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The Importance of Shadowing Physicians – Summer Opportunities

Last Updated on June 22, 2022 by Laura Turner

One of the most common mistakes pre-medical students make when applying to medical school is not shadowing physicians whose practice aligns with their career goals.

What is Shadowing?

Shadowing is the intentional observation of the interaction a doctor has with their patient. The intent behind shadowing physicians is usually to learn the ins and outs of what it’s like to be a doctor in their field. The student usually does not interact with the patient in any way during shadowing (unless the patient asks them questions about their educational or career goals). One important thing to remember when shadowing is to ask permission from the patient before you observe them. Not every patient likes a third party to learn the details of their medical history.

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Benefits of Physician Shadowing

Shadowing Physicians when applying to medical schools will make your application stand out, impress medical schools, and ultimately help you become a better physician, should you decide to become one.

Shadowing doctors is a great way to find out whether that specific field is right for you. You can learn as much as you want about a particular field of healthcare through research or television, but the most accurate way to learn is by directly observing a professional in the field. If you are curious about a field, this is a good way for you to figure out if that career is the right choice for you. You will learn what a typical day is like for that doctor. Physician shadowing can also help you learn about different research and medical settings.

Remember that doctors are not required to educate you or explain any of their medical processes during the shadowing process. It is up to each person how much they want to learn by actively being engaged in the exams they are shadowing. It is always a good idea to build a good relationship with the doctor you shadow because they have experience and can also write a letter of recommendation for your medical school applications.

Medical Schools Love Applicants That Shadow Physicians

Shadowing physicians also lets medical schools know that you went the extra mile to make yourself a prime candidate for their program. Medical schools want students who work hard since it is not easy to become a physician. Taking the time out of your schedule to shadow a physician shows admission committees that you are committed to your medical career path.

Having experience with shadowing physicians also shows medical school admission teams that you have what it takes to be a medical student or resident. Residents and medical students spend a lot of time working directly alongside a physician and even simply observing a physician. Therefore, shadowing physicians before applying for medical school is a good experience for those who plan to be medical students or residents one day.

Finding Summer Opportunities for Physician Shadowing

There are many different ways to look for summer opportunities to shadow a physician as an aspiring medical student. You can call up the hospitals in the area you are interested in and ask if they have any physicians on staff that would be willing to have a student shadow them. You can also find local clinics in your area by a simple google search and call the clinics yourself to see if they have shadowing opportunities. Most doctors are very receptive to have students shadow them. However, each clinic or hospital is different, so make sure to ask about any policies you need to be aware of before shadowing that physician.

NAAHP – Resource for Finding Summer Opportunities

There are countless opportunities available for students interested in shadowing physicians during the Summer. The National Associations of Advisors for the Health Professions (NAAHP) website offers excellent ways to shadow physicians for aspiring medical students.

What is the NAAHP?

The NAAHP is an organization that includes various health profession advisors at different universities and colleges throughout the United States of America and around the globe. NAAHP was created in 1974 in an effort to combine all of the nation’s more qualified health advisors and allow them to speak with one voice. Since it was created, the organization has grown tremendously into a beneficial resource for aspiring medical students. The NAAHP offers opinions of health experts from the fields of dentistry, health administration, acupuncture and oriental medicine, optometry, podiatric medicine, public health, and more.

Summer Opportunities on the NAAHP Website

For a complete list of the summer opportunities available for shadowing physicians, you can visit the NAAHP website. We have compiled a list of some of our favorite summer opportunities that we think would be useful for aspiring medical students.

  1. Chicago Academic Medicine Program: The University of Chicago offers a six-week program for undergraduate students who need help building skills and gaining valuable information about succeeding in medical school. Opportunities to shadow physicians are provided through this program.
  2. The Michigan Health Sciences Career Development Academy: This organization offers an eight-week program to help prepare students to apply for medical school. Shadowing physicians are part of the process.
  3. CSPM Summer Immersion Program: The California School of Podiatric Medicine offers a unique program that gives students valuable information about podiatric medicine and surgery.

Shadowing Abroad

Another way to make your medical school application stand out while also getting some unique experience is to shadow physicians abroad. International Medical Aid is just one organization that holds summer opportunities for those looking to so abroad. They offer opportunities in various medical specialties such as Cardiology, ENT, Ophthalmology, Epidemiology, Neurosurgery, Emergency Medicine, Pediatrics, and more. There is an endless opportunity of internships available by other organizations as well for those interested in exploring a new part of the world while also learning about the medical field.

International Medical Aid is an excellent organization that offers informative and exciting healthcare internships abroad for students interested in shadowing physicians internationally.

Africa Medical Aid also offers shadowing opportunities for students who want to learn about the medical field and immerse in culture by observing clinicians in East Africa.


Whether you choose to shadow physicians internationally or within the United States of America, one thing is for sure. Directly observing doctors’ interactions with their patients will impress any medical school you apply to. Truly, shadowing physicians is one of the most effective ways to prepare you for your medical school journey.