Program Director Interviews, Match, Medical Students

Program Director Interview Series: Elaine Rabin, MD | EM Residency Program Director at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, NY, NY

In this month’s addition to the Program Director Interview Series we got to chat with Elaine Rabin, MD to learn about the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Emergency Medicine Residency Program. Dr. Rabin tells us more about the program in the Big Apple.

What sets your program apart from others?

I’ll try to keep this to a succinct paragraph. Clinically, we have a wonderful balance of education at a quaternary care center, a public level I trauma center (each accounting for about 40% of EM time), and community sites. Our patients across the board are very high acuity; Many PGY2 and PGY3 shifts are dedicated to managing critical care areas at Sinai and Elmhurst, and we have an unusual number of EM-critical care trained faculty, so our critical care training is unsurpassed. Elmhurst is a beloved hidden gem of a training site, less hidden since it became “the epicenter of the epicenter” of the original U.S. pandemic surge, with immigrants and pathology from all over the world. Also, non-clinically, we take advantage of our 4-year curriculum to give our residents lots of time, mentorship, and resources to allow them to develop an expertise within EM. We have many scholarly tracks to choose, including but not limited to ultrasound, critical care, operations, pediatrics, medical education, diversity and inclusion/social EM, health policy… Scholarly tracks can serve either as a fellowship replacement or as a way to be the most qualified applicant to fellowship, so we are really a “residency plus”.

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

I think in some cases the program matters more than the format, and you should know what you are getting for the extra year in a 4-year program. In our program, we use the extra time to help you develop the basis for a career with more options. Of note, a year is a very short time over a career. I’ve never had a resident tell me that they wished we were a 3-year program, but plenty have told me towards the end of their second year that they were relieved not to already be looking for jobs.

What is something students may not know about your program?

It’s hard to communicate how close, wonderful and active our residents are during these virtual interview seasons. Many of our residents chose our program partly just based on hanging out casually with our residents. Please ask our residents about this if you need confirmation!

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

We don’t have a specific lower cutoff as long as folks have passed.

Or alternatively, how do you feel about the change to pass/fail Step 1 grading?

I don’t have strong feelings, as we don’t generally put huge importance on the boards. I do worry that the change will put more pressure on students to ace Step 2, but Step 1 was never a great predictor of who will be an excellent physician.

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

We are one of the top research institutions in EM, so residents have many opportunities in, and resources for, research. We have even had a resident complete the first year of our NIH T32 program, a fellowship that is a stepping stone to a funded research career, during her 4th year and finish it the next year.
Research experience is a great way to show you can finish projects and can be part of demonstrating that you have a deep interest in a particular area, and want to move the field forward. However, there are ways other than research to demonstrate involvement and accomplishment; it’s not a requirement for us.

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

We do. We have elective time during our 3rd and 4th year when travel is possible as well as a Global Health scholarly track supported by some funding. Closer to home, practicing in Jackson Heights, Queens, where Elmhurst is, can be like doing global health work without leaving NYC.

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

We are looking for applicants who understand EM and are excited about it, who are great team players and eager to learn, as are most programs. Additionally, our patient populations are very diverse so we seek applicants who are drawn to diversity. And as mentioned above, because we have designed our program to help residents build the foundation for a multidimensional career, we look for applicants who will take advantage of that opportunity, no matter what their chosen area is (or if they need a few years to figure it out).

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

I’ve seen so many types of applicants really thrive that I’m hesitant to answer this question. This process is about finding the right fit for both the applicants and the program. Just be yourself, make sure we know what you’ve done and what you’re passionate about, and it will work out.

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