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Program Director Interview with Dr. Amita Sudhir, Program Director at the University of Virginia Emergency Medicine Residency

In the latest installment of our PD Q&A series, we are highlighting the University of Virginia Emergency Medicine Residency. We spoke with the current PD Dr. Amita Sudhir, MD about what makes their program unique and what they looks for in potential residents.

What sets your program apart from others?

Our program is a place where you won’t just get great emergency medicine training, but you’ll lay the groundwork to find your niche within emergency medicine in a way that will keep your spark going ten, twenty, thirty years into your career. Our grads are often doing interesting things, taking leadership roles early in their careers, and reinventing themselves throughout. You’ll also make lifelong friends amongst faculty and residents who will be your support system and peer mentors for decades to come. UVA EM is a community where people look out for each other, and we pride ourselves on that.

What are the benefits of attending a 3 vs. 4 year EM residency program? More specifically, how does your 3 year EM residency program compare in experiences to other 3 year programs?

I actually don’t think there are major benefits to 3 vs 4 year programs, and advise students to pick the program that they connect most with regardless of length. Specifically, our program has a 2nd year and 3rd year elective, so you can explore fellowship interests early. We send all our interns to SAEM, and all residents go to ACEP by early 2nd year, which encourages residents to participate in national committees early. We have 2 ICU months in our intern year, and 5 ICU months total. You can do two away/international electives during your 3 years. All residents who present at a conference or participate in national committees are covered to attend conferences in addition to those mentioned above.

What is something students may not know about your program?

I think students often don’t realize that despite being in an idyllic college town, we serve a very underserved population—the rural poor, migrant workers from the DC suburbs, refugees. Our patients are very sick and complex as you might expect at a tertiary care faculty,  but we are also the safety net hospital for many of Virginia’s indigent, Medicare, and Medicaid patients.

Have you begun looking for a specific range of USMLE/COMLEX Step 2 scores in an applicant for the program since the change to Pass/Fail Step 1? Or alternatively, how do you feel about the change to pass/fail Step 1 grading?

We don’t use board score cutoffs. We never put a lot of weight on Step 1 so the pass/fail change didn’t affect how we reviewed applications. Step scores are just one part of the complexity of a student’s application and we’ve always looked at multiple factors as having equal importance.

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

The sky is the limit when it comes to doing research as a resident at UVA. Come up with your own project, jump into an existing one, do trauma database research, medical education research, collaborate with faculty in other schools at UVA, or write a book chapter or review article. We have statisticians who help with data analysis, multiple research faculty who are always willing to discuss a new project idea, and support for presenting your research at national or international conferences. (Two residents presented at a tox conference in Lithuania recently!)

We certainly value research experience as part of an application, but we equally value other experiences that demonstrate an interest in EM—EMIG leadership, free clinic volunteering, social EM projects, ultrasound teaching. And if you’re a late decider, and don’t have a lot of EM on your application, that’s ok too! We understand that not everyone is born wanting to be an EM doc and as long as you demonstrate an involvement in something--research, national committees, local community projects--beyond just your clinical rotations, we value that even if it’s not EM specific.

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

We are going through a very exciting time in global health at UVA EM. We just hired a new global health fellowship trained faculty member, and will be developing new opportunities for clinical rotations and research. Currently, we have the opportunity to rotate in Eldoret, Kenya, through the AMPATH consortium. On this rotation, you'll be accompanied by UVA faculty. We are collaborating with AMPATH and Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital to help build an EM residency so you'll be doing clinical work and some teaching. We are also working on a rotation in Puebla, Mexico, and residents can rotate on the Navajo reservation with the Indian Health Service. Beyond these opportunities, residents are welcome to investigate their own global health rotations--one of our third years is in Ghana right now--and there is travel/lodging funding through the university for all of these global health opportunities. You will also continue to receive your UVA salary while rotating abroad.

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

We look for applicants who are intellectually curious and want to improve the learning experience not just for themselves but for other residents and faculty, too. People who come to work with a desire to learn and engage others in that learning do well here. We also look for applicants who want to be a part of a community. We are a close-knit program, where people with many different personalities and backgrounds form a cohesive team both in the ED and outside work.

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

There are a lot of great applicants out there. Just be yourself on your application. Think about what makes you, you. Everyone stands out for different reasons. Demonstrating academic interest beyond your clinical rotation, community involvement, and enthusiasm for medicine in general are good things to highlight on your application.

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