In our second installment of our Resident Q&A series, we are highlighting the Highland Hospital/Alameda Health System Emergency Medicine Residency Program. We spoke with PGY-1 Scar Guo, MD about what makes their program unique from a resident’s perspective.
What made you choose your program, was a 3 year or 4 year program a factor for you when applying?
For me, being close to my family and working with my patient population of interest were most important for my training. I did consider 3 year programs, but these were trumped by location and my perceived quality of training.
How does your program provide wellness measures, how would you describe your program culture?
I appreciate that my program provides ample opportunity to spend time with our co-residents across different levels both at weekly conference, monthly wellness events, various groups, and after-shift hangouts. Our program leadership is understanding of life events including having children in residency (we have 3 new kiddos this year)! We also have a dedicated therapist for the highland residency programs that we are able to access personal and group sessions at no cost. In terms of wellness at work, our program is very responsive to resident feedback on the educational value of our off-service rotations and have both eliminated and added rotations based on our experiences.
How does your program support you in your career goals - i.e working in the community, preparing you for fellowship, things like that?
As an intern, I am still deciding whether I want to pursue fellowships or jobs out of residency, but I know there is great representation in both paths among our alumni. We frequently get fellowship and job opportunities in our email lists. We have alumni all over the country in community, county, and academic programs as well as people in leadership. I’m optimistic about how my program will continue to support me in my career goals. For the senior residents, there are new formalized longitudinal seminars and mentorship programs to facilitate career exploration and coaching.
What makes your program unique?
Our program leadership are incredibly supportive of us in our learning and prioritizing our well-being. Diversity is also a strength of ours not only among the residents, but also among our faculty. Highland has a deeply embedded culture of social justice that permeates nearly everything we do and seems to attract those with a similar ethos.
Does your program have room in their curriculum for pursuit of personal interests such as wilderness medicine, ultrasound, global medicine, EMS, etc?
Yes! We have ultrasound and EMS rotations built into our core curriculum. We also have partnerships with local and international organizations that allow us to have rotations including wilderness medicine, palliative care, podiatry, dental, sports med, IHS and harm reduction electives to name a few. There’s even one that takes us to Hawaii! Former residents have gone on to incredible things ranging from starting the first EMS program in Bhutan and providing care on the front lines with MSF in Ukraine.
Is your program a community based or academic based program? What is the advantage of your program’s setting?
Highland is a county program with a level 1 trauma center. I’ve never been to a place where people come from as many different walks of life, from as many parts of the world, or speak as many languages. This is reflected in both the pathophysiology we see as well as teaching us flexibility and open-mindedness working with different populations. We do have some affiliations with UCSF which brings medical students to our department, and we rotate at UCSF as well which gives us some additional experience that a pure county hospital might offer less of.
What is something students may not know about your program?
Our program really does care about our wellness! Beyond the resources already mentioned, we also have “GI rounds” (like a lunch-and-learn) mid-shift and the camaraderie and delicious food always keeps me going.
What opportunities exist for research in your program?
Many of my co-residents are heavily involved in research, sometimes with Highland attendings, and others with other local institutions. In fact, many of our alumni go on to take on academic and leadership roles at various top notch institutions across the country!
What is something medical students can do to help prepare for residency?
Enjoy their fourth year and any vacation! You’ll have 3-4 years to prepare for your career while you’re in residency!