Program Director Interviews, Match, Medical Students

Program Director Interview Series: Shannon Toohey, MD | EM Residency Program Director at University of California, Irvine, CA

In this month’s addition to the Program Director Interview Series we got to chat with Shannon Toohey, MD to learn about the UCI Residency Program. Dr. Toohey tells us more about residency in the Golden State.

What sets your program apart from others?

As a smaller program I think one of the biggest things that sets us apart is our very close knit family feel. With 18 faculty and 27 residents everyone gets to know everyone very well. We work very hard to foster a supportive atmosphere and we are very lucky that our residents are so good at doing the same. Also, I believe accessibility of residency leadership is very important and all of our residents are very comfortable with contacting us for anything they need and they definitely do! Our residents are very comfortable texting/calling when they have a cool case, have something they need or have a question. Being small also allows us to give independent attention to residents and ensure every resident has the resources/direct support they need to succeed.

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

Some students are more comfortable with a 3-year program or a 4-year program. A lot of it is personal preference. And location is often one of the most important factors for students’dd preferences in residency. I honestly don’t think one is better than the other, they are just different. A 3-year program will allow you to graduate sooner, a 4-year program will give more elective opportunities and potentially more teaching opportunities. If a student falls in love with a 3-year program they should go there, if they fall in love with a 4-year program they should go there. I graduate 9 residents every year who are very comfortable with their clinical practice and go on to be successful in a variety of settings including community, fellowship and academics.


With Step 1 likely transitioning to pass/fail, how do you anticipate medical students illustrating that they are a competitive applicant?

I think a lot of EM programs already did not put that much emphasis on step 1, step 2 was considered a better indicator of success in EM residency. So I don’t foresee much changing in my residency evaluation. We prioritize SLOEs, Step 2 and activities during medical school (especially leadership or long-term activities).


What are some qualities that your program looks for in applicants? Can you describe any attributes and qualities that make applicants stand out?

We review all our applications holistically. We don’t have particular minimums but are looking for applicants from varied backgrounds with interesting life experiences. We focus on leadership or long-term activities during medical school that show students have leadership skills and grit. We prioritize group SLOEs from rotations as these reflect the students clinical ability/ability to communicate/ability to work with a team.

How does your program uniquely prepare residents in attaining future jobs and careers in Emergency Medicine?

Our residents primarily train at a fast-paced academic site, they learn to be efficient, clinically competent and prepared for any ED job they want. Unfortunately with the business of medicine becoming more important the ability to see high volumes of patients is essential for EM physicians and our residents see 3-4 patients per hour by graduation.

What is something students may not know about your program that you are particularly proud of?

I think for us this is similar to question 1. We have a very close knit culture and it really makes residency (which is probably going to be the hardest couple of years of many people’s lives) a lot more tolerable and a lot more fun.


How does your program address Wellness?

We offer a wellness and resiliency curriculum covering topics to assist with long-term resiliency and decrease burnout. We also have a number of social events throughout the year including retreat, Holiday party, class specific retreats, resident appreciation day and graduation to allow residents to socialize with each other and relax.

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

We have a variety of opportunities for research. We have faculty involved in opiate research, social media analysis in a variety of disease topics/patterns, educational research and operations/QI. We can also help mentor residents if they are interested in other topics.

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

Right now we have no formal global health rotations. We have had residents organize their own rotations over the years and get approval through GME.

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