For the first time ever, the pandemic in 2020 made it impossible for medical students interested in anesthesiology to visit the UCLA Health campus in person and tour our department. In response, Judi Turner, MD, PhD, our Vice Chair for Education, and the faculty and staff of the Education Office staged our first Virtual Open House via Zoom in September. More than 180 medical students signed on for an inside look at our program, the application process, and resident life.
“Obviously, I wish you could be here to visit us and meet with our clinicians, researchers, educators, residents, chief residents, staff – all the people who are part of our amazing department,” said Maxime Cannesson, MD, PhD, our department chair, in opening remarks. “It’s sad that you’re not here, but the good thing is that it allows a lot of you to have the opportunity to get a sense of our department.”
The UCLA Department of Anesthesiology and Perioperative Medicine is “one of the best departments in the country, and also one of the youngest anesthesiology programs,” Dr. Cannesson said, with “amazing clinical care” delivered at Ronald Reagan Medical Center, Santa Monica Medical Center, Martin Luther King Jr. Community Hospital, and sites across the greater Los Angeles community.
“For residents, that’s an opportunity to get engaged with the whole of Los Angeles,” Dr. Cannesson said. “We want residents who seek opportunities. We want you to become leaders in our specialty.”
Dr. Cannesson introduced Dr. Turner, who has served as the residency program director for the past eight years. Recently promoted to Vice Chair for Education, Dr. Turner has created a dynamic education leadership team consisting of:
• Jack Buckley, MD, now Residency Program Director
• Christine Myo Bui, MD, Associate Program Director
• Jason Lee, MD, Associate Program Director for Didactics
• Soban Umar, MD, PhD, Associate Program Director for Resident Research
• Lauren Beck MD, Associate Program Director for Quality Improvement and Patient Safety
• Satya Patel, MD, Associate Program Director for Anesthesia Interns.
Dr. Buckley explained that the residency is a categorical program. “Everybody that does residency with us will also do their internship here,” he said. “We have fellowships in everything you can think of.” He noted that the department has 130 clinical anesthesiology faculty members involved in resident teaching, and research opportunities in eight NIH-funded laboratory groups.
Medical students always want to know what a department is looking for in terms of residency recruitment, Dr. Buckley said. But there’s no quick answer.
“We do a holistic review of every file,” Dr. Buckley explained. “We see you as a whole picture, as opposed to ‘Step’ scores or anything else.” The department values excellence across a spectrum of accomplishment, he explained, whether academic excellence, work history, research, or other endeavors, and seeks to learn how an applicant’s experiences “changed you as a person.” Each applicant interviews with three faculty members and one resident, and is welcome to connect later with residents to learn more about the program and get answers to any questions.
Dr. Myo Bui highlighted the achievements of residents in recent years including research awards, grants, and peer-reviewed publications. Dr. Lee reviewed specifics of the didactic program, and Dr. Umar explained how the department supports resident research with an infrastructure to link residents with faculty mentors.
“We have systems in place for residents to do high-quality research,” Dr. Umar explained, with seed grants and dedicated time for research. One pathway for clinician scientists, the Anesthesiology Resident Scholars Program, provides financial support and a year of fellowship experience.
Jennifer Lucero, MD, MA, who is our Vice Chair for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) and the medical school’s Associate Dean for Admission, spoke about combating structural racism and the development of EDI committees in every department including our own. “Anesthesia is at the forefront, leading the way in this,” she said.
At the beginning of the Open House, Dr. Cannesson spoke about the future of anesthesiology and how this is tied to innovation “that comes from faculty but also from residents and trainees.” At UCLA, innovation is translated into clinical practice and the process of getting new ideas from concept to market.
Nirav Kamdar, MD, MPP, MBA, heads these efforts as the Clinical Director of the UCLA Biodesign Program, which offers a fellowship program for residents and graduates. The program provides leadership and innovation training for the entrepreneurs and health-tech leaders of tomorrow, combining clinical immersion and business development within a broad entrepreneurial ecosystem at UCLA.
“One of the unique things about UCLA is that it’s one of the handful of campuses that’s within walking distance between a health center, a fabulous school of business, an engineering school, and a school of design,” Dr. Kamdar explained. “We call it ‘Silicon Beach’. That’s where innovation comes together in one piece and that’s what we call biodesign.”
After the faculty presentations, Dr. Buckley and Dr. Turner fielded questions asked in advance by the medical student audience.
Where do residents go after graduation? Between 40-50% of residents do fellowship training, 40-50% go into private practice, and another 10% go to work in academic practice. “Every one of our residents who wants to do a fellowship gets a fellowship in the specialty they desire,” Dr. Buckley said. Many graduates stay in southern California by choice, but others accept positions across the country.
What are strong points of the UCLA program?
• Unusual, complex cases
• Good relationships between residents and faculty
• Good relationships with surgical colleagues
• Pleasant experience coming to work every day
• Resources that department leadership devotes to the residency program in terms of time and money.
What is the culture of the program? Culture evolves over time, but every faculty member at UCLA takes pride in being an outstanding clinician, Dr. Turner noted. Of the speakers at the Open House, all work clinically and most were on call the night before the event. Both faculty and residents feel empowered to speak up with necessary, which makes UCLA a safer place to get anesthesia care as well as a friendly place to work with an emphasis on wellness.
The medical students were divided into smaller groups to give each one an opportunity to attend three breakout sessions:
• Resident life
• Equity, diversity, and inclusion
• Education, research, and global health
The sessions were led by chief residents Azad Hirpara, Jeff Kim, and Libby Wang, together with residents Aanchal Prakash, Samru Abraha, Hugo Cardona, Ceci Canales, Zhi Dong, Ryan Gamlin, John Kleinman, Jonathan Dahan, Dane Saksa, Brittany Burton, Sebastian Kwon, Bryant Hong, Jake Melendrez, Ramita Rahimian, Susan Alaei, Brian Park, Emma Huebner, Sara Arastoo, Jordan Francke, Emily Walters, Sam Jiang, Nick Bacher, and Brock Gamez.
Participating fellows included Krista Cascia, Elizabeth Feenstra, and Colby Tanner. The faculty members who took part were Drs. Zarah Antongiorgi, Marisa Hernandez-Morgan, and Sophia Poorsattar.
One medical student commented that the “supportive and friendly culture comes across virtually.” Another appreciated “being able to see the residents have rapport with each other during the breakout rooms.”
Dr. Hirpara, one of the chief residents, observed that during their interviews some applicants reported that they decided to apply to UCLA after taking part in the Virtual Open House. Others cited the department’s dedication to equity and diversity as a positive factor.
Dr. Buckley said, “I think we should do it again next year in roughly the same format even if we do in-person interviews.” He and the other program directors extended sincere thanks to staff members Lucelva Mendez, Areli Gonzalez, and Jessyka Delgado for all their work in planning and hosting the event.
To watch the Open House presentations, please visit the UCLA Anesthesiology YouTube channel.