After medical school, some new doctors may start a preliminary year in medicine or surgery. Others choose a transitional year, combining medicine, surgery, and other rotations in medical training.

The UK College of Medicine (Bowling Green) offers a year-long transitional year program with medical education in many clinical disciplines to prepare learners for residencies in specific specialty programs. The Bowling Green Transitional Year program is the only one of its kind in Kentucky.

Approved by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) for 12 learners, the transitional year program began in 2019 as part of an expansion in UK’s GME campuses. Since then, 45 residents have completed the program and gone on to advanced training in their specialties. Program Director Jacqueline Dawson Dowe, MD, said residents get to choose four elective rotations.

Dr. Dawson has very specific goals for each learner, whether they already have a residency match or are still applying. “If they don’t have a match yet, it’s to take the care and attention to build the schedule and the research and the letters of recommendation to get that match,” she said. “If they have matched, the goal is to be the No. 1 resident in that program.”

Stacey Sims, former transitional year program coordinator and now GME administrative director, explained that very careful scheduling is required for all residents to acquire the skills and experience they need for advanced programs. “A year is not a long time,” she pointed out, “and sometimes people can change their minds” about their specialties. “We create schedules to meet their needs and tailor it to their interests.”

Program graduate Elias Nassar, MD, now a resident in radiology at UK, emphasized the benefits of the different rotations he experienced.

“It may have been the most important year of my training,” especially for the critical insight he gained into other specialties. “I worked in the ICU, and I saw at what point and for what reason the clinicians would order chest x-rays. I understand better now what the clinician wants to know. I assisted with rotator cuff repair surgeries, and it helps me in looking at imaging. You learn about it in gross anatomy, but this is different.”

Olivia Thoroughman, DO, emphasized the personal attention the program provides. “The support I’ve received from my program director and coordinator has been constant. I’ve received a phenomenal education from the attendings here. They go out of their way to take time to teach residents.”

Many transitional year program residents come from different parts of the country and have no previous ties to Kentucky. Because their transitional year in Bowling Green is such a powerful experience, they make plans for a career here, increasing the number of highly trained physicians in the Commonwealth.

Ultimately, the success of the Bowling Green Transitional Year program benefits not only its residents, but all of us who make our home in Kentucky.

This story was featured in the summer 2023 edition of UK Medicine magazine. Click here to read the full magazine.