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Toral Patel, M.D.

Assistant Professor of Neurological Surgery, Medical Student Clerkship Director Department of Neurological Surgery (preferred method of contact)

Toral Patel, M.D.

About the Specialty

Neurological Surgery is the branch of medicine concerned with the surgical management of diseases of the central and peripheral nervous system.

Answers to Common Questions

  • Attributes of a Competitive Student

    What factors typically make a student competitive for this specialty?

    Grades, class rank, AOA, letters of recommendation, Step 1 and 2 scores, and research and publications.

  • Research

    How important is research experience in your specialty? If important, does it need to be in the specialty itself?

    Research experience is very important to matching well in Neurosurgery. Research projects that involve the neurosciences are preferable, but all research is valued.

  • Shadowing

    How can students identify opportunities for shadowing?

    Contact the Student Interest Group leaders or Dr. Patel.

  • Electives

    What electives would you recommend to a student who is interested in pursuing your specialty?

    Neurosurgery, Neurology, General Surgery, Radiology, Internal Medicine.

    Based on your experience, what tips do you have for students to shine on your electives?

    Read and be prepared (for both the OR and rounds). Work hard. Show up early, stay late.

  • Away Rotations

    Does your specialty recommend doing away rotations?


    If your specialty recommends doing away rotations, how many “aways” do you recommend?


    If away rotations are necessary, when should they apply and when should they be completed?

    Away rotations should be completed as soon as possible (immediately after your home sub-I). Ideally, all sub-Is (home and away) should be completed by the end of September (at the latest), so the letters of recommendation can be included in your ERAS application.

  • Interview Timing

    Which month do you recommend taking off to interview?

    November or December.

  • Letters of Recommendation

    How many letters of recommendation are needed to apply to your specialty?

    Four (generally speaking: two from your home program and one from each of your away rotations).

    Does your specialty recommend that all letters of recommendation be written by members of your specialty?

    Yes, unless you are an M.D./Ph.D. student. Then one of your letters can come from your Ph.D. adviser.

    If letters can come from other disciplines, do you have a recommendation as to which disciplines are more highly valued?

    Please see above.

    Does the academic rank of the letter writer matter?


    Does your specialty require a letter from the chairman?



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