Match, Program Director Interviews, Medical Students

Program Director Interview Series: Mark Saks MD MPH FAAEM FACEP Program Director at Crozer Chester Medical Center

In the latest installment of our PD Q&A series, we are highlighting the Crozer Chester Medical Center Emergency Medicine Residency program. We spoke with the current PD Dr. Mark Saks, MD, about what makes his program unique and what he looks for in potential residents.

What sets your program apart from others?

We are a 3-year program located in the city of Chester, PA, along the Delaware River just outside of Philadelphia. This allows for lifestyle flexibility as we are a short drive from Center City Philadelphia but centered in an area with many small towns, suburban areas, and more rural locales with affordable housing and highly ranked school districts that are close to outdoor recreation areas. Philly is a city full of fantastic neighborhoods replete with great food, major sports, museums, music venues, and other attractions. Our program is family friendly, and we are quite proud to support our faculty and residents growing families. Our close-knit faculty and residents work in an atmosphere where people feel ownership over their training and strong bonds form that persist long past completion of residency training.

Our program allows a very concentrated experience while still preparing you well for an academic or community career, whichever is desired. The immediate area around our hospitals is quite varied and we serve a great diversity of high acuity, medically underserved medical and trauma patients. We have a large catchment area, and our EMS providers are an extension of our department in our communities. We partner with two pediatric hospitals, but all our EDs see pediatric patients daily, so our residents routinely treat pediatric patients on their day-to-day EM shifts, not just on dedicated pediatric blocks.

Our hospitals have a long history of Graduate Medical Education and sponsor a number of residency and fellowship training programs. We have great specialty coverage, but our residents are largely unopposed regarding specialty surgery and sub-specialty medical services. EM residents will have in-dept subspecialty exposure to Toxicology, Emergency Ultrasound (including TEE and regional anesthesia), EMS, Sports Medicine, and Pediatric Emergency Medicine.

What is something students may not know about your program?

Despite being a smallish, community-based program (24 total residents), our institution (and institutional partners) hosts a number of fellowship programs including Ultrasound, Sports Medicine, and Pediatric Emergency Medicine (two fellowship programs). Our residents gain tremendous experience rotating on all these services. We are also home to a nationally renowned burn center, a busy high-acuity trauma center, comprehensive stroke center, and host an interventional cardiology center. Our faculty are internationally, nationally, and regionally recognized, hold leadership positions in academic Emergency Medicine organizations, and are active contributors to the medical literature and FOAMed.

How do you feel about the change to pass/fail Step 1 grading?

In general, I feel positively about it, although I do have concerns about the inadvertent consequence of converting Step 2 to an even higher stakes test. However, while much is still unclear about the impact of this change, we have always undertaken efforts to review applications from a holistic perspective rather than to focus on scores. We have never used specific score thresholds in our application review. So, I do not think this change will significantly impact our resident recruitment efforts.

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

For us, research experience is not a required prerequisite. We recruit applicants whose primary desire is to achieve clinical excellence. Within our faculty, we have a number of subspeciality clinicians who have diverse interest areas and our residents have been involved in a wide variety of projects across the gamut of emergency medicine. We work closely with residents to identify their specific skillset, interests, and/or niche within EM and beyond and work with them to tailor projects to their specific needs, aspirations, and career goals.

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

Yes. Prior to the onset of the pandemic, our residents frequently participated in international experiences, traveling to locations including Peru, Mozambique, Uzbekistan, Russia, and Vietnam. In addition to clinical experiences, our residents, fellows, and faculty have presented research and shared their expertise at international conferences and participated in international Emergency Medicine physician development. Unfortunately, much of our global health initiatives were hindered by the pandemic but we look forward to renewing and expanding our efforts in these areas.

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

We take a holistic approach to our applicant review. We welcome applications from students with regional ties and from across the country. We value applicants with experience in consumer-focused industries and who participated in team-based pursuits. We welcome non-traditional applicants who can share their life experiences with us!

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