was the perfect fit. I realized at the time that medical students need a good written resource to guide them through this difficult career-defining decision. This is when the idea for The Ultimate Guide to Choosing a Medical Specialty was born. Today's doctor-in-training requires as much information as possible to make a confident decision, but has little time to gather it. A single comprehensive resource, this book provides detailed insight into each field and allows students to quickly and easily compare specialties under consideration.


• An “insider's look” into different areas of medicine—specialty chapters written by physicians just out of residency training
• Candid and revealing descriptions of each specialty, including the pros and the cons, plus salary information, employment data, match statistics, and much more
• Profiles of the major medical specialties, including those to which medical students may receive little exposure, such as radiation oncology
• A concise up-to-date guide to the residency application and matching process, including a separate chapter dedicated to the “Couples Match”
• A special chapter with explicit advice to help medical students maximize their success in obtaining a residency position in each field


This book is organized into two major sections. Part 1, “Planning Your Medical Career,” delves into the main issues surrounding the choice of one's medical specialty. These 12 chapters provide everything you need to begin making this major decision—how to research each specialty, what to do if you remain undecided, how to apply for a residency position, and much more. This section is especially valuable if read early during your medical education. In Part 2, “Specialty Profiles,” a chapter is devoted to each of the 20 major medical disciplines, all following a similar format and exploring common themes. Interspersed throughout the text are special inserts—“Vital Signs” and “The Inside Scoop”—that provide easy-to-read factoids such as salary information and match statistics.


Most readers interested in this book are current medical students—allopathic and osteopathic, and those who attend medical school in the United States and abroad. But you do not have to be a medical student in order to get something out of this book. Many residents have second thoughts about their chosen specialty and wish to change fields. In addition, premedical college students, as well as anyone considering medicine as a possible career, will find this book helpful.


For comments and suggestions about the book, you are invited to contact the author by e-mail ( or by regular mail:

Brian S. Freeman, MD
c/o McGraw-Hill Medical
1221 Avenue of the Americas, 45th Floor
New York, NY 10020

Your feedback is invaluable for continuing to make this book a must-have resource for future medical students. If you have questions regarding specific areas of medicine, you may e-mail the contributor of that specialty chapter. Their biographical and contact information can be found at the end of each chapter.


Many people helped make this book a reality. I first would like to acknowledge my mother, Ellen, for all her guidance, love, and support throughout my life. I also owe a huge debt of gratitude to the following people who shared their encouragement and advice: Eric Freeman, Gertrude Eichschlag, the Spiro family, Dr Russell T. Wall, and Dr William McDade. A special “meow” goes out to our Cornish Rex cats who kept my lap warm on cold winter nights while writing and editing this book.

In the medical publishing division of McGraw-Hill, a fantastic team of editors helped bring this book into creation. For the first edition, Shelley Reinhardt, the editor-in-chief, went out of her way to nurture a new author. Susan Meigs offered unparalleled editing expertise and countless useful suggestions that were right on target. For the second and third editions, my new editors, Marsha Loeb and Kirsten Funk, were incredibly helpful in paving the way for an even stronger book. The entire copy-editing and production team turned words and thoughts into a reader-friendly and fun package.

I especially thank the extraordinary writers who contributed chapters on their specialties for the second and third editions of this book. Even while under the stress and hardship of being a resident then attending, their passion for their chosen careers shines through in their work. This special group of physicians includes Vicki Anderson, Kathleen Ang-Lee, Gregory Borschel, Kelly Elmore, Amy Farmer, Derek L. Fimmen, Jeremy Graff, Arjun Joshi, Jennifer Lamb, John Langland, Jane M. Lewis, Michael Mendoza, Aaron Miller, Ashish Raju, Andrew P. Schwartz, Kiarash Shahlaie, Neil Tanna, Ian Tong, Lisa Vargish, Stephanie Weiss, Lisa Yerian, and Tomasz Zabiega.

Brian S. Freeman, MD
Washington, DC

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