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December 11, 2012

Chris Woleben offers guidance for nation’s 80,000 medical students

Christopher Woleben, M.D.

Christopher Woleben, M.D.

Christopher Woleben, M.D., is accustomed to fourth-year students knocking on his door with questions about how to spend the first few months of the fourth-year. Should they take off time to study for the national boards? Or perhaps devote the time to an away elective at the medical center where they’d like to train in their favorite specialty?

In a departure from the normal one-on-one conversations, he recently answered those questions for the benefit of the more than 80,000 medical students across the United States.

The AAMC called on his expertise for the winter 2013 edition of its Choices newsletter. The newsletter is distributed electronically to students nationwide as part of the AAMC’s Careers in Medicine program. His answers appear in an Ask the Advisor column, Planning Your Fourth Year.

A graduate of the medical school’s Class of 1997, Woleben is now associate dean for student affairs at his alma mater. He explains that students need to plan wisely to maximize their chances of successfully matching to the training program of their choice. One part of that is “prioritizing the limited time available at the beginning of the fourth year,” he says.

Woleben has created the medical school’s own four-year advising program, called Careers in Medicine at VCU, which helps medical students select their paths in medicine and develop career planning skills that will assist in them in residency and beyond.

“According to surveys of our students, approximately 65 percent change their minds during medical school about the medical specialty they want to pursue,” Woleben says. “The goal of Careers in Medicine is to help students find their fit with the specialty that best suits them. We have done very well with our residency match statistics over the years, and I would like to think the program has made some impact on the success of our students.”

This is the fifth year the program has been in place. Over that time, Woleben has collaborated with the AAMC’s Jeanette Calli, who directs the AAMC’s national Careers in Medicine program, as well as Anita Navarro, a research analyst with the AAMC program. As a result of their past work, they asked Woleben if he would be interested in writing the column for the winter edition.

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Updated: 04/29/2016