Lauren Lagrimas, CA-1, Class of 2023
I’m a Texas native without any inside scoop on WashU; I only knew it by its outstanding reputation. I was a bit intimidated, with no family or friends in the Midwest, and no idea if I could live up to the caliber of this program. However, I quickly discovered how silly my fears were as I got to know the people of WashU. The physicians here are not only some of the most brilliant individuals I’ve met, they are also some of the kindest, empathetic, and most approachable. They take their role as educators seriously and cultivate a learning-oriented environment that allows residents at any level to thrive.
The anesthesiologists here come from all over the country and world, offering a varied array of techniques and teachings that are a true gift for trainees. Along with staff diversity is the substantial case diversity, drawing many residents to the program. With a catchment area spanning hundreds of miles and 1,400+ beds, training at BJH is not remiss of any pathology or procedure. This instills our graduates with the confidence that they will excel in whichever career path they pursue. During my interview dinner, I remember being captivated with this confidence beaming from the graduating class.
Aside from a learning-oriented environment and case diversity, I knew outstanding leadership with an emphasis on work-life balance would be crucial. There’s no better example of this leadership than here at WashU. For example, my experience with residency applications had an extra layer of complexity with the couples match. Those going through it know how convoluted and daunting it can be, but WashU couldn’t have been more supportive of our endeavors. There were apparent interdepartmental conversations and the institution was warm and welcoming of couples in the match. The department truly prioritizes wellness amongst its residents with monthly happy hours, biennial galas, and frequent check-ins from the chiefs and the PD.
Speaking of wellness, my colleagues and I have explored some of what St. Louis has to offer (there is so much)! There is a wide variety of cuisine that makes our bellies truly happy. And when that post-meal guilt kicks in, Forest Park (right next to the hospital) holds plenty of running and biking trails. With a quick drive, we have enjoyed light shows at the botanical gardens, wine tastings, and plays at the Fabulous Fox Theater. Choosing WashU has afforded us time to enjoy life outside the hospital without the financial worry to do these activities, thanks to the affordability of living in St. Louis.
As intern year comes to a close, and I reflect on why I chose WashU, I can confidently say this was the best decision I could have made, not only for my career, but for friendships, confidence, and personal growth. I would absolutely choose WashU again!
Christian Guay, CA-2, Class of 2021
I was in an operating room at The Montreal Neurological Institute when I received the invitation to interview at Washington University. Still in the OR, my research mentor started telling me all about Dr. Michael Avidan and the ambitious projects that he and his team were pioneering at Wash U. Two months later, I was sitting in Dr. Avidan’s office overlooking Forest Park, discussing medicine, anesthesia and Douglas Adams. Considering that he had also undertaken an international move to St. Louis, I asked why he chose Wash U. With his characteristically candid tone, he told me that they weren’t afraid of ambitious and avant-garde ideas at Wash U; in fact, they sought them.
Over the past two years, I’ve experienced what Dr. Avidan meant first-hand. During intern year, I joined an innovative perioperative neuroscience lab lead by Dr. Ben Palanca, and garnered support to launch my first interventional trial. From startup funding, to getting an IRB protocol approved and mobilizing research staff, the support that I received so early was incredible. I was also invited to join ongoing NIH-funded projects, with a level of involvement tailored to my evolving clinical responsibilities. Under the guidance of trusted mentors, these efforts have led to two patents, two publications, and a maturing manuscript pipeline. Even more valuable than academic products is the global network that I’ve been introduced to, with collaborators in North America, Europe, Africa, Asia and Oceania.
As a physician-scientist, balancing research with clinical training during residency is at the forefront of my mind. We have four years to grow into world-class clinical anesthesiologists, which requires diligent work and study. Training at a fully integrated medical center with adult and pediatric anesthesiologists, intensivists and scientists all working together on the same campus has been instrumental in maintaining this balance. Many of the patients we care for are enrolled in clinical trials, whether it be a novel oncology regimen, emerging surgical procedure or innovative perioperative protocol. The Division of Clinical and Translational Research is a short walk from any given ICU or operating room on campus, so stopping by the lab is as easy as a bathroom break. There is also a deep culture of respect for the clinical responsibilities of residents in the department, and faculty mentors have always prioritized my development as a physician while supporting my scientific endeavors. Over the course of CA-1 year, I have personally cared for over 400 patients requiring anesthesia, including 5 liver transplants, 30 procedures on cardiopulmonary bypass, and over 100 pediatric cases. I expect to surpass the ABA requirements for graduation before reaching the midway point of CA-2.
It’s also worth mentioning out-of-hospital balance. My wife and I couples-matched, and we had never been to St. Louis before our interviews. Coming from Canada, we were concerned about proximity to nature and cost of living. Naturally, we were pleased to find that there is an enormous public park neighboring the medical center, full of free activities. We often run and cycle around the park with colleagues and visit exhibits at the Saint Louis Art Museum. We’ve also been exploring the surrounding horse and wine country, as well as hiking trails in state parks and national forests. Our cost of living is actually lower than what it was in Canada, allowing us to live and travel comfortably on resident salaries.
Why choose Wash U? The science and practice of anesthesiology is still comparatively young, and the landscape of healthcare is evolving at an accelerating pace. If we intend to lead perioperative medicine for decades to come, then we should train at institutions that embrace change as an opportunity to innovate. Whether you want to pursue the discoveries that drive our future, or translate and implement them into clinical practice, you can count on WashU to support you.
Mark Arcario, CA-3, Class of 2021
I vividly remember the Match process from two years ago — the application, the nervous wait for interview invitations, the frantic packing (and unpacking) of a suitcase, and, most importantly, opening that letter. As a medical student, it can be hard to know what to look for in a residency program because you really do not know what you are looking for; you have never really done anything like this before.
As an M.D-Ph.D. and aspiring physician-scientist, I essentially broke down my interviews into two broad categories: clinical training and scientific training. In the end, WashU was the best fit for both my clinical and scientific needs. With regards to clinical training, I believe there can be few better places than our institution. In fact, the one thing I hear over and over again when I go to conferences or meet practicing anesthesiologists is about the quality of residents trained at WashU. Barnes-Jewish Hospital is a tertiary care institution pulling from most of Missouri as well as routinely from neighboring states (Illinois, Iowa, Arkansas, and Kentucky) and internationally. You will see a wide range of pathologies and patient presentations.; you will be challenged. The great aspect of this institution, though, is that you will never be on an island, there is always someone there to help, whether it is your fellow residents, our fantastic clinical fellows, your attending, or even other services’ attendings. The institution is very collegial and everyone is here to care for the patients. In terms of anesthesiology training, one major advantage this program has is exposure to subspecialty anesthesiology your CA-1 year. As a CA-1, I did Cardiac, Obstetric, Pain, and Pediatric Anesthesiology. This training has elevated what I am capable of and comfortable with in other settings (i.e., in the ICU or other general ORs). I think it is an invaluable experience and is part of what makes our training so unique. As we are a large institution with essentially every sub-specialty area of anesthesiology available, there is plenty of room for you to explore your own interests here with us.
When it comes to scientific endeavors, WashU is second to none. Our department consistently ranks either first or second in total NIH funding. Our research programs are quite diverse ranging from basic science to clinical trials. We are doing significant work in all frontiers of anesthesiology, ranging from basic endeavors such as mechanisms of general anesthesia and studies on consciousness to applications of the latest technologies, such as the use of machine learning in anesthesiology and critical care settings. All of our residents are welcome to participate in the scientific endeavors of our community, whether you just want to come to Science Garage and listen to the latest and greatest that is happening in our department or if you want to get your hands dirty and contribute to advancing anesthesiology, I promise there is a place here for you!
Lastly, I wanted to comment on the camaraderie among residents here. As part of any residency, you will be working long hours at the hospital in very physically and mentally demanding situations. Our residents carry friendly faces and are always willing to lend a hand or some advice when you need it. We have quite a few social gatherings, including a department-sponsored get-together every month. These are always fun and a way to get to know your fellow residents (and their families) outside the confines of the hospital.
I hope you will take a closer look at our program and even join us here in Saint Louis!
Tamanna Huda, CA-3, Class of 2021
As I began the interview process, I had a few things that I was looking for in a program: good people, great training, work-life balance, and a convenient location.
I ranked WashU number one on my list because it was truly the only program that offered all of these things. I met a lot of great people along the interview trail but WashU was one of the only places where I engaged in normal conversations with residents, where the topics were not all about the program specifics. I have made some of the best friends I have ever had during residency, and met some of the nicest humans I have ever known.
In addition to the benevolent environment this program has to offer, WashU provides a truly well-rounded clinical experience and curriculum. Going through training, I have already noticed the growing confidence within myself when handling difficult situations. Starting off with our transitional intern year, I really got to know the hospital well and made many great friends along the way in other specialties. In addition to the wonderful colleagues/friends I have met, the attendings here are supportive, nurturing, and excellent educators. The WashU culture and dedication to education, hard work, and most importantly camaraderie, is unparalleled.
Work-life balance is another thing that was extremely important to me when choosing a program. I definitely got a sense of how social the program is from my interview but I had no idea the extent of it until I came here. The monthly happy hours alone sold me! But then you start attending the program’s other events like the fall gala (a very fancy black tie affair) and you realize that you are in great company. Everyone enjoys their lives just as much as they enjoy their work, and it is a beautiful thing!
And lastly, one thing that was really important for me was location in relation to my hometown of Nashville, TN. I wanted to ability to either take a direct flight home (which is possible because St. Louis airport is a Southwest hub) or be able to drive there in less than a day if I needed to. I knew very little about St. Louis initially so I asked a lot of questions during the interview, but generally you will hear the same great things—affordable place to live, good food, etc.
When I matched here, I started getting nervous about moving to St. Louis as I had only ever lived in big cities in the east coast and the south. Living in a smaller midwestern city was going to be an entirely new experience for me. In bigger cities, people say there is “always something to do.” Living in St. Louis, you find unique things to do and this has really diversified my experiences and interests. Another thing that scared me was the misconception that everyone is married/has kids here. I came here with no kids and unmarried and am having a great time!
WashU has offered me all these things and more (things I did not even know I wanted in a program until I was here)! Whether you want to go into academics, pursue further specialization via fellowship, or go straight into private practice, the department will support and help you achieve your goals. I have made lifelong friendships here and have come to really enjoy the city of St. Louis!