Meet the Residents – Q&A!

July 2, 2021

There is no better way to get a sense of what training is like at Northeast Georgia Medical Center (NGMC) than to talk with current residents. NGMC hosted a Zoom event where students asked Internal Medicine, General Surgery and Family Medicine residents those burning questions you all want to know!

Here is how it went down with Dr. Kim, PGY-2 Internal Medicine resident providing the answers!

What are the interactions like between residents within each program and inter-program?

Within the hospital, there are often times we residents might work on the same team on the same service or we would consult and speak directly to each other on different services. We’re always a team no matter what role we are in. Outside of the hospital, we find chances to do life together, regardless of our individual program. In addition to living in apartments close by, we grab meals together, exercise and find events to do when we share similar off days. NGMC Graduate Medical Education (GME) has also been gracious about providing opportunities for our well-being, including playing in a soccer league together. I play along with a lot of the other internal medicine residents; surgery residents like Maurice Asouzu; family medicine residents like Christian Baumgartner; and faculty like Dr. Fontem.

What do programs look for in terms of prospective applicants, USMLE, other factors?

While this might be a better question addressed by the program directors and attendings, I would like to think that this program is looking for people who are passionate about being a team player, willing to learn, and has an attitude that is reflective of the four core NGMC values. Being able to pass medical school suggests that you have the fundamental potential of being a physician; but finding the right residency is about the fit.

Are attendings readily available or have you ever felt alone and not able to have access to your attending in a timely manner? 

I have always felt that attendings are accessible and available when I need help. They are supportive, willing to mentor and find teaching points for personal and professional growth. Overall, our attendings find the right balance of allowing independence and oversight on an individual basis as they try to tailor each person’s educational growth and experience.

If you were to go back in time, would you tell yourself to apply again to this program?

Finding the right program is about knowing yourself and what you are looking for. This program and hospital system is exactly what I am looking for because the people who comprise of this organization have heart and compassion for serving others. I hope this story makes sense, but prior to residency interviews I deliberately visited the hospital one day earlier to see the hospital and get lost. I asked two random employees for help, and at NGMC they went above and beyond to help a complete stranger. All residency programs will prepare and train to prepare a resident to become a physician. But at NGMC, this institution has the heart, attitude, and community that fosters compassion, passion for excellence, and feels like family.

What are the strengths and weaknesses of your program?

Strengths of this program is that this is a community-based program with top-notch academic ability. It provides real world practical experience and application of medicine in a diverse patient population. This setting provides an outstanding training opportunity that provides research opportunities with compassionate care.

Can you describe your experience as being part of an inaugural class; do you have any advice to individuals who could potentially be an inaugural class?

While I am not part of the primary inaugural class, I would still say that whether or not you become the first class of residents or the most current class of residents, all the residents here play a critical role in the development of GME at NGMC. The strength of our GME size is that each program can continue to Stop, Act, Think, and Review about the systems process. Every individual resident has an opportunity to contribute towards the residency program development and continually refine the system so that we really do become better tomorrow than we are today.

Can you describe the feedback systems in place?

There are both formal and informal feedback systems. For Internal Medicine, we make sure to “Evaluate on the 28th” as well as our performance review with our program director on a six-month basis. Informally, different attendings individualize the feedback during the rotation so each week you can try to find different ways to grow. Senior residents are encouraged to develop constructive feedback to the interns to enhance follower-leadership skills. And personally, I would always encourage to engage and ask for feedback regardless of the systems in place. Residency has been described as a multi-year long conference where you get an opportunity to train and practice under supervision and guidance. This is the most ideal and critical time for initiating and asking for feedback for personal growth in our professional development that, hopefully, continues to develop a lifelong pursuit of learning and self-improvement.

How has the classes helped contribute to change the residency?

Every class brings something different to the residency, and each resident provides a unique perspective. I view it like a sports team or a music group; each player or musician can bring that special “it” factor and can contribute to the development of the residency. Our size of each residency program is ideal because each resident has the opportunity to be a leader in whatever pursuit they choose. Furthermore, GME is receptive and frequently seeks resident feedback for self improvement.

How do the didactics, sims activities, and lectures get scheduled in terms of any potential overlapping conflicts; how much of the schedule are these integrated into the residency?

For Internal Medicine, our weekday lecture is from noon – 1 pm. For inpatient service, we have a weekday lecture from 11 – 12 pm. For outpatient services, we have a Thursday-Friday morning lecture from 7-9 am. Simulations are scheduled in advance and rarely do schedule changes need to be addressed. We also have dedicated CoRE lectures that go beyond the medical knowledge that discusses other medicine-relevant topics, including teaching as senior residents, system process improvements, biases in medicine, and so forth.

Is the program family friendly? IMG friendly? 

Absolutely. Whenever we have large gatherings, it feels like everyone is connected together, whether they are a resident or not. We have several residents who either had children before residency or they are having children during residency. The program also is IMG friendly and many outstanding residents have come from international backgrounds.

What sort of housing opportunities do residents have in the area?

Gainesville and the surrounding areas continue to grow at a rapid pace. It feels like a year passes and there’s a completed apartment complex and another new building complex being started.

What sort of formal mentoring between attending and residents are there? 

Our program director, Dr. Kruer, would say that in life it’s ideal to have 10 mentors. There is a formal mentorship where an attending is assigned to a resident. However, there is often natural, organic mentorships that grow throughout the residency. Good advice is also to find mentors within specific future areas of interest, whether that might be in primary care or as a specialist. More mentors could be for research tracks or professionalism development.  

How does your program provide guidance for career goals?

Our Program Director, Dr. Kruer, is very keen on identifying career goals as soon as residency begins because he wants to help support and provide recommendations on how best to pursue future career goals. I am passionate about clinical informatics, which is a currently budding field with a fellowship process that has just been formalized. Dr. Kruer and the program have been able to develop within two-three months a clinical informatics elective rotation. I cannot emphasize enough about how flexible and focused this program is about its desire to individualize and support the residents as best as possible. This is one of the many aspects that made me want to be here, and it is a testament to the program’s continued focus for resident education.

What are the processes for fellowship opportunities either within NGMC or pursuing them in general?

NGMC is growing at a rapid pace with plans for launching multiple fellowships. While I might not know the exact details of what is in the pipeline, there are many opportunities to equip and prepare for fellowship applications both within and outside the institution. NGMC is also developing chief resident years to provide further opportunities for professional and personal growth. This program encourages and supports every individual on the path they choose; and if the resident steps up and engages with the process, there are a lot of great resources at the resident’s disposal.

What sort of structures (formal vs informal) are there to help mentor residents to improve their teaching abilities?

Towards the end of the intern year, there are formalized lectures on the concept of a follower-leader and other aspects towards residents as teachers. During the second year there are more lectures as we start playing a larger role in the hospital for the supervision and education of interns. There are plans for chief resident years that would also benefit more focused efforts on teaching and improving quality of education for resident growth.

What are favorite activities or things to do in Gainesville or in the surrounding areas for leisure or fun?

Gainesville is at the right distance between urban and rural; city and nature. A common nickname is the “Queen City of the Mountains,” which is apt due to our location being near the beginning of the Appalachian Trail. There are many gorgeous waterfalls, hikes, and trails. Atlanta is no more than an hour away for the Beltline, sports teams, or museums, aquarium, or zoo. I’m a big “Live to Eat” person, and there’s a lot of options in terms of dining out or finding fresh produce to make food at home. Especially after the COVID vaccinations, we have been finding more time for sports amongst the residents. And don’t forget about the awesome marathons, triathlons, and other ways to stay active in a place where the weather is awesome!

What sort of training do we get for learning how to code for office visits or notes and can you talk more about EPIC as an EMR?

We get formal coding lectures during our outpatient morning lectures typically either Thursday or Fridays. The EPIC team is also trying to find ways to make coding more understandable and intuitive, but our foundation comes from our attendings guiding us to better understand the coding nuances. EPIC has a lot of options and can be certainly overwhelming at times, but we have a dedicated EPIC support team as well as practical applications learning opportunities during pre-orientation as well as senior residents and attendings who help guide through EPIC. There is also a 24/7 information technology team to help with any questions about EPIC.

Can you speak more about the SIMs/skills/labs and workshops to improve procedure skills or learning experiences?

The SIMs/skills/labs are a blessing to practice and build some familiarity in safe space and scenarios to feel better prepared during the real events. From a personal perspective, the ACLS and CODE BLUE simulation really did benefit a situation where, as an intern, I had to manage a CODE BLUE until the support team arrived. We do get trained as well on simulations so we could also prepare for procedures in the ICU, floor, or the ED.

During your years so far, which rotation has been your most favorite rotation? 

Honestly, all of the rotations have been a blast. Especially as an intern, every rotation continued to build my foundations as a clinician. The attendings are focused on improving each resident on an individual basis, and each month builds upon the last. I think the transition between intern year and moving forward as a second year is the best rotation because when you take a look back you can appreciate all the growth that happened within one year and look forward to another year at the next level.

Can you explain what opportunities there are for community engagement, volunteerism? 

There are many ways to get involved with the community. Good News Clinic is an area designed for the underserved communities. There are schools and colleges around the area with students who want to learn more about the medicine process as they consider this as a future career. There are certainly more avenues to get involved as we serve a diverse community that has many needs.