Match, Program Director Interviews

Program Director Interview Series: Matthew Carlisle, MD, MAS | Program Director at LSU Spirit of Charity’s Emergency Medicine Residency, New Orleans, LA

Leena Owen, OMS-IV, Nova Southeastern University 
EMRA MSC Southeast 2 Regional Representative, 2019-2020

Our PD Q&A series is back in the Southeast this month, featuring an interview with Dr. Matthew Carlisle, Program Director at Louisiana State University’s Spirit of Charity Emergency Medicine Residency Program in New Orleans. He spoke to us about increasing research opportunities available to residents and the program’s strong commitment to the diverse community it serves.

What sets your program apart from others?

I would say it’s our commitment to our community and to creating inclusion and diversity within our program. While a lot of programs treat a diverse underserved patient population in the hospital, our residents and faculty are leaders in our community and our city. Whether it is Street Medicine, community clinics, youth outreach, or advocating for health policy changes, we are committed to serving the people around us. We are part of this city and our patients are neighbors and friends. We are a diverse community, whether it be race, gender, socio-economic stasis, or sexual preference. We understand that diversity and inclusion strengthens teams and organizations and we seek this out in our applicants, residents, and faculty.

What are the benefits of attending a three- vs. a four-year EM residency program?

We get this question asked a lot and I think there are definitely some advantages to our fourth year. In addition to graduating clinically stronger, our residents have the opportunity to act in a “mini-attending” role as a charge resident. They oversee the interns’ and medical students’ assessments and plans and help to develop their medical decision-making while also educating and teaching procedural competency. The flexibility provided in having a fourth year in combination with a significant amount of elective time has provided residents with an opportunity to create a niche for themselves during residency. Having interests outside of the clinical sphere gives physicians an outlet to increase career longevity and decrease burnout.

What is something students may not know about your program?

Our program is well known for our flagship home hospital of UMC (“New Charity”), but we also have a variety of other clinical sites. The residents also rotate at two community ER’s, the New Orleans VA Hospital, an additional tertiary referral site that sees a larger Medicare population with complex medical histories, and a rural critical access hospital. This really rounds out our residents’ education, allowing them to get an opportunity to see different patient populations and different clinical environments.

What range of USMLE/COMLEX Step 1 scores do you look for in an applicant for the program?

While I can’t say we don’t take USMLE/COMLEX into account, we don’t set an arbitrary cutoff for Step 1 scores. Medical knowledge and clinical skills are complex things to discern and Step 1 has to be considered alongside things such as performance on shift, interpersonal and interprofessional interactions, and past experiences. In considering a candidate for interviewing, we often look more at SLOEs, activities, and potential “fit” than at standardized tests.

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

Our research opportunities run a wide gamut incorporating animal studies, registry data, randomized trials, and chart reviews. In particular, our strengths have been in hyperbarics, ultrasound, HIV/Hep C, health disparities, airway, and trauma topics. Although we have a strong core of research and publications, we continue to strive for more. This year, we have developed a new faculty position of Resident Research Director who has the sole responsibility of helping residents to develop, implement and draft research. Dr. Stephen Lim has jumped in with both feet and has already gotten a few projects off the ground. We are all excited for this new position and expect great things from him and from our residents! While we always appreciate those students who have participated and conducted research, it is in no way a prerequisite to being a successful resident here. We know there are multiple ways to contribute to the larger academic community and we don’t expect every resident to be an NIH researcher after leaving the program.

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

Our residents have the opportunity to pursue a variety of global health experiences. While we don’t have a primary international site, there are several developed rotations residents can complete. Our goal is to provide mentorship in creating sustainable, longitudinal partnerships. Another advantage of having the flexibility of fourth year is the ability to craft your own experience and potentially visit a site over multiple years.

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

Being intentional about diversity and inclusion makes it difficult to point out just a few qualities that we seek out: that’s the whole point! That being said, we look for candidates that are clinically strong and know what it is to be part of a larger team. We value commitment to service and treating an underserved population. We appreciate candidates who have special skills or experience, for example in ultrasound, EMS, bioinformatics, health policy, research, or global health. We look for students with diverse backgrounds and life experiences that can add to the complex “gumbo” we call a residency.

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

We love to see candidates with leadership experience. Whether that is acting as class representative, involvement in EMRA, or organizing/running clinics out in the community, involvement in activities outside of the classroom and student duties is always a plus. Community service and patient advocacy also stands out for us. Essentially, we like to see that potential residents like to contribute to the larger community.

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