Summer marks the beginning of a new academic year as we welcome a new class of residents taking the first step in their professional exploration.
In many ways, relationships – with peers, mentors, and even subspecialties – are what truly fuel the experience for our department’s residency program.
Notably, our training opportunities reflect the same growth we see in daily clinical workload; there are 20 total spots and opportunities to customize one’s training to AP, CP, or research. Our department also offers an impressive slate of 10 post-residency fellowships.
This sort of growth, both of the program and opportunities for our pathologists-in-training, does not happen in a vacuum. Linda Schiffhauer, who has served as program director since 2019 after five years as associate director, says being actively involved in the process is extremely rewarding.
“My favorite part of the job is seeing them come and develop their passion throughout those years,” Schiffhauer said. “Being a part of that process as a mentor, and watching them grow is so satisfying.”
We have been able to accommodate more trainees thanks to an explosion in surgical volumes and successful administrative lobbying. In 1992, the ACGME gave our department the green light to host 21 residents, but URMC consistently capped this around 16 for many years. That changed in 2020, when the department’s request to expand that number to 20 over four years was approved.
More people in the program means more access to expert training alongside faculty who are leaders in their area of interest. Residency is a time of exploration, and the program is structured to maximize their exposure to different specialties. Making that experience customizable is crucial in steering trainees toward a fulfilling career, Schiffhauer explains.
“Our mission is not to create academic pathologists out of everybody,” she said. “Our whole philosophy is that we want a personalized experience to usher them along in any path they choose.”
One recent addition to the training experience is a boot camp rotation for all incoming PGY-1’s that includes eight weeks of immersive experiences in both AP and CP before they begin their regular rotations. This kind of early exposure is one way residents can learn what captures their interest before choosing something specific to pursue later on.
Bahadir Yildiz is a second-year resident who says he came into the program with an open mind. After finishing his first year, he’s set on doing forensics after residency with the goal of working in a medical examiner’s office someday.
He was drawn to URMC because of the specimen volume, abundance of PA’s and supportive environment. “The thing that made it shine for me was seeing the close relationship between the residents, attendings and other staff,” said Yildiz. “They really looked like family and I felt like I could easily get along with the people here.”
Others who have come through the program echo these sentiments years later. Diana Agostini-Vulaj was chief resident (2015-16) and joined our GI faculty after staying to complete her fellowship at URMC. For her, staying in Rochester was an exciting next step as she joined the ranks alongside her longtime teachers and mentors.
She noted several facets of training that made URMC attractive – including robust clinical service and ample research opportunities – but was impressed with the emphasis on the individual resident’s needs instead of the other way around. As a result, our graduates come out of the program feeling energized about their work, and do remarkably well wherever they land.
“I think our education program really puts the emphasis on what the trainees need and ensuring these needs are met,” said Agostini-Vulaj. “They allow a particular trainee’s curriculum to be tailored to their specific interests and career goals, with a very successful mentoring program.”
Taking Wellness to Heart
Earlier this year, the program was pleased to open the doors to a new resident room in the 2-2100 suite at Strong Hospital. The newly renovated space has a mixture of individual and group space where trainees can work or simply socialize during their downtime.
The new room was designed after obtaining survey input – not only from our own residents, but more than 30 residency programs across the U.S. Their findings pointed to the need for a space that mixed individual and group space. Then chief resident, Anna-Karoline Israel, was successful in publishing an abstract on this topic, co-authored with several faculty, that was accepted to USCAP 2020.
This data-driven decision to create a workspace comes as we prepare to move certain AP services offsite to the central laboratory on Bailey Road in the next few years, and it made sense to create a space at URMC while plans continue to take shape. The space not only helps residents get work done, but gives them an informal setting to enjoy each other’s company along the way.
“It’s about wellness,” said Schiffhauer. “For them to just relax from the pressures of work and build bonds that will last after they leave the program not only helps them, but ultimately impacts their care of patients,” she said. “We are deeply invested in both of those things.”
Congratulations to our Graduates!
Outgoing Residents: Where They're Headed
Bennett Wilson Buffalo VA, faculty
Anna-Karoline Israel Cleveland Clinic, H&N fellowship
Chelsea Milito ME – Philadelphia, Forensic fellow
Numbereye Numbere URMC, Surgical Pathology fellow
Michael Karasick NYC Blood Bank Center, TM fellow
Outgoing Fellows: Where They're Headed
Hani Katerji: URMC, Breast faculty
Roula Katerji URMC, GI faculty
Alexandra Danakas URMC Breast fellow, then URMC faculty
Cynthia Reyes Barron Dermatopathology faculty, El Paso, TX
Andrew Cameron URMC, Microbiology faculty
Nivedita Suresh General pathologist at Cancer Institution Hospital, India
Meet our New Residents
Hometown: Hyderabad, India
Medical school: Deccan College of Medical Sciences
Fun fact about you? I know five different languages.
Hometown: Burlington, Ontario, Canada
Medical school: American University of the Caribbean
Fun fact about you? In the four years of medical school I lived in four countries (Saint Martin, England, Canada, U.S.) and four states (NY, TX, MD, AZ).
Hometown: Grand Rapids, MI
Medical school: Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine
Fun fact about you? My most memorable summer is the one I spent studying abroad in Santiago de Compostela.
Hometown: Ridgefield, WA
Medical school: UR School of Medicine and Dentistry
Fun fact about you? Ran a 100-miler during my time as post-sophomore fellow at URMC Pathology.
Hometown: Izmir, Turkey
Medical school: Ege University School of Medicine
Fun fact about you? I have a goal to start a URMC Pathology basketball team and start an informal tournament! I’m always up for sports or activities and love any kind of physical challenge.
Hometown: Delran, NJ
Medical school: Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine
Fun fact about you? I have been skydiving three times and recently became certified in technical scuba diving and cavern diving. I love adventures and nurturing my inner child!