Aimee Sanders, MD, MPH, is a graduate of the Women's Health Track. Her career goal is to be a women's health specialist in an internal medicine practice, and she credits a number of faculty members with supporting her aspirations. "The beauty of mentorship is that you can have mentors in different areas," she says. In 2005, with support from Hollis Day, MD, MS, program director of the Geriatrics Track, Dr. Sanders made an oral presentation at the national meeting of the Society of General Internal Medicine in New Orleans and won the "best presentation" award for her set of vignettes. "Without Dr. Day's mentoring, I wouldn't have presented the case to the conference," she says. Although Dr. Day focuses on geriatrics rather than women's health, she formed a connection with Dr. Sanders during a rotation as her teaching attending. "The formal program here, where you are paired up with somebody from your track in the beginning, is great," Dr. Sanders says, "but there are also many opportunities throughout daily residency to develop mentorship relationships."
Aimee Sanders, MD, MPH
Women's Health Track
To help interns and residents navigate the difficulties of residency and to shape the careers that they envision, our program has established multiple systems for support, guidance, and evaluation. Most notable among these is the advisor program. A primary goal for the advisors is to help housestaff members discover their niche in a general or subspecialty career and develop into the types of doctors they strive to be. Our advisors are chosen because of their commitment to fostering residents' personal and professional growth, from excellence in clinical care to the pursuit of research and scholarly activities and the development of an optimal balance of career with personal life. Through a structured faculty development program, we ensure that advisors have the skill sets and the resources to make them most effective.
All incoming interns are matched with a general medicine attending, who meets with them regularly each year throughout the duration of their residency. Interns are paired with advisors from their tracks as well as their clinics, and this relationship continues during the second and third years of residency. This helps interns and residents develop a working relationship with their advisors each week in clinic, and it allows faculty to get to know their residents on both a clinical and a personal level. The advisors provide personalized guidance on career development, feedback on evaluations of the residents' clinical performance, and support on any number of matters involved in the residents' personal and professional development. The advisors are truly invaluable resources during the years of training that shape each resident's future career.
Interns are also paired with a third-year resident before orientation. Peer mentoring was established as a way for interns to have a point person in the residency program to ask about questions that arise throughout the year, especially about issues that the interns prefer to discuss with a peer rather than a faculty member. In addition, peer mentoring serves as a way for third-year residents to share their own experience-based advice with individuals who are about to follow a similar path. All peer mentors are third-year residents who have volunteered to be a part of the mentoring program, and their primary goal is to be approachable and available for any concerns or questions that interns may have, whether about residency or life in Pittsburgh.
An important goal of our program is to expose interns to opportunities in subspecialty careers. We recognize how important it is to help those who are interested to prepare for a fellowship following residency. With this in mind, we focus very early in the internship on helping interns find contacts within subspecialties and begin to explore their options. Each subspecialty division has designated a point person—often the fellowship program director or the division chief—to meet with interns in the first few months of the year and then to match interns by the middle of their first year with a research mentor from the division. By the time residents are applying for fellowships early in their second year, they will have well-outlined research agendas as well as personal letters of recommendation from their research mentor and other key supporters. Our residents match extremely well in all fellowships, both here at our institution and at diverse institutions across the country.
Special events are arranged throughout the year for residents to meet with faculty from various subspecialties. Career luncheons are designed to help residents learn more about finding and applying for fellowships and jobs. They also serve as an opportunity for residents to establish contacts and mentoring relationships with faculty in subspecialty fields.
The first fellowship and research panel discussion is held in August of the intern year, and several additional meetings are scheduled in the fall. These serve as informal panel discussions that are geared toward interns and are attended by fellowship directors and other faculty members from each subspecialty. There is ample time to ask questions about the application process and research opportunities and to become familiar with the key faculty. During the time that panel discussions are held, interns are protected from clinical responsibilities so they can participate in the discussions.
Interns and residents are also invited to scheduled lunches with fellows who have graduated from the residency program and have stayed at UPMC to pursue a subspecialty. The lunches are an excellent opportunity for interns to ask colleagues who have recently gone through the process to answer specific questions and provide information about navigating difficulties and achieving a successful fellowship match.
Interns and residents who do not plan to pursue a subspecialty also receive active and essential support in career planning throughout their training. Our residents are extremely competitive for jobs after graduation. Some choose to pursue general medicine and women's health fellowships to prepare them for strong careers in academic internal medicine. A specific advisor is designated for residents who are interested in a general medicine career, whether they wish to pursue a career in a primarily ambulatory setting or a hospital setting. The advisors help residents design electives and make contacts to develop the skills they will need for success in a general medicine career and to network with other physicians both locally and nationally. Our residents are highly sought after for careers in all sectors of general medicine, and they receive the training necessary to be extremely successful in these endeavors.