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Zooming into a procedural specialty with Vance Albaugh, MD, PhD

Posted by on Friday, December 18, 2020 in Uncategorized .

Caleb Ford (G5)

Anecdotally, Vanderbilt MSTP student interest in procedural specialties has risen during my time in the MSTP. This trend is corroborated by a recent publication exploring the data and possible reasons that MD-PhD trainees are not pursuing careers in orthopedic surgery (an excellent residency choice in my opinion). As you may have reflected reading that last sentence, the authors found “stereotypes about orthopaedic surgeons propagated during and after medical school” as a major recruiting barrier (von Kaeppler, et al. 2020, Journal of Orthopaedic Research). The authors note that from 1975 to 2014, internal medicine residency programs have seen a steady decline in MD-PhD trainees from ~40% (of MD-PhD graduates) down to ~25%. Over the same period, neurosurgery participation significantly rose from ~1% to ~2%. Meanwhile, orthopedic surgery participation saw no statistically significant change and hovers close to 1% of MD-PhD graduates. Of note, MD-PhD residency applicants in the US are only ~3% each year so the odds a random intern being an MD-PhD in orthopedic surgery is about 3/10,000—on par with the odds of being struck by lightning during the course of one’s life (1/15,300-National Weather Service).

Despite the discrepancy in MD-PhD residency pursuance, all specialties are focused on evidence-based medicine—a practice to which MD-PhD trainees are well-suited to both participate in and develop. While research tracks are present for many specialties in internal medicine and pediatrics, this concept is largely lost in many procedural specialties. The lack of streamlined options forces MD-PhD trainees interested in procedural specialties to actively pursue advice from near-peer mentors. The Vanderbilt MSTP was honored to host former Stahlman-Thomas Associate Advisor Vance Albaugh, MD, PhD, who is beginning a faculty position as a Bariatric Surgeon at Pennington Biomedical Research Center (LSU). Vance led an informal session on Zoom on December 2nd targeted at MSTP students interested in procedural specialties.

Recent Vandy MSTP alumni, Josh Thompson (PGY-1, General Surgery), joined a cohort of current MSTP trainees on Vance’s tour through the unknown to the ultimate goal: landing a faculty position as a surgeon-scientist. In addition to answering all of our questions over the course of the hour, Vance gave some advice reflecting on his training. A few points, I would like to share with you as they can apply to all of us:

  •     Be intentional with decisions by asking yourself: “How is this going to help me accomplish my goals?”
  •     Find and maintain a broad network of mentors
  •     Recognize and pursue the primary purpose of your current training phase 
  •     In preparation for interviews, visualize your dream job and be prepared to discuss it clinically and scientifically. Know what you are willing to sacrifice if you don’t have time to do it all.

On behalf of the Vandy MSTP, thank you to Vance for his time and mentorship!