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Shadowing and Mentoring

Shadowing and mentoring both present opportunities for medical students to gain insight into fields of interest and receive valuable guidance from more experienced peers and/or seasoned professionals in practice. While both opportunities may offer a means to gain exposure to certain specialties or practitioners, the nature of shadowing and mentoring differ depending on your goals.

Shadowing can be a fruitful means to helping you discover what specialties you may want to pursue by providing you a day-in-the-life experience of an attending physician and their practice environments. These experiences are typically short-term and may be through OU Health or community medical practices and organizations in the Oklahoma City and surrounding communities. A mentor can be a helpful guide for the various facets of your medical school journey. These may be attending physicians, residents, more senior students, professors, or outside professionals in the medical industry.

Shadowing Opportunities at OU

College of Medicine students have both formal and informal opportunities to shadow physicians. Preclinical students are formally scheduled for clinical experiences during at various points during the pre-clinical curriculum. Additionally, students may sign up to partake in student-led shadowing opportunities that allows pre-clinical students to have additional opportunities within OU Health.

Finding Shadowing Opportunities Outside of OU

Finding shadowing opportunities involves identifying your interest for certain specialties and the type of setting you might want to work in. Ask yourself what you want to get out of shadowing, and then find physicians who might be able to offer that to you. Additionally, look for multiple people who you can reach out to, understanding not every physician will have the bandwidth to provide this opportunity.

Before reaching out, outline your specific requests for shadowing, including:

  • The length/duration of shadowing (single day, a few hours a week or month, summer session, etc.)
  • Your availability in the proposed timeframe
  • Any specific areas within their specialty you are particularly interested in

Structured Mentoring Opportunities

Peer Mentoring

Mentoring is a cornerstone of the OU College of Medicine experience. First-year students are paired with second-year students during Prologue week to help facilitate the transition to medical school. First-year students also have the opportunity to be mentored by a fourth-year student who may provide a broader view of the entire medical school experience, including specialty selection and The Match.


At the end of their second year or beginning of their third year, all students are assigned or select a clinical faculty advisor in their designated field of specialty. These advisors help students access information about their desired specialty, or make informed decisions about future careers if undecided. Advisors help students create fourth year schedules, apply to residency programs, and prepare for residency interviews.


Finding a Mentor

Medical students may seek out a faculty mentor on their own by using the contacts available in the Specialty GuidesFinding a mentor involves reflection on your personal needs and a defined goal. Ask yourself what you want to get out of a mentorship, and then find people at OUHSC who might be able to offer that to you. Additionally, look for multiple people who you can reach out to, and look for ways that the mentorship can be mutually beneficial. It is often nice to have some sort of project (research, QI, or educational material development) to work with a mentor on. This provides an easy and organic reason to check in regularly and stay in touch. Shadowing your mentor regularly can also serve a similar purpose. Everyone’s time is limited, so be patient throughout this process.

Also consider that you will likely benefit from having multiple mentors for various professional goals. For example, a clinician mentor would be great in helping you identify if a certain specialty is good for you and how to pursue it, an avid researcher is better suited to advise your scholarly activities, and a more senior medical student may better be able to provide guidance in how to navigate medical school, scheduling, and examinations.

AAMC 5 Tips for Finding and Working with a Mentor

Outreach Email Etiquette

After your shadowing/mentoring experience

When you’ve completed your shadowing experience or your mentor relationship has achieved its intended purpose, it’s important to remember to thank that physician for their time and perspective. Use this opportunity to ask for feedback or professional advice if you have questions or concerns about your fit with this specialty. Depending on your individual journey through medical school, these may turn into opportunities for future letters of recommendation to residency programs.