Life of a Resident
By Paige Sutton, MD
On neurology rotations, a group of friends and colleagues meets at 7 a.m. for check out. We learn the events of our patients while we slept and about new patients admitted overnight. For the next two hours, we chart, check, visit, and examine our patients. We also make every effort to attend the 8 a.m. lecture. After lecture, we meet with the attending physician to review imaging and participate in table rounds and/or walking rounds. With Lexington’s central location, our medical center often serves as the center of care for surrounding cities, towns, and even the foothills of Appalachia. A large proportion of our patients are transfers from community hospital who require a higher level of neurology care. Needless to say, we never have a shortage of patients or pathology. Our morning duties are usually completed by noon, which gives us ample time to participate in our daily noon conferences, complete any procedures, finish up notes, and prepare the hand off report to the night team.
Due to the variety in our program, the day-to-day life of a resident is fluid. To describe the learning experiences of a typical day provides a good general overview; however, so much of our training is dependent upon the program year and specific rotation - all representative of our robust learning environment. To learn more about our rotations, electives, didactics, research experience, and mentorship, continue reading.
Elective rotations begin the second program year. Second year residents receive two elective months, and this increases in increments of two months for the remainder of residency. Most of our residents choose from the following electives: neuromuscular with EMG, EEG, neurodegenerative, movement disorders, neuro-radiology, neuropathology and neuro-oncology, headache, epilepsy, stroke, MS and neuro-immunology, sports neurology and sleep clinic. Elective rotations engender a less regimented schedule, which results in more dedicated time for research and leadership activities.
We have several didactic opportunities that occur twice daily on Monday-Friday. Weekly topics include grand rounds, pediatric neurology, neuro-radiology and my personal favorite, chairman rounds. Lectures by specialized faculty members also give us an introduction to the various neurologic sub-specialties. Finally, there are resident driven lectures and study sessions for RITE and board exam preparation. The didactic opportunities are a wonderful way to have two hours of daily studying built in to your schedule. It can be hard to find the time to study during residency, but it is easier when you have this schedule pre-made. I also like having a few minutes to catch up with co-residents on other rotations.
As stated earlier, elective rotations offer sufficient time to pursue research-related interests. Our faculty is heavily involved in a plethora of research activities ranging from basic science to clinical trials. This provides our residents with a solid base from which to pursue individual research interests or to collaborate with on-going projects. To further nurture research interests among residents, our department hosts the annual Trainee Research Day where resident, as well as fellow and medical student, research are displayed and presented. Residents are encouraged to present at local, national and international conferences with the department supporting one conference during training. Additionally, resources such as departmental scholarships and the Baumann Fund are available to help assist in getting exceptional work presented.
Mentorship (Attending and Peer)
Each resident is assigned a faculty mentor who fulfills a crucial role during residency. The faculty mentor is assigned from the first year and continues until the completion of residency where he or she monitors resident progress and offers constructive feedback to improve. Residents also choose a research mentor to offer guidance in the required research project in PGY2-4. Our Program Director and Department Chair maintain an open-door policy and always welcome resident concerns.
Prospective Resident Recruitment
Residents play a vital role in the selection of prospective residents. Each year, residents who are available have the option to join candidates for the pre-interview dinner and interview day lunch. Our program typically has great turn out to these events and we value the opportunity to share our knowledge and excitement about UK’s Neurology program. At the end of interview season, residents meet and discuss our impression of each candidate’s fit for our program.
Our department values a culture of camaraderie among our residents and sponsors multiple events throughout the year. We have annual welcome and Christmas parties, and the Education Office oversees several wellness initiatives including dinners, fun group activities, and even bi-annual massages. Another resident and I are self-proclaimed social chairs for our class and like to plan get-togethers as often as possible. My favorite event, which has become a tradition, is Thursday night bar rounds and trivia. We start with a pizza and a neurology lecture or case study taught by a resident. We then participate in trivia at a local brewery. I think all of my co-residents would agree that our time together outside of work provides some balance in our busy lives.
From Residency to Graduation
Our program is designed to provide increasing responsibility and independence as trainees demonstrate increased competency. This culminates with residents prepared to enter many of the career routes available to neurologists today. Recent residents of our program have attended prestigious fellowship programs including epilepsy at Vanderbilt, neurology at the University of Miami, stroke at Rush University, multiple sclerosis at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, neuro-oncology at Northwestern, clinical neurophysiology and epilepsy fellowship at Brigham and Women’s Hospital as well as in headache and vascular neurology here at the University of Kentucky. We also have plenty of residents who choose to become neuro-hospitalists. There is no pressure from faculty or the program to choose any one route and we have a wide variety of subspecialties represented in our graduates.