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Nearing an end to the challenging four years of medical school, a number of students take a long timeout – delaying the completion of their degree for a year – to immerse themselves in a yearlong project they hope will fuel the start of their careers.

These future physicians choose to suspend their formal education to become “student scholars” in various ways, spending their year way from school in specially designed fellowships or self-created research projects, in a field they ultimately hope to pursue.

“Students generally return to medical school reassured that they’ve chosen the right career path for them,” says James Hill, associate dean of student affairs at New Jersey Medical School. “They have the advantage of having worked somewhat independently and experienced being part of a team making a difference in people’s lives or in meaningful research endeavors. They have a better idea of what to anticipate when they graduate from medical school.”

Every year, 20 to 35 students at each Rutgers medical school – Robert Wood Johnson Medical School (RWJMS, enrollment: 684) and New Jersey Medical School (NJMS, enrollment: 738) – secure student scholar domestic or international projects, most taking the year away after their third year, although some take it a year earlier.
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