Medical Students, Match, Program Director Interviews

Program Director Interview Series: Laura Smylie, MD | EM Residency Assistant Program Director at Wayne State University Detroit Receiving Hospital

In this month’s addition to the Program Director Interview Series, we got to chat with Laura Smylie, MD, to learn about the Wayne State University Detroit Receiving Hospital. Dr. Smylie tells us more about residency in the amazing Motor City.

What sets your program apart from others?

You can’t go wrong training in Detroit! Detroit Receiving has a long history of training Emergency Physicians and we have some of the best teachers in the country in our attending staff. Physicians like Dr. Bob Wahl, who was our program director for 22 years and a director for ABEM is a wonderful bedside teacher and still approaches teaching residents with enthusiasm and his meticulousness

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

It’s really about what is right for each individual and what you want out of your career. Three-year programs are intense and don’t always leave a lot of time for activities that are outside the clinical arena. While all of our residents engage in scholarly activity (including clinical research!) if you are looking for lots of time for research or other activities it might be tough to pull it off in just three short years. That being said, a shorter residency does mean you will be working as an attending physician one year earlier (and earning an attending level salary!).

What is something students may not know about your program?

Residents rotate at our primary site, Detroit Receiving Hospital, which is decidedly county. However, residents also do shifts at Children’s Hospital of Michigan, one of the busiest pediatric EDs in the country! Residents work at Harper University Hospital, a tertiary care ED that is associated with our Heart Hospital, Hutzel Women’s Hospital and the Karmanos Cancer Institute so there is a variety of pathology there. There is also a robust community experience at Huron Valley Sinai Hospital ED. We are able to give residents exposure to lots of different types of EDs!

What range of USMLE/COMLEX Step 1 scores do you look for in an applicant for the program? Or alternatively, how do you feel about the change to pass/fail Step 1 grading?

We certainly take Step scores into account; your medical knowledge is paramount to success. However, that information is only a piece of the overall picture in your application. Changing Step 1 to pass/fail is an opportunity for us to reflect on how we evaluate candidates and is another step toward encouraging holistic review. We have overhauled how we review candidates over the past few years to help us recruit people who can add richness and depth to Emergency Medicine.

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

We are lucky to have one of the largest Emergency Medicine research departments in the country! We are involved in most large national clinical trials involving the ED. We also have a growing medical education research arm under the tutelage of Dr. Anne Messman. While we don’t look for specific research experience, showing interest and curiosity in advancing our medical knowledge is always a plus!

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

Dr. Kristiana Kauffman leads our Global and Urban Health Division of our Department of Emergency Medicine through Wayne State University School of Medicine. She also spearheads our GLUE program, where residents, faculty and students can earn a certificate in Global and Urban Health. Our department is involved in EM residencies in both Laos and Guatemala and residents have been able to travel internationally (pre-covid!) for electives in global health.

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

In addition to strong medical knowledge and a strong clinical instinct, we look for future residents to have a strong teamwork mentality, demonstrate humanism and perseverance. Residency is a tremendously challenging time; we work in a difficult environment with community members who are often skeptical of the medical establishment. Feeling a calling to serve this community in a resource-poor ED is essential to learning and caring in our residency.

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

Just be yourself! Every interview season I’m amazed at the varied interests and passions of the candidates. It’s always fun to speak with people with different perspectives and experiences. Be who you are and that will be enough to be memorable.

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