Optimizing Your 3rd and 4th Years of Medical School: Resources for Networking, Mentorships, and Continuing Research

18 Jan 2024

By Kayla Martinez, MS4

Approaching the final years of medical school is a paradox of fulfillment and stress. While students eagerly anticipate the conclusion of their academic journey, the looming task of applying for residency introduces a new layer of reality and pressure. Third and fourth years of medical school are opportunities to further your career by networking, finding mentors, and continuing research. Drawing from my experience as a current general surgery applicant, I have curated valuable resources that I believe can greatly assist prospective applicants navigating the uncertainties of what steps to take next.


Networking provides access to various opportunities, such as research collaborations, clinical experiences, and mentorship. Building a network allows medical students to connect with professionals who can offer valuable insights and guidance. Attempt to make strong connections with residents and attendings in your specialty of choice. For example, if you connect or bond with a particular surgeon or general surgery resident, attempt to get as much exposure to them as possible – scrub their cases, take your opportunity to shine as much as possible, and leave a lasting positive impression. These fostered connections can lead to invitation to collaborate on research projects, community outreach initiatives, letters of recommendation, or other endeavors that can significantly contribute to your professional growth. Networking can lead to mentorships, establishing meaningful ties beyond the operating room.


Establishing connections with experienced professionals provides medical students with mentorship opportunities. Mentors can offer advice, share their experiences, and provide valuable guidance for navigating the challenges of medical education and training. Several national clubs and organizations offer mentorship programs for medical students; look for national organizations that align with your specialty interests. For example, the Association of Women Surgeons (AWS) has a national journal club opportunity for medical students to virtually present interesting articles related to surgery. Such organizations often have mentor-mentee opportunities for medical students to be paired with residents. Lastly, these organizations usually have annual meetings, where medical students can present their research via poster or oral presentation. Medical students can be members of several organizations, including the American College of Physicians, American College of Surgeons, Association of Women Surgeons, Latino Surgical Society… the list goes on. Membership fees for medical students are very affordable, usually ranging from $0-50 USD. To remain actively engaged with these organizations, consider subscribing to their weekly newsletters and connecting with them on social media platforms. This way, you can stay well-informed about their latest developments at both the national and regional levels—especially if events are occurring near you or in the state you wish to go to residency in!

Continuing Research: 

Acquiring research as a medical student involves exploring diverse channels. Despite the initial apprehension and uncertainty about where to start, multiple avenues exist to successfully pursue publication/research opportunities. If you are rotating at a large academic institution, touch base with a designated research department or International Review Board (IRB) advisor to see if current or future projects are seeking student involvement. If you are at a smaller community-based institution, finding research might require more skill. Here are some simpler ways to find research:

Stay Engaged: Be present during your clinical rotations. Typically, residents are doing their own research, looking for help from medical students related to writing, editing, data collection, or basic statistics. If a resident or attending states a particular patient case is “interesting,” as a medical student, my next question would be “could I write a case report on this patient?” Usually, residents or attendings will encourage you to research the rarity or complexity of the case and will advocate for you to be a part of the case report. Additionally, for rotations that are heavily based on imaging such as radiology/interventional radiology, orthopedic surgery, pathology, or interventional cardiology, to name a few – interesting images can also be published as clinical images in certain online medical journals. Keep your eyes open for these opportunities. 

The Cureus Journal of Medical Science, Part of Springer Nature Group: Cureus is an open access medical journal for healthcare professionals. This online medical journal aims to generate and disseminate medical knowledge by providing fast publication rates and opportunities for waived publication fees. Upon completing a submission, ensure that you are the corresponding author, as other journals will contact you with future submission opportunities. Upon publication, your work will be indexed in PubMed. 

StatPearls, Medical Student Contributors: Medical students have the opportunity to write review articles and create practice questions related to basic medical sciences. Authors can receive academic credit for their work, which will be published in eBooks, Apps, and into an online learning CME/CE system. All articles are published and indexed in PubMed. This publication is completely free.

In-Training, The Agora of the Medical Student Community: An online peer-reviewed publication for the medical student community, cultivating a collaborative center for discourse. In-Training allows medical students to submit reflection pieces, essays, poems, and art related to medicine. This publication is completely free.

Kayla Martinez is a fourth year medical student at Ross University School of Medicine. She has applied for general surgery residency this current application cycle. Her surgical interests include surgical critical care/acute care surgery. Her passion for surgery comes from the intricate team based approach to care found within the operating room. As a student mentor, tutor, and orientation leader, she has consistently advocated for the success and well-being of fellow medical students. For the past 2 years she has been living in Detroit, Michigan. Born and raised in Buffalo, NY, Kayla enjoys watching and attending Buffalo Bills football games. Beyond her medical endeavors, she finds joy in indoor cycling, Orangetheory fitness, thrifting, and cultivating her gardening skills.

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