Program Director Interviews, Match, Medical Students, Advising

Program Director Interview Series: Vicki E. Noble, MD, Residency Program Director at University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center, Cleveland, Ohio

Samuel Southgate, MSIV, University of Connecticut School of Medicine
EMRA MSC Editor 2019-20

This month our Program Director Interview Series is focused on the Midwest. We spoke with Vicki E. Noble, MD, Program Director of the Center for Emergency Medicine at University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center, about this Ohio-based program and what they look for in residency applicants.

What sets your program apart from others?

We have a really robust critical care curriculum here at University Hospitals. Our residents do six months of dedicated ICU time in three years and have opportunities to work with our three EM/CC-boarded physicians doing a resuscitation elective as well. In addition, I think we have a great family feeling among faculty and residents – we are big enough that there is something for every academic interest, but we are not too big, so residents and faculty know each other really well by the end of three years. Finally, for a program of our size (30 residents over three years) I think we have every subspecialty of emergency medicine represented with fellowship-trained faculty and/or fellowships - except for hyperbarics. We have ultrasound, EMS, global health, toxicology, critical care, and an opportunity to get advanced training in administration and operations.

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

I think this is a really individual decision and I tell everyone to pick based on the program qualities and gut feeling of “I fit this place” over the 3- vs. 4-year difference. Previously, 4-year programs were thought of as academic and 3-year programs as clinical but I think these differences have almost completely melted away as the specialty has matured and you can get amazing training – to do either academics or clinical medicine – at either kind of program.  Especially with so many fellowships now available.

What is something students may not know about your program?

That the program director met Tom Brady? Oh wait. Half of the planet has heard that story!

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

We require that all applicants take the USMLE (we don’t accept COMLEX only) and while there are some numbers that we use for screening we have had successful residents from all over the map in terms of scores. I tell applicants that your letters of recommendation from your emergency medicine rotations and advanced internships play a much bigger role in our selection process than a score on a standardized test.

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

Our affiliation with Case Western Reserve University means there are mentors and research opportunities in medicine – but also in business, global health, public health, engineering – almost any area a student could dream up. We like to have a mix of residency candidates with a variety of interests but, certainly as an academic in emergency medicine, scholarship is what builds the field and I think it is super-important to the standing of emergency medicine in the house of medicine to contribute to this.

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

One of our most established fellowships is in global health and our Division of Population Medicine has an affiliation with the International Medical Corps that has been great for residents and fellows. In addition, our faculty have a very global outlook and reach so residents have done rotations and electives in Thailand, Peru, and Iceland and faculty have teaching opportunities in six out of seven continents (we’re still looking for a faculty member from Antartica!)

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

Again, we pride our program on our family feel so we want enthusiastic team players. Indeed, our new interns just came up with this statement of mission and core values during their orientation:

Mission: "We will evolve into leaders in EM who foster the development of ourselves and our colleagues by serving our community." 


  • Do the right thing
  • Run towards the fire
  • Serve with honor
  • Support one another

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

I guess I would echo the answer to the previous question. All of us have something to contribute and, while exceptionalism would seem to be what competitive specialties like emergency medicine would want, I think our program and our faculty would say that solid clinicians with a conscience who want to make a difference is what emergency medicine is all about!

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