Training programs offer flexibility

October 1, 2006

Dermatology residency programs are seeking to maximize flexibility in areas such as structured electives, while dermatology by its nature provides one of the most flexible specialties in which to train.

Editor's note: Every month in Residents' Forum, a dermatologist in practice or academia discusses clinical and practice management issues affecting residents. If you're a resident and would like to see specific issues covered in this column, please e-mail the editor at mhrehocik@advanstar.com
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However, they say dermatology residency programs are seeking to maximize flexibility in areas such as structured electives, while dermatology, by its nature, provides one of the most flexible specialties in which to train.

She adds that although Wake Forest's dermatology department does an excellent job of educating residents in-house, "We don't pretend that everything they need to know is here, or at any one hospital. We like to encourage residents to think of new places to look into dermatologic opportunities."

Likewise, Harvard Medical School offers third-year residents a one-month elective to further define their career goals through a targeted experience, says Joseph Kvedar, M.D., director, Partners Telemedicine and vice chair, dermatology, Harvard Medical School, Boston.

He says residents frequently travel during this period, funded partly by Harvard.

"They're asked to do something scholarly with their time," which usually results in a talk or white paper for internal faculty, he adds.

Throughout dermatology, he says, "One of the biggest issues we face right now is retaining faculty. And our junior faculty tell us that having such an opportunity" to define career options would have helped them.

Payoff for providing opportunity

Accordingly, he helped Harvard's dermatology residency program craft a two-month research elective available starting this fall. One resident plans to use this elective to study tropical medicine in Brazil, Dr. Kvedar reports.

Dr. Kvedar says that along with helping residents determine if there is a market for their research interests, offering such flexibility is "the way to deal with generation Y. It's been well studied that this generation craves this sort of thing. And the workplace, not just in medicine, is adapting."

One resident who would agree with the above statement is Whitney High, M.D., a recent graduate of the University of Texas Southwestern's (UT Southwestern) dermatology residency program, who studied dermatopathology in New York while a resident, then while a fellow took a three-month position studying tropical medicine in Peru - and later started law school.