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    I'm a 3rd year medical student at Bristol university. Always wanted to do surgery, now narrowing my interests to vascular surgery or general surgery.

    I didn't do a Bsc intercalation between preclinical and clinical because quite frankly, none of them really interested me. Some Msc's I'm seeing are interesting and relevant to surgery, but of course you can only do that after completing 3 years of med school.

    I'm seeing everywhere that people say you should intercalate in order to get into a surgical specialty... and here lies my problem. Obviously you get extra points and such for doing a Bsc or Msc, which is great in your application, but at the same time for me personally there are so many cons that I just want to graduate quickly and move on to foundation etc. These include:
    - Costing a ****-ton: I'm an international student and the tuition fees are already horrendous with no NHS bursary in sight (literally 4x the normal amount and more). I'm not sure I really want to put my family through paying for an extra year. I would also have to apply to extend my Visa which is just a bit of a faff process.
    - Timing: I don't really want a gap between my clinical years, regardless of how relevant the degree is, and ultimately I don't want another year of studying and getting in more debt and no experience.

    My question is how big of an influence would this have on my career? If it seriously damages my chances, then sure, I'll find some way to do an intercalated degree, but I'd really prefer not to if I can focus on doing something else alongside the 5 year med course as is (e.g. research, audit, courses, log procedures).

    Generally speaking intercalating offers 3 perks: the degree, presentations and publications.

    By not intercalating you will miss out on the degree with no way to otherwise claim this.

    However, if you are astute enough and ask around enough, you can get presentations and publications without intercalating. This will be harder to get a good project going and you may have to use your summer holidays, but it's definitely possible. Some students search for years to get good projects and never get published despite putting months of effort in. So you really have to look around. There is no manual that explains how to guarantee getting a good project, a lot of it is out of your control.

    It's perfectly possible (and acceptable) to do a Master's (and many surgical specialities favour applicants with additional higher degrees, eg MD/PhD) when qualified and earning, especially if money is a big worry. That's certainly what some of my student colleagues intend to do, especially if they manage to secure academic foundation programmes.

    "Always wanted to do surgery, now narrowing my interests to vascular surgery or general surgery."

    Is that because in the experience you have had of surgery so far you find Breast, Plastic, Orthopaedic, Gynaecology, Neuro, Spinal and Urology surgery specs boring..?

    Mate I was in an extremely simar position to yourself and I want to persuade ENT surgery as a career. So long as you can afford to do an extra year financially (e.g living and general costs) you're good to go. Having intercalated in a Medical Sciences MRes I had loads of time to do so many things.

    1. Find a project that I was interested in and I decided to do a cross specialty project involving ENT and respiratory doctors in order to keep my project broad but still relevant if I decided ENT wasn't for me. (Good tip to think about when choosing a project is to not get too super specialised unless you're 100% certain of what you want to do)

    2. I look and read papers in a much different way than I did before. It has allowed me to think more critically like an academic and learn more about research basics like study designs and methodology.

    3. My scientific writing skills are much better too, one of the more overlooked skills in medical school. Since as a doctor you'll be writing audits and other projects, you may as well get some good practice at it.

    4. Chances to get published and present. From 1 year I got 2 presentations, 1 prize and 1 publication. So long as you go in with the mentality that I want something more than just the degree you'll definitely be rewarded eventually. It's not easy at all, but you can do it.

    5. All of the free time you get outside of medicine. I joined the gym and lost 15kg! I learned to cook for myself, I worked in high schools to promote healthcare professions. I went on multiple trips to Europe. The opportunities are endless in terms of what you want to do and you'll see your peers doing the same. I think doing a masters gives you more free time but don't hold me to that.

    Don't get me wrong, it might sound like I love research and things. But I don't actually like it that much, however strictly from a personal and professional standpoint, intercalating was amazing for me. If you set a few goals for yourself before the year starts then you're good to go. Don't let a year go to waste and make the most of it.

    Withregards to relevance to surgery, at the end of the day everything that you do if you intercalate will be useful to yourself because it demonstrates that you have an interest in research and it's something that is tangible and gives you an edge over other people. This is particularly useful when it comes to interviews.

    Ifyou're 50/50 about doing a year in research the long term benefits would definitely outweigh the cons but its on an individual basis. It's most definitely not a make or break situation if you don't intercalate but considering you're thinking about surgery you should have a look at the various socring systems for CST and ST as a blueprint in order to see where you are going to maximise your points when it comes to that time. You've mentioned that you don't want to extend your stay in medical school so I would make sure you have a plan when you're in FY to make sure you're hitting all the aspects of the CST application. In order to avoid taking years out just for the sake of bulking up your portfolio. Anecdotally, I can say one of my friends who decided she wanted to do surgery early in F1 has realised she has a lot more on her plate now that she looked up the CST application process and how to maximise her score. So be prepared either way.
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