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Guides in the Graduation Year

Three students in blue Pitt Med Match t-shirts.  Behind them is a gold background.
Shane Ellis (MED ’12) still appreciates the kindness of the medical students at the University of Pittsburgh who drove him to Alan Magee Scaife Hall for his entrance interview.

Now, he’s volunteering to help Pitt’s fourth-year med students navigate the intense process of finding their post-graduation residency.

“When you visit a city that you’ve never been to before and you can stay with someone, you can get a good feeling whether or not you are welcomed there,” Ellis said. “It’s a good sign when people in your organization are happy to host you and answer questions that are not part of the formal interview process.”

In the new Help Our Students Travel (HOST) program, Pitt’s Medical Alumni Association (MAA) will match students interviewing around the country for residency programs with interested alumni based on location, institution and program. Help can range from a phone call or video meeting for advice to an in-person dinner for mentorship to an overnight accommodation for students traveling on their search.

HOST volunteers are Pitt School of Medicine alumni, former fellows and residents who are willing to offer meaningful conversations about specialties, career paths and opportunities. 

To volunteer for the program or to get more information, contact Michael Downs at medalum [at] medschool.pitt.edu (subject: Info%20on%20HOST%20Program)  or 412-648-9059.

For example, Ellis could help Pitt students interested in a research residency at the University of Minnesota. He works in internal medicine at St. Francis Regional Medical Center in Shakopee, Minnesota, a suburb of the Twin Cities. Those interested in the Ohio State University could talk to Akash Goyal (MED ’17), who is a fellow at OSU’s Division of Cardiovascular Medicine.

“The residency interview process is simultaneously stressful and fun. The thrill of traveling to new cities, meeting interesting people and living out of a suitcase for a few weeks was certainly a unique experience,” said Ellis. “When I traveled for interviews, I tried to stay with either a current resident or a friend—I found this to be a better way to really get a feel for a city and program and whether or not it resonated with me. Hopefully through the HOST program, I can be a resource for prospective Pitt applicants to learn more about where they may be living for the next several years.”

“It is difficult for me to imagine all of the preparation, interviews and travel arrangements within such a brief window of time. Our goal for HOST is to alleviate some of this burden for as many students as possible,” Downs said.Medical students complete applications for residencies in October of their fourth year and then sprint through an interview season from November to February. Michael Downs, alumni coordinator for MAA, said a 2018 survey found that a medical student applies to an average of 36 programs and goes on 12 interviews. 

HOST volunteers are Pitt School of Medicine alumni, former fellows and residents who are willing to offer meaningful conversations about specialties, career paths and opportunities. 

Students who want to explore the Seattle area could contact Carolyn Windler (MED ’21), who is going west to do her residency in family medicine at MultiCare Tacoma General Hospital in Tacoma, Washington.

“When you are applying to family medicine, there are so many different variations between academic programs and smaller hospitals versus big hospitals. You don’t know exactly what you want out of a residency program. You have some core values and some goals, but it would help to have some guidance because there is so much variation between the programs,” she said.

Ellis said, “As a host, you are demonstrating how proud you are of your school. You want to do someone else in the community a favor. It’s a way to pay it back. I live several states away now, but this way I can stay connected to Pitt.”