Program Director Interviews, Match, Advising

Program Director Interview Series: Nicole McCoin, MD | Vanderbilt Emergency Medicine

In this installment of the Program Director Interview Series, Nicole McCoin, MD, offers an overview of Vanderbilt Emergency Medicine

What sets your program apart from others?
Vanderbilt EM offers trainees diversity of excellence. We intentionally recruit our faculty members based on what they can offer from an educational perspective to our residents in training. Each of our faculty members has a niche about which they are quite passionate. These niches include EMS, International Medicine, Ultrasound, Simulation, Research, Sports Medicine, Toxicology, Medical Photography, Informatics and many more. When you come to Vanderbilt to train, you open doors to a multitude of new opportunities and experiences. We teach you about these many facets of Emergency Medicine in order to help you make an informed decision about your career paths and interests.

Vanderbilt EM is nationally known for quality teaching. We are proud of our didactic curriculum and our bedside teaching. Our didactics are designed for adult learners. We offer short, approximate 25 minute lectures, delivering key teaching points in an interactive style. We integrate simulation and small group learning into our curriculum. We have a Noon Case Conference that covers approximately 10 rapid fire cases presented by our residents to each other in an oral board style format. We really try to take innovation in education to a new level.

Vanderbilt EM is a family that has now been established for over a quarter of a century. Once you join our program, there is a part of Vanderbilt that stays with you no matter where your career takes you after residency. We help our residents progress through three years of hard work in residency by creating a strong network of mentorship and support. If you come to any of our events, from one of our didactic sessions to one of the interview dinners, you can easily see firsthand the camaraderie that exists here at Vanderbilt. For me, these connections and friendships built over the years mean the most.

What are the benefits of attending a 3- vs. 4-year EM residency program?
This is always a heavily debated topic, and people tend to have strong feelings on the subject. Here at Vanderbilt, we don’t think of it as 3 years versus 4 years. We think of it as “3+1” vs four. That extra year after your first three years of training can then be spent on your personal career interests and goals. Let me give you some examples:

  1. You could choose to use that year after three years of resident training to go ahead and go into the community and start paying off loans.
  2. You could choose to use that year after three years of resident training to go ahead and start working on a fellowship of your choosing.
  3. Here at Vanderbilt, you could use that year after three years of resident training to do a Chief Year. Our Chief Year is a year separate from resident training where you serve as an attending, and you also spend much of your time learning administrative skills, teaching, and mentoring the residents.

These are just a few of the many examples of what you can do with that time. By having the year as a “3 plus 1,” it allows you to be in full control of that “plus 1” year in your career path. Our program actually started as a 4-year program and then converted to a 3-year program years ago after we saw the obvious benefits of doing so.

What is something students may not know about your program?
First, Vanderbilt Emergency Department has a patient population that is quite diverse. We do see a lot of very medically complex patients as we serve as a major referral center with a large catchment area. We see a lot of patients from the community immediately around Vanderbilt as well. However, we also have a significant indigent care population. We are the largest provider of charity care in the state of Tennessee. Our patient population in our main ED, along with our longitudinal exposure at the Nashville VA and the Vanderbilt Pediatric ED and rotations at Sumner Regional Medical Center (our community site), afford the residents a phenomenal breadth of clinical exposure.

Second, Vanderbilt EM has a strong commitment in international medicine. Vanderbilt EM started a residency program in Guyana about 7 years ago. One of our EM faculty or one of our International Medicine Fellows is there most weeks of the year teaching the Guyanese residents. Many or our Vanderbilt EM residents travel there during their residency to teach and help train their residents. Their residents also rotate here at Vanderbilt. It is a wonderful program, and it has been great to see EM grow as a specialty within Guyana.

Last, Nashville, TN, the home to Vanderbilt EM, is one of the fastest growing cities in the US with anywhere from 80-100 people moving to Nashville each day. People are figuring it out – Nashville is a friendly city with a small-town feel. We have four seasons and abundant outdoor opportunities. It is easy to travel in and out of Nashville. There are diverse employment opportunities. The cost of living is good… and the music scene is pretty awesome. 

What range of USMLE/COMLEX Step 1 scores do you look for in an applicant for the program?
We focus on the whole application. So, we don’t have a firm cutoff for Step 1. We do accept DO applications, but we require USMLE scores for all our applicants.

What opportunities for research exist? Do you look for residency candidates with research experience?
Once again, we focus on the whole application. In other words, applicants would still be considered even if they don’t have much research experience but do have a lot of strengths in other areas of the application.

We have great opportunities in Vanderbilt EM for those who are interested in research. Vanderbilt Emergency Medicine is a national leader in emergency care research. We are leaders in designing innovative ED-based research and top enrollers in both industry and federally funded studies. We were one of the original six programs selected by the NIH to create a K12 Emergency Care Scholars Programs and now one of only three programs nationally to have a second K12. We are proud of the fact that our scholars have successfully obtained either K23 or R01 funding. Our program also sponsors residents’ travel to national conferences to present their research. 

Do you have opportunities to explore global health at your institution?
As I mentioned above (Question 3), Vanderbilt EM started an Emergency Medicine Residency Program in Guyana, and many of our residents travel to Guyana during residency to help teach the Guyanese residents and work clinically there. We have a Division of International Medicine, and an International Medicine Fellowship here at Vanderbilt. We have two selective months during training that many of our residents use to explore our global health options. 

What are some qualities your program looks for in applicants?
Really it is quite simple. We are looking for nice, intelligent, hard-working people who want to be part of our team. Our residents give 150%, and we give them 150% as well. Our residents are the focal point of our department. This is not a residency program in which you can sail through or fly under the radar. Each resident has a special place here. We individualize each resident’s training and mentorship with the goal of helping the resident meet his or her maximal potential.

Interested in learning more about the Vanderbilt Emergency Medicine Residency Program? Get details!

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