Match, Medical Students, Program Director Interviews

Program Director Interview Series: Christopher Freeman, MD | EM Residency Program Director at The University of Miami/Jackson Health System Emergency Medicine Residency Program

In this month’s addition to the Program Director Interview Series we got to chat with Christopher Freeman, MD to learn about the University of Miami/Jackson Health System Emergency Medicine Residency Program. Dr. Freeman tells us more about residency in sunny Miami, Florida.

What sets your program apart from others?

There are so many things that set our program apart from the rest. Our primary institution, Jackson Memorial Hospital, is one of the largest public hospitals in the country. With the knowledge that most residency graduates go on to practice at community sites, one of our other clinical sites is a high-volume, cardiac and stroke community hospital where residents spend three months a year. As a county program, we are committed to social emergency medicine and have a very active program that focuses on community outreach, social justice, optimizing the care of individuals in need, and an educational curriculum. Graduates from our program are prepared to complete a variety of fellowships and are trained to practice in any clinical setting. 

What are the benefits of attending a 3 vs. 4 year EM residency program?

While there are certainly merits to both styles, we believe that our residents get amazing training in three years and are highly prepared to practice individually as attendings. Four-year programs allow more time for research, global health, and other academic interests. Our three-year program allows for enough flexibility to participate in all of the above programs while giving our graduates more time in their careers to pursue fellowship after residency.

What is something students may not know about your program?

We are truly a family. I have been involved in medical education for a long time at various institutions and I have never experienced a group of residents as close and supportive of each other as ours. I also think it is important to note the dedication that our program leadership has to the individual interests of our residents. We have accommodated residents who take national teaching or research courses during their EM blocks or who have secured externships in business or other pursuits. We truly want our residents to succeed in everything that they are passionate about.  

What range of USMLE/COMLEX Step 1 scores do you look for in an applicant for the program? Or alternatively, how do you feel about the change to pass/fail Step 1 grading?

We do not have any set range for standardized testing and truly employ a holistic approach when selecting applicants for interviews. We look for applicants who have a strong track record both academically and in the community. The change to the pass/fail grading system will make it even more important to find residents with unique attributes that fit well with our program’s established culture of teamwork and community involvement.

What kinds of opportunities for research exist? Do you look for residency candidates with research experience?

We look for residents who have passion within and outside of emergency medicine. If research happens to be what an applicant is interested in then having research experience is great. It certainly isn’t a requirement.

In terms of opportunities, by virtue of being a large academic and county program there is always at least one large research study happening in the department at a given time. We have a number of faculty that are very active in research and are always looking to get residents involved. At the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, a lot of our residents got valuable research experience as we had many active research projects. Many of our residents have been able to start their own research studies with faculty mentorship, while others have been able to publish case reports or reviews.

Do you have opportunities to explore global health at your institution?

Yes; many residents have participated in global health during their training at our institution. One of our attendings routinely takes residents with him when he goes to the refugee camps in Mexico along the US border to provide care. During their elective month, residents have the option to travel abroad and participate in global health projects. For example, this month one of our third years participated in a month-long wilderness medicine course in France!

What are some qualities that your program looks for in applicants?

We look for residents who are hard-workers, have integrity, and have a track record of impressive work in their communities. As a county program, we have a big emphasis on social EM and look for residents who truly aim to make a positive impact in our patients’ lives and in the greater Miami and Fort Lauderdale communities. We are also looking for residents who will graduate from our program and be leaders in the field, so having some leadership experience is always a plus.

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