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Program Director Interview with Dr. Kathleen Williams, Program Director at Medical College of Wisconsin Emergency Medicine Residency

In the latest installment of our PD Q&A series, we are highlighting the Medical College of Wisconsin Emergency Medicine Residency program. We spoke with the current PD Dr. Kathleen Williams about what makes their program unique and what they look for in potential residents.

What Sets your program apart from others?

The residents at Medical College of Wisconsin EM are exposed to a broad patient population from day one. This allows our graduates to practice in any clinical setting and with any set of resources. Our main campus site was previously our city’s county hospital. We continue to see patients and their families who have traditionally sought out the county hospital as their trusted medical home. At the same time, we are the academic medical center for all of southeast Wisconsin (half the state!) and often receive transfers for specialty care as well as a suburban population that seeks us out for our surgical specialties, cancer center and transplant services.

We have 3 additional clinical sites with their own unique patient populations, including our regional academic children’s hospital, the Milwaukee VA and our high acuity community site. All of our clinical sites are within 20 minutes of the main campus. Our residents don’t have to travel far to practice in vastly different settings during their training.

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

It really comes down to what you are hoping to get out of a residency experience. When looking at a 3-year versus 4-year program, I advise an applicant to ask themselves, “what will I gain with the extra year?” While four-year programs may offer more elective time, it is possible to explore your interests within EM in a shorter program format. Our 3-year program offers residency tracks in nine different subspecialty areas allowing our residents a path to explore multiple career options within EM prior to committing to a fellowship experience.

What is something students may not know about your program?

We are one of the oldest programs in the Midwest at just over 45 years old. We are well established within our hospital system and well respected. Our consultants understand the EM skill set well, trust the care their patients receive and are collegial when we call and ask for help, as they know we typically have attempted initial management prior to calling for their assistance. Additionally, we have one of the highest acuity ED’s in the country. Our main training site, Froedtert Hospital, is ranked #5 nationally on the SAEM AACEM complexity index.

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 really had no issues with Step 1 going pass/fail as it was already a small piece of our application review. Overall, this was a welcome change for our team and allowed us to continue to push our focus toward finding well rounded applicants with strengths in many areas beyond academic achievement.

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

Research opportunities at MCW EM are wide ranging. Our residents can perform smaller projects focused on quality improvement or can be involved in larger projects through our Resuscitation Research Center. We are the site of several major research networks within EM including PECARN, SIREN, BOOST-3 and the Resuscitation Outcomes Consortium (ROC). Many of our faculty have fellowship training and perform scholarship within their subspecialty areas, including toxicology, critical care, ultrasound, sports medicine, wilderness medicine, education, operations, EMS and population health.

We do factor in prior research involvement in EM-focused projects as part of our holistic review of our applications. We hope to further develop resident scholarship interest as part of our training.

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

Our department houses a Division of Population and Global Health led by faculty who are experts in this area. Residents can explore their interest through our campus-wide Global Health Scholars Pathway. In the past, residents and faculty have traveled to complete projects in Belize, Nepal and Cuba. Funding is available for these opportunities through our campus GME office.

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

Our program is looking for applicants who bring something extra to the table, whether that be prior life or work experience, community engagement work, demonstration of resilience or an academic interest we can foster during their training.

We hope for applications highlighting the work the applicant is most proud of and any experiences that will benefit both the applicant and the program during residency training. We look for applications that showcase any prior leadership experiences, previous team collaboration and the ability to bounce back in the face of adversity.

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