Faculty Survey Results

  • Survey Respondent: Tobias Steen Köhler, MD, MPH, Residency Program Director
    Residency Program: Southern Illinois University
    If you were an applicant, why would you choose to train in your residency program?
    SIU Urology’s mission is to be the best urology training program in the country. The goals and values of the next generation’s urologists differ from previous generations and this is occurring in a situation of greater regulatory oversite. Our program has focused on maximizing learning while at work to easily meet ACGME duty hour restrictions. Our program was recently accredited for the maximum 5 year cycle (through 06/2015) with zero citations and two commendations. Our residents are happy, averaging 62 hours a week in a truly collegial work environment. Case volume is excellent with graduating chief’s operative volume from the last 3 years averaging 82% for adult urology, 77% for pediatric urology, and 83% for total cases. Operative experience is split between two successful, private hospitals in close proximity (1 mile) with staff coverage for all urologic sub-specialties. Seven of our 10 residents scored > 90th percentile rank on last year’s urology in-service examination. Our residents average 1-2 pub-med cited publications per year. We have equal numbers of graduates go on to private practice and highly competitive fellowships. Our program’s success stems from several factors. The staff and residents are quite close, and we encourage even our youngest residents to question staff on why they do things the way that they do. Our academic schedule is extremely rigorous, with every Wednesday including mandatory participation of urology staff and residents (including surgery year GU interns) from 8 am until 12:30 pm. SIU is a national leader in surgical education which involves frequent use of surgical skills labs and simulation. The financial success of our two hospitals allows for generous support for these facilities, as well as 2 Davinci systems (one dual counsel robot), and competitive resident salaries and benefits (loupes, books, meeting travel funding etc.) even in tight financial times. Perhaps most importantly, all attending staff that join SIU come with the understanding that resident education rivals patient care in level of importance. Springfield, Illinois is a great place to live, especially for families, with an extremely low cost of living that affords most residents the ability to own their own homes.
    What is your program looking for in a graduating medical student?
    SIU Urology highly values well rounded, amiable, and industrious individuals that have evidence of outstanding professionalism.
    What part of an application do you consider most important in ranking applicants?
    We feel very fortunate to have the current group of residents we have. A focus on professionalism and how well we feel someone would fit into our program after interview carries the most weight. Personal statement, letters of recommendation, completed research projects, board scores, clerkship grades, and extracurricular activities are all considered in granting interviews.
    What advice do you have for medical students hoping to match in Urology?
    Urology continues to be extremely competitive, so an applicant and her/his advisor must have realistic expectations. Most institutions utilize board score and clerkship grade cut points to help narrow the field. It is essential to excel in other areas if these are suspect. The number of interviews one is granted is a strong predictor of matching. While on the interview trail, take careful notes that day, programs will blend together. Although you will likely get great training from the majority of residency programs, get a sense of resident and staff happiness at that institution – could you picture yourself there? Pay attention to how much time you have to speak privately with the residents. Most urology programs allow their residents and ancillary staff to have veto power. Ask for real data to support program’s claims of high case volume etc. Good luck!
  • Survey Respondent: Mathew Sorensen, MD, MS
    Residency Program: University of Washington
    If you were an applicant, why would you choose to train in your residency program?

    The urology program at the University of Washington is a unique training program. It is one of the largest University departments for urology training in the country with 5 hospitals and 35 faculty who have interests that cover every subspecialty within urology, including oncology, pediatric urology, trauma, infertility, female and reconstructive urology, neuro-urology (one of 2 in the country) and transplantation. Residents rotate through the University Hospital, a free- standing Children's Hospital, a level I trauma center, a VA Hospital and a hospital-based private practice group. There are da Vinci robots at 3 of the hospitals. Our residents are richly supplied with excellent clinical and operative experiences that far-exceed the national average. We now have two training tracks for residents.  Our traditional 6-year research track (2 residents per year) includes a full year of dedicated and protected research (PGY-4 year), and, during this time, residents audit courses in Biostatistics and may also take advantage of a global rotation with International Volunteers in Urology (IVU) for cultural experiences in third-world medicine. Our 5-year track (1 resident per year) will not have a dedicated research year, though the resident will have 3-4 months of protected research time. Our educational program is carefully designed to be comprehensive, preparing all residents for the potential of lifelong learning.  The residents have a formal curriculum that includes faculty-precepted chapter review sessions, a robust, individualized mentoring program, expectations to participate in quality improvement, as well as a host of hospital-specific teaching conferences.  We also have two unique educational initiatives.  Residents participate in a simulation-based surgical skills curriculum (URISTI) in our simulation center and an electronic, biweekly, spaced-learning curriculum where they are supplied customized practice SASP/inservice exam questions (UCQC). Finally, there is a mutual respect that is pervasive in our department, which makes for a very pleasant professional working environment.

    What is your program looking for in a graduating medical student?

    Medical students who apply to our program should be interested in the three pillars of graduate medical education: patient care, teaching, and research. The student should be dedicated to hard work as a team member in a consortium of five very busy urban hospitals. We look for students who are academically competitive, demonstrate leadership qualities, and have an inquiring mind.

    What part of an application do you consider most important in ranking applicants?

    Ranking applicants for interview from the applicant pool is a difficult process, which our program takes very seriously. There is no one important factor in the application that guarantees an interview and much less a position in the program. The applicant’s “package” is important. This stated, letters of recommendation, personal statements and USMLE scores give a tremendous amount of information about applicants. We are looking for well rounded applicants that demonstrate an interest in and aspiration to become leaders in the field of urology.

    What advice do you have for medical students hoping to match in Urology?

    Medical students hoping to match in Urology should know that Urology is first and foremost a surgical field. If surgery, or the idea of spending a lot of time in the operating room, is not of interest to you, do not apply to Urology. It is important to seek out a mentor in Urology, a person who will inform you of the bad days as well as the good days. We have a healthy mentorship program at UW. Interested medical students should not only investigate the field of Urology but be able to document their interest. We are looking for eager and curious individuals who are excited to be a part of this great field.

  • Survey Respondent: Stephen E. Strup, MD, Department Chair
    Residency Program: University of Kentucky
    If you were an applicant, why would you choose to train in your residency program?
    Our program is well known for the emphasis we place on teaching. Yes, we have robotics, MIS surgery, open surgery, etc. but at UK, teaching residents isn’t an afterthought; it is why we are here. Our faculty take a genuine interest in developing our resident’s skills in all phases of their Urologic education. We also have a high and varied case volume that gives ample opportunity for the residents to master the art of Urology. The UK faculty are a diverse yet cohesive group which helps create a supportive educational environment. Finally, our residents complete their training in Urology and enter fellowships or private practice as skilled and confident Urologic surgeons.
    What is your program looking for in a graduating medical student?
    Quality, dedication, and a willingness to learn.
    What part of an application do you consider most important in ranking applicants?
    There are two important parts of the application. First is the personal statement. It is your opportunity to try to enlighten us as to who you are, what makes you tick, etc. The second part is beyond the actual paper application, but is the interview. We interview applicants in small groups in order to have as many faculty as possible interact with the applicants. Urology is a competitive specialty and I have yet to meet a candidate who, on paper, isn’t smart, dedicated to urology, and a world-class humanitarian. As a resident in our program, you become a vital member of the UK team and your personality and character (as well as your accomplishments) will be what make you attractive to us as a resident candidate.
    What advice do you have for medical students hoping to match in Urology?
    The first bit of advice is to immerse yourself in the field of Urology as a student. Be active in your school’s Urology program, go to conferences, check out the OR (even if you aren’t on service). This is just one way to make sure that Urology is right for you. To be a successful, motivated resident, you have to really enjoy what you do. The second bit of advice is to be yourself throughout the application and interview process. This helps you land at a program that is right for you. Most programs can see through the applicants who try to create a persona that they think may be attractive to a particular program. All Urology programs teach Urology, but there are many ways to do that and many different environments in which this education can take place. Find the place where you will flourish and you will meet your potential.
  • Survey Respondent: John Phillips, MD, Residency Program Director
    1. Fellowship level training in robotics, endourology, pediatrics, and oncology.  2. Encourages autonomy and early independence 3. Committed to ensuring a smooth transition to academics or private practice 4. Open, supportive working and research environment 5. Location supports living either in Manhattan or in suburbs in area known for great schools
    Residency Program: New York Medical College
    If you were an applicant, why would you choose to train in your residency program?
    1. Fellowship level training in robotics, endourology, pediatrics, and oncology. 2. Encourages autonomy and early independence 3. Committed to ensuring a smooth transition to academics or private practice 4. Open, supportive working and research environment 5. Location supports living either in Manhattan or in suburbs in area known for great schools
    What is your program looking for in a graduating medical student?
    1. Critical, motivated mind 2. Interested in learning technical skills but strong commitment to bedside care 3. ‘Holistic’ approach to c.v.: not just test scores, but self-drive accomplishments, research/Pubs, and service
    What part of an application do you consider most important in ranking applicants?
    While boards are helpful, letters from close mentors, publications, and the interview help paint the canvas
    What advice do you have for medical students hoping to match in Urology?
    1. Do well on the boards. 2. Identify a mentor early in medical school to develop a research project in any field, not just urology, that can be… 3. Published before you apply 4. Demonstrate consistent efforts of academic high quality in numerous specialities in addition to urology (i.e. learn from others) 5. At the interviews, read about the faculty and their publications. a. Be excited to ask about their work. b. Show enthusiasm and a pleasant personality that one would want to include in a 5 to 6 year program. c. Admit ignorance and willingness to learn. d. Focus the conversation just once onto something you feel passionate about. e. Don’t let there be a pause in the interview…if the interviewer is tired and is searching for a question, say something like ‘May I ask if that is Patrick Walsh in that picture….” Etc. They are bound to be tired at some point and would be grateful to speak about something non-urologic. f. Don’t hold back on talking about armchair stuff, i.e. sports, culture, history, literature, but avoid politics!
  • Survey Respondent: Edward Cherullo, MD, Residency Program Director
    As of July 1, 2009, the Case Western Reserve program in Urology has modified its curriculum to become a 6-year program, with one year of General surgery, one year of dedicated Research and four years of Urology.
    If you were an applicant, why would you choose to train in your residency program?
    Diversity of experience in both clinical and research training is one of the greatest strengths of the residency program at Case Western Reserve University. The program has been tailored to maximize training in both surgical urology and translational urologic research with residents spending eight months in General Surgery, more than four years in urology, and one year dedicated to urologic research. Once in urology, residents gain experience in all subspecialties, including urologic oncology, pediatric urology, female/reconstructive urology, neurourology, infertility, endourology, and minimally invasive surgery (laparoscopy & robotic-assisted laparoscopy). Furthermore, residents train in a variety of hospital settings and work with diverse patient populations. Rotations occur across a number of different hospital settings, including University Hospitals Case Medical Center, Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital, Louis Stokes Cleveland V.A. Medical Center, MetroHealth Medical Center (county hospital with Level I trauma), and the Southwest Urology Group (private practice). It is this breadth of experience that contributes to the high success rate of our graduates in securing first-choice competitive fellowships in desired subspecialties, top academic appointments, and the best long-term career positions in the private practice arena. The program is also dedicated to resident education. In addition to structured weekly didactic and teaching sessions, there is also integration of education with other departments, such as Transplant Medicine, General Surgery (particularly Colorectal Surgery), and Nephrology. The different rotation sites also have rotation specific educational activities. The residency program offers a robust clinical, translational, and basic science research program. All research residents are provided with a year-long research curriculum, including tailored instruction on epidemiology, statistics, medical decision-making, grant preparation, and manuscript writing. Opportunities for basic science and translational research are available at three fully funded laboratories, including those of Dr. Firouz Daneshgari, Dr. Adonis Hijaz, and Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Clinical research with our faculty is also abundantly available. A full-time clinical research team has been developed to provide support for clinical research activities. The residents in our program are well-represented at regional and national conferences for their work.
    What is your program looking for in a graduating medical student?
    We are looking for intelligent, hard working, team players who are interested in contributing to and benefiting from our growing program. As we offer a diversity of training experiences, we look for residents who are strong in their abilities to be adaptable, independent, reliable, and efficient. It has been a tradition for our faculty and residents to work well together in a collegial environment. Many of the residents from Case Western Reserve and Cleveland Clinic are friends inside and outside the hospital, with monthly dinner gatherings and frequent informal get-togethers. Therefore, we value applicants who demonstrate the capacity to work well and communicate effectively with others both professionally and socially. Intelligence and a critical/analytical approach to problem-solving Someone who demonstrates an inquisitive nature and is a hard worker
    What part of an application do you consider most important in ranking applicants?
    We consider all aspects of the application process important. Letters of recommendation from faculty who know the applicant well and a strong academic record in all areas of medical school (USMLE scores, core curriculum, and clinical clerkship grades) are critical. The interview process is intended to ensure that applicants are a good fit for the program as much as the program is a good fit for them.
    What advice do you have for medical students hoping to match in Urology?
    Urology is a fantastic surgical subspecialty that continues to be competitive. Speak with other medical students who have recently matched in urology to help guide you through the career decision-making and application processes. Do a sub-internship at your home institution, and find a faculty mentor to help provide support and guidance. Consider doing an away rotation to diversify your exposure to the field of urology. You can also strengthen your curriculum vitae by participating in a project that demonstrates your interest in urologic research. Do not limit yourself. All accredited urology residency programs offer excellent training. Choose the program that is the best fit for you. This may mean choosing a program based on location, curriculum, or even “the right feel”. An unhappy resident will do poorly anywhere, while a happy resident will flourish regardless of the training program
  • Survey Respondent: Stanley Zaslau, MD, Residency Program Director
    Residency Program: West Virginia University
    If you were an applicant, why would you choose to train in your residency program?
    The urology program at West Virginia University can be considered to be a 'Mighty Might.' We are the only ACGME accredited urology residency that services the state of West Virginia. When one considers both the population of West Virginia and the surrounding regions of Ohio, Kentucky, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Maryland, our program is the resource for approximately 2.75 million people. Thus, the diversity and breadth of cases here is outstanding. This exposure to urologic disease coupled with an extensive reaching program makes this program, in our opinion "a jewel."
    What is your program looking for in a graduating medical student?
    We are looking for motivated, hardworking and sincere individuals who want to be well trained urologists. While demonstration of academic success is important (USMLE scores and class rank), we are also particularly interested in training residents share the same passion for urology as we do.
    What part of an application do you consider most important in ranking applicants?
    The most important criterion to rank an applicant is how well they will fit into our program. While this is certainly hard to do during the interview process, we encourage applicants interested in our program to spend a rotation with us. While a month elective is preferable, we would be happy to have applicants rotate for as little as one week with us as their schedule permits. In addition to getting to know our applicants personally, we pay close attention to the following, in order of importance: (1) Letters of recommendation, (2) Class rank, (3) Clinical rotation performance, (4) USMLE scores, (5) CV and personal statement.
    What advice do you have for medical students hoping to match in Urology?
    Our best advice is to plan for your interest as early as possible in your medical school experience. For example, we encourage our first year students to do a lab research project with us (which is a paid position). We encourage our second year students to attend our conference and shadow us in clinic. We suggest that third year students do a rotation with us and get involved with a research project. We encourage fourth year students to do all of the above as fast as they can before the match day comes around.
  • Survey Respondent: Don Lynch, MD, Residency Program Director
    Residency Program: Eastern Virginia Medical School
    If you were an applicant, why would you choose to train in your residency program?
    The EVMS Urology program combines a diverse operative experience with excellent clinical and academic training. Among the three main teaching hospitals (Sentara Hospitals Southside, Children's Hospital of the King's Daughters, and the US Naval Hospital) we have 21 faculty, 16 of whom are fellowship trained. The faculty is strongly committed to top level resident training, academics, and clinical research. We have two strong fellowship programs - in reconstructive urology and laparoendoscopic surgery - which we feel enhance resident training. Our residents have consistently scored well on the ABU examinations and our graduates have excelled in both the academic and private practice realms. Those interested in fellowship training have secured excellent fellowships and those interested in private practice have been highly sought after by first quality practices. Our residents are treated with respect and seem happy to be here, and that's important to us. Additionally, Tidewater Virginia is a great place to live.
    What is your program looking for in a graduating medical student?
    Character, integrity, industry, collegiality, idealism, intellect, maturity, thoughtfulness, compassion, enthusiasm, and consideration for others.
    What part of an application do you consider most important in ranking applicants?
    Recommendations from other urologists known to us, particularly your school's urology chairman or program director. Academic performance. USMLE scores. Diversity of interests and outside achievements - Eagle Scout, missionary work, community service, military experience. A well-written, concise, thoughtful, and cogent personal statement. Research experience is a plus, but not essential, as are publications.
    What advice do you have for medical students hoping to match in Urology?
    * Find a mentor. Be certain urology is what you want and that our program is the kind of training environment you are seeking. Be both candid and thoughtful in your personal statement. Get meaningful and substantive recommendations from urologists. Study hard and do well on your courses and on your USMLE exams.
    * Treat your fellow applicants with respect, and be respectful of the programs with which you interview. Remember that you represent your institution as well as yourself.
    * Try to do an outside urology rotation if you have an interest in a particular institution's program. If this isn't possible, a short clinical experience of a week or two may be helpful. That will also give you another urology chairman or program director who can provide some meaningful observations about you to other programs.
  • Survey Respondent: Joseph W. Basler, MD, PhD Program Director
    If you were an applicant, why would you choose to train in your residency program?
    The UTHSCSA Urology training program has a number of features that graduates have reported, in retrospect, to be major strengths. The clinical volume and breadth of pathology is substantial, allowing the graduate to choose the (1) subspecialty fellowship training program of choice or (2) to move into a clinical practice with an expertise that is on-par or above-par with urologists who are already working in the community. The fact that all subspecialties of Urology are a component of the UTHSCSA program has been a strength on all previous evaluations. For those individuals who are looking to develop a foundation for an academic career, the combination of large clinical trials and translational science studies provides an excellent foundation for the practice of Urology. Finally, a brief chat with the residents and faculty will highlight the teamwork and good spirit of the group.
    What is your program looking for in a graduating medical student?
    The ideal medical student applying to UTHSCSA Urology training program is bright, enthusiastic, shows initiative, enjoys a collegial working relationship with other residents, and has the habit of 'doing a bit more than is expected'.
    What part of an application do you consider most important in ranking applicants?
    While academic achievement is important, we look for students who have shown the initiative to start a research project, develop a new way of doing something, volunteer to improve the lives of others or some other aspect of their character that lets us know that they have the potential for leadership and will be able to advance the field of Urology.
    What advice do you have for medical students hoping to match in Urology?
    Because it is so competitive and because there are so many excellent candidates interested in Urology, the student who is looking to match in Urology should strongly consider: Working on an elective with a mentor who can provide a strong letter of recommendation and can comment beyond the usual 2-3 week rotation observations. Work on a project and write a paper with a Urology physician at your institution. This shows initiative and helps the student to understand how papers make it into journals. It also sometimes 'breaks the ice' and could lead to a fascinating and rewarding career in academic medicine. Do an outside rotation in Urology especially at an institution that you may want to consider for your training. Guidance for this is usually available through the local Urology program coordinator. The rotation will give the student a better idea of the breadth of Urology and may cement interest in the specialty. If the student works hard, is helpful and enthusiastic, the rotation could potentially provide an additional strong letter of recommendation.
  • Survey Respondent: Joseph A. Smith, MD, Department Chair
    Residency Program: Vanderbilt University
    If you were an applicant, why would you choose to train in your residency program?
    The urology residency at Vanderbilt University combines an intense clinical and operative experience with a comprehensive educational program designed to prepare the resident for a career of lifelong achievement and contributions in urologic surgery. Our residents have an almost unparalleled volume of operative cases but our curriculum is also carefully designed to provide extensive experience in the outpatient setting. Our hospital mix is almost ideal with a large university hospital, a freestanding pediatric hospital, an adjoining Veterans' Affairs hospital, a nearby city hospital, and a rotation at a busy private hospital. Our greatest source of pride, though, is the general camaraderie and cooperation which exists among residents and faculty.
    What is your program looking for in a graduating medical student?
    Virtually all applicants to urology residencies are highly qualified based upon their academic accomplishments and Board scores. From this group, we strive to select individuals who are highly motivated and dedicated to making substantial contributions to the field of urologic surgery during their career. Although we are supportive of our residents who pursue private practice, we are seeking individuals most likely to pursue fellowships and academic urology. We want residents who are self-motivated and will fit in with an atmosphere of high expectations without sacrificing personal quality of life.
    What part of an application do you consider most important in ranking applicants?
    We select for interview only applicants who are highly ranked in their medical school class and who have performed well on Boards. Nonetheless, these are not the most important criteria in selecting applicants. We strongly consider letters of recommendation but rely heavily upon our perception after interviews. Our interview process is designed to allow maximum exposure and contact between the applicants and our own residents and faculty. Applicants interested in Vanderbilt should consider performing a senior elective with us although this is far from essential.
    What advice do you have for medical students hoping to match in Urology?
    Applicants should prepare their applications and personal statements carefully and in a timely fashion and seek meaningful letters of recommendation. During the interview process, the applicant should simply present himself or herself in a relaxed and open manner. We attempt to provide as much honest information about our program as possible and applicants should do the same. This will allow applicants to match at the program best suited for themselves.
  • Survey Respondent: Frederick A. Klein, MD, Department Chair
    If you were an applicant, why would you choose to train in your residency program?
    Our residency is designed as a mentorship program. Each resident is on service with a specific attending and more or less spends the month with that attending, whether in the office or in the operating room. This means that you learn first-hand the clinical/office-based side of Urology from someone who has been doing it for years in addition to operating alongside an experienced surgeon from day one of your urology residency. Further, the mentorship approach enables the PGY-2 to be the lead surgeon in oncologic cases that residents in other programs will not experience until their PGY4 or PGY5 years. To date, 60% of our residents have entered into fellowships while 40% have entered private practice upon completion of their residency. Our case volumes are well-above average. As we only service one primary hospital, call is split evenly among the residents currently at a 1 out of 5 ratio (usually 3-4 weeknight calls and only 1 weekend call per month). Our pediatric hospital is less than a 5 minute drive from the adult hospital and we have a comprehensive pediatric surgical experience including even the most complex exstrophy cases. We alternate between 1 resident per match and 2 residents per match, with 2 residents matching in January 2012. East Tennessee is a great place to live with countless outdoors activities, a large SEC university town with great game day experiences, and a low crime rate.
    What is your program looking for in a graduating medical student?
    We are a looking for the med student(s) that are self-motivated in all levels of life. Success in the classroom is the first indication of a motivated student and we typically only interview applicants with above average USMLE Step 1 scores. A very strong preference is given to US Graduates from allopathic medical schools. Students that do away rotations with us are also given strong preference. Once the interview rolls around, we look for the students most likely to get along with our residents and faculty. We are a relatively small training program and we pride ourselves in developing friendships among the residents and attendings, often golfing and boating on the weekends when the weather allows.
    What part of an application do you consider most important in ranking applicants?
    In order of importance: Hard Work Ethic, Affability/Personality, Step 1 Scores, Extracurricular activities, Dexterity/Operative skills
    What advice do you have for medical students hoping to match in Urology?
    Study as much as possible for Step 1 and Step 2 as this is the only standardized measurement we have to evaluate all applicants on equal grounds and Urology as a specialty is becoming more and more difficult to match into. Broaden your interests and activities to make yourself more attractive to residency programs. Do an away rotation at the program you hope to match with.