Match, Program Director Interviews, Medical Students

Program Director Interview with Dr. Matthew Graber, Program Director at Abrazo Health Network Program in Goodyear, Arizona

In the latest installment of our PD Q&A series, we are highlighting the Abrazo Health Network Emergency Medicine Residency program. We spoke with the current PD Dr. Matthew Graber about what makes their program unique and what they look for in potential residents.

What sets your program apart from others?

We schedule up to one senior resident and one first year resident at a time during EM blocks. This ensures early access to a wide diversity of patient acuity and pathology. Starting on your first shift you will have access to the sickest patients at a Level 1 trauma center.

Our program is designed to facilitate wellness and build a strong sense of community amongst our residents and faculty. Our schedule is built to ensure reasonable working hours. We also host a series of community building events throughout the year to nurture mentorship and support within the residency. During many of these events, the department has no EM residents as we firmly believe that the department should be staffed to run efficiently without residents. Thus when residents are there, attendings are empowered to have time to teach the residents rather than just see lots of patients.

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

Our curriculum ensures that our residents graduate after 3 years as competent Emergency Medicine physicians who are prepared to practice in a wide variety of settings within our specialty. Should a resident decide to prolong their education in order to pursue a specific area of interest within Emergency Medicine, we have extensive mentorship and support in place to ensure a successful fellowship match.

What is something students may not know about your program?

Every single one of our residents had a poster or presentation accepted at AAEM this year! We are preparing for a fun and educational trip to Austin together. Several of our residents are also presenting at other national conferences including ACEP.

AAEM 2025 will be in Miami and we are already preparing our research and case report submissions!

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 take a holistic approach in selecting candidates, with board scores representing only a small piece of the overall application. Our main consideration when evaluating board scores is to ensure that candidates are likely to pass their Emergency Medicine Boards after residency.

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

We have several ongoing research projects that are available for new residents to join, ranging from POC Ultrasound to ACLS education and medical student decision making in choosing Emergency Medicine as a specialty. As a newer program, we are also open to starting new projects based on resident interest.
We take a holistic approach in evaluating candidates, with research as a desirable but not required component.

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

As a newer program, we have not had any residents rotate abroad yet. We are open to this possibility and are always looking to create new elective rotations with unique educational value. Our residents have elective time during their second and third years of residency. Additionally, for those interested in border health there is potential for an elective rotation in Nogales. We are also exploring opportunities for a rural health rotation with the Indian Health Service.

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

We are looking for applicants with proven leadership experience, who will continue to improve upon and expand the opportunities in our program, ranging from initiating new research or QI projects, to creating a new elective rotation or educational opportunities. We look at applicants’ academic records to ensure a strong work ethic and commitment to their education. Additionally, we rely on the interviews and letters of recommendation to ensure strong interpersonal and communication skills.

Can you describe any attributes and qualities that make applicants stand out?

Although an audition rotation is certainly not required, applicants with a strong performance during their audition rotation certainly stand out. Applicants that particularly excel during audition rotations show up to shift with a positive attitude and are excited to work hard and learn Emergency Medicine.

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