Match, Program Director Interviews

Program Director Interview Series: Michael L. Epter, DO | Program Director at the Maricopa Medical Center Emergency Medicine Residency, Phoenix, AZ

Miles McDonough, MSIV, University of Washington School of Medicine
EMRA MSC Pacific Regional Representative, 2019-20

In the latest installment of our PD Q&A series, we spoke with Michael L. Epter, DO, program director at the Maricopa Medical Center EM residency in Phoenix, AZ, about what makes his program unique and what he looks for in potential residents.

What sets your program apart from others?

What we attempt to accomplish is the concept of supporting individual initiative within the program. This is done by creating a curriculum that supports that. Examples include the offering of various electives at multiple points within the 36 months of residency, as well as having specialized tracks. We are fortunate that many of our residents have contributed to the development of both the electives we offer as well as the tracks. While we are proud of the aforementioned, our ‘Copa pride is our greatest accomplishment over the 30-plus years of the program. It is simply palpable.

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

This is largely an individual decision based on a variety of variables, including curriculum (i.e. number of electives offered), career aspirations (i.e. academia versus community EM), location, fit, etc. However, what I have noticed over the last ten years has been a continual increase in the number of fellowships offered within EM. Attending a three-year program then affords the opportunity for the resident to develop a career niche earlier, assuming that all other variables are equal, and understanding that wherever you attend residency you will get excellent training. This may be the key benefit of a three- vs. a four-year program.

What is something students may not know about your program?

We have moved to more of a consortium of hospitals that offer the best clinical experiences for residents. In addition, we are now affiliated with Creighton University School of Medicine.

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

We do not have an absolute cut off on either. We appreciate that unforeseen circumstances can come up that may not allow a prospective applicant to perform to their expectations. When this occurs, we look to the personal statement to elaborate on this. Some students do not perform particularly well and then show a substantial improvement on the USMLE Step 2 CK or COMLEX 2, which deserves weighting when looking at the application.

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

Due to our care of the underserved, there are opportunities within public health the are ripe for the taking at Maricopa. I personally do not weigh research experience prior to residency as a key variable in application review.

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

Residents can pursue global health readily as an option for their electives. We have been fortunate to have rotations available in multiple parts of the globe which has resulted in research opportunities as well as employment after graduation.

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

Be unique! While this sounds very cliché, it is important to have goals that extend beyond wanting to become an accomplished emergency physician. What will you contribute to the development of our program that will make the next 30 years even better than the previous? Have a purpose, embrace it, and realize that there aren't any boundaries to what you can become.

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

Be involved! This can be within your medical school (committees, EMIG, student interviewing, mentoring, advocacy), nationally (EMRA), free clinic, community service, etc. These intangibles (or lack thereof) speak volumes about you and give me a snapshot of who you may be/what you may do as a prospective resident.

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