The Ins and Outs of Away Rotations

08 Mar 2020

By Shan Lansing

Let’s talk about away rotations. Visiting Student Learning Opportunities, are short-term electives traditionally for fourth-year medical students to experience rotations at an institution other than their home school. Students do away rotations for a number of reasons. In some specialties such as orthopedic surgery and plastic surgery, away rotations seem to be an important part of matching into residency programs. On the other hand, students applying to specialties in which away electives are known to be optional, may do the rotation to explore how the specialty is run at other institutions.  

When considering the risks and benefits, away rotations are somewhat controversial. It can be expensive to submit the application through the VSLO site, travel, and find temporary housing in a new city. Furthermore, students are often advised that it is as easy to make a bad impression at another institution as it is to make a good impression. Even the best students can have a bad day during a 4-week rotation, and it’s possible that would be their lasting impression. That said, it is clear that in many cases, away rotations can strengthen a student’s residency application, and serve as an opportunity for the student to determine if the program and city are a good fit for their future.  

To hear more on how to succeed on an away rotations, join the AWS National Medical Student Committee in the upcoming Tweetchat on March 16th at 8pm Eastern Time. We will be guided by our moderators Drs. Thomas Varghese, Melissa Erickson, Haripriya Ayyala, and Faith Robertson to discuss applying to and preparing for away rotations, and advice for success on away rotations. 

To participate, follow @womensurgeons and moderators, then tag your tweets with the hashtag #AWSChat. Be sure to keep an eye out for Tweets from members of the AWS Medical Student Committee who helped to organize this TweetChat: @AshleyYJChoi, @camila_guetter, @ShanSLansing, @ElisaAtamian, and @AbraShen

If you haven’t participated in a tweetchat with us before, check out this tutorial written by Dr. Heather Yeo (@heatheryeomd) to know more!


Tweetchat Moderators:

–   Dr. Thomas K. Varghese Jr. (@TomVargheseJr) – Interim Executive Medical Director and Chief Value Officer at the Huntsman Cancer Institute, Head of the Section of General Thoracic Surgery, Program Director of the Cardiothoracic Surgery Fellowship at the University of Utah.

–   Dr. Melissa Erickson (@drericksonspine) – Assistant Professor of Orthopaedics at Duke University Hospital, specializing in Spine Surgery.

–   Dr. Haripriya Ayyala (@ayyalahsMD) – Plastic Surgery Resident at Rutgers in New Jersey, PGY5.

–   Dr. Faith Robertson (@FaithCRobertson) – Neurosurgery Resident at Massachusetts General Hospital, PGY1. 2018-2019 Chair of the AWS National Medical Student Committee. 


Questions for the Tweetchat:

  1. What are some things students should take into consideration when deciding to apply for away rotations?
  2. As for the match, do residency programs favor students who have done an externship at their institution or in the same geographic region?
  3. What are your thoughts on seeking a letter of recommendation from a professor at an away rotation? Is it expected or an added bonus?
  4. What are the impacts of COVID-19 in pursuing away rotations and how should students plan around it? How will cancelation of away rotations affect students applying to specialties that traditionally expect multiple aways?
  5. We know that away rotations can be expensive, both from application and housing costs. Any financial advice for students applying to away rotations?
  6. Parting thoughts: We often hear the best advice is to “be yourself.” What other advice do you have for students once they’re at an away rotation?

Shan Lansing is a third-year medical student at The Ohio State University College of Medicine. Originally from southern Oregon, she attended Oregon State University where she earned a dual Bachelors in Chemistry and Biohealth Sciences. She continued at Oregon State University for a Masters in Analytical Chemistry. Her current research interests include increasing surgical patient communication during the transition from inpatient care to outpatient followup to improve quality outcomes. Ultimately, Shan seeks to pursue a career in rural general surgery, aiming to provide compressive surgical care for an underserved community. In her free time, she enjoys running, cooking, and cross-stitching. You can find her on Twitter @ShanSLansing.


Our blog is a forum for our members to speak, and as such, statements made here represent the opinions of the author and are not necessarily the opinion of the Association of Women Surgeons.

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