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Atlantis students in a patient examination room (Genoa, Italy, 2019).


How to Ask to Shadow a Doctor: One Pre-Med’s Successful Strategy

Marissa profile

About Marissa

Marissa is a recent graduate of Clemson University where she received her B.S. in Health Sciences. During the summer of 2019, Marissa participated in the Atlantis shadowing program in Trento, Italy, and now works as an Alumni Representative with the company. She is currently applying to medical school where she hopes to become a primary care physician.

If you are interested in shadowing a doctor, but don’t know where to start, then this is the right place for you! Listed below are some quick tips and examples that you can use to help score that big opportunity.

Research First and Find Out What You Want

Before you contact your local doctors, it is important that you take the time to figure out what you want. Are you interested in a specific specialty? Do you want to shadow in a clinical or private practice? Do you want to shadow domestically or through a study abroad program like Atlantis? These are all questions you can ask yourself to help narrow down the search. Once you have decided what you want to shadow, you can now find who you want to shadow. 

Get Contact Information

There are many ways that you can obtain your desired physician’s email address. You can either find them online through their workplaces, or you can get them from personal contacts. Make a list of people you would like to contact and include any other information that might be relevant. For instance, you could include clinical or research interests that will help your shadowing request stand out.

Jane Doe MD, obstetrics and gynecology 

          Clinical interests: reproductive endocrinology, hormonal imbalances

          Research interests: endometriosis

Reach Out Through Email

Each email that you write should be personal. If you have created a list of physicians to contact, I recommend waiting for a response from one doctor before emailing the next. It is important to be short and succinct in your email. Listed below is a potential formula that you can use:

Subject: Clinical shadowing inquiry from a premedical student

Body: Include your name, major, and school; how you heard about he/she and received the email address; and what you are interested in. Lastly, ask if they are willing and what days/times would be most convenient for them.

Dear Dr. Jane Doe,

My name is Marissa Jansen and I am currently a freshman health science student at Clemson University. I was told by my good friend, Jessica Smith, that you allow undergraduate students to shadow your clinical rounds and she greatly enjoyed the experience. I am interested in primary care and would love an opportunity to observe you so that I may get a better understanding on what being a primary care physician is like firsthand. If you are willing and able, please let me know what days and times are most convenient for you. I look forward to hearing from you.

Warm regards,

Marissa Jansen

Follow-up Promptly

Healthcare professionals are very busy people and have to read many emails every day. If you have not received a response within a week, do not freak out. Instead, send a follow-up email. This email should be very similar to the email you sent previously. You may continue to email them once a week, if necessary. Be patient, but do not give up. Oftentimes, physicians will appreciate that you have taken the initiative to continue to reach out. 

Write a Thank You Letter

Being able to shadow a physician is a valuable experience. Once you have shadowed, write a thank you note to give to the doctor on your last day. This note should thank them for the time and thoughtfulness they put into the experience for you. Additionally, if you think that the shadowing went well, you can ask for a letter of recommendation right away. Maintaining a great relationship with the physician you shadowed is always beneficial to you as an applicant.  

What if I Can’t Find a Shadowing Opportunity?

If it is becoming difficult to find shadowing opportunities, it may be helpful to check out the AAMC shadowing guide for more tips and tricks to excel in shadowing. Fortunately, there are programs that exist that are designed to help students find ways to shadow physicians. For instance, Atlantis is an organization that aims to provide students with the skills necessary to excel in medicine. Additionally, students who participate in Atlantis programs have the opportunity to shadow physicians all around the world, expanding their understanding in global health. When I shadowed abroad in Italy in 2019, not only was I able to witness amazing surgeries firsthand, but I was also able to develop my perspectives on healthcare and how we should treat patients. 

If you are not able to find a shadowing opportunity because of COVID-19, there are also a variety of virtual shadowing opportunities for students to continue to gain valuable clinical experience. 

Cover of the Medical School Admissions Guide.

Two Atlantis alumni admitted to Top 5 MD programs wrote our widely read medical school admissions guidebook guidebook — download yours.

Our Alumni Enter Great Medical Schools

John Daines headshot.

John Daines

  • Atlantis '17
  • Brigham Young University '19
  • Washington U. in St. Louis MD '23
Zoey Petitt headshot.

Zoey Petitt

  • Atlantis '17
  • U. of Arizona '18
  • Duke MD '23
Yong hun Kim headshot.

Yong-hun Kim

  • Atlantis '17
  • Stanford '19
  • Mayo Clinic MD '24
Megan Branson headshot.

Megan Branson

  • Atlantis '18
  • U. of Montana '19
  • U. of Washington MD '24
Sarah Emerick headshot.

Sarah Emerick

  • Atlantis '19
  • Eckerd College '20
  • Indiana U. MD '25
Snow Nwankwo headshot.

Snow Nwankwo

  • Atlantis '19
  • Catholic U. of America '21
  • Georgetown U. MD '26
Tiffany Hu headshot.

Tiffany Hu

  • Atlantis '16
  • U. of Maryland '17
  • U. of Michigan MD '22
Lauren Cox headshot.

Lauren Cox

  • Atlantis '18
  • Louisiana Tech '20
  • U. of Arkansas MD '24
Kayla Riegler headshot.

Kayla Riegler

  • Atlantis '18
  • U. of Kentucky '20
  • U. of Kentucky MD '24

About Atlantis

Atlantis is the leader in pre-health shadowing and clinical experience, offering short-term programs (1-10 weeks) over academic breaks for U.S. pre-health undergraduates. Medical schools want 3 things: (1)healthcare exposure, (2)GPA/MCAT, and (3)certain competencies. Atlantis gives you a great version of (1), frees you to focus on (2), and cultivates/shows (3) to medical school admissions committees.

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Watch Video: The Atlantis Shadowing Experience and How it Helps In Your Med/PA Admissions Future

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Cover of the Medical School Admissions Guide.
Two Atlantis alumni admitted to Top 5 MD programs wrote our widely read medical school admissions guidebook — download yours.