July 10, 2009

New house staff hit ground running at VMC

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Eileen Duggan, M.D., takes part in the respirator fitting in Light Hall during the house staff orientation activities. (photo by Joe Howell)

New house staff hit ground running at VMC

On July 1, Vanderbilt Medical Center welcomed 259 new house staff, made up of 185 residents and 74 fellows.

The incoming class hails from 120 medical schools around the country, including 39 from Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. Twenty-three members are graduates of international medical schools.

Before new house staff began caring for patients, they had a weeklong orientation, kicked off by Donald Brady, M.D., associate dean and director of Graduate Medical Education.

“Don't forget why you came into medicine in the first place,” Brady advised, “because that enthusiasm, that idealistic vision of what you can be and what you can do will be what drives you through all the hard days, the highs, the lows. Keeping that vision will get you where you want to be.”

The incoming class is 57 percent male and 43 percent female, but for the first time in history, women dominate general surgery.

Six of seven categorical residents (those committed to five years of general surgery training) are female.

John Tarpley, M.D., surgical program director, says these numbers may be a quirk but points to recent efforts to make the residency less hierarchical.

“Historically, general surgery has been a male bastion and an 'eat residents for breakfast' type of place. The program is still very difficult, but it is not malignant,” Tarpley said.

“During my residency in 1970, there were no women. Fast-forward and 50 percent of medical students are women, and the majority of honors students are women. So if surgery wants to recruit the best and brightest, we have to make sure we don't exclude half the population.”