November 12, 2021
Picking an orthopedic residency program is no small task. We asked current resident, Dr. Caroline Granger, a few questions she was passionate to answer about her experience here in the Washington University Orthopedic Residency Program. Her insight just might help you decide why WashU!
What type of resident thrives at WashU?
Based on my experience here so far, the type of resident who thrives at WashU maintains confident humility, is kind, knowledgeable, a team player, takes initiative and knows how to be efficient in high-stakes situations. At WashU, residents start taking primary level-one trauma calls as early as week one of intern year, something we know fondly here as “Super Saturdays.” Super Saturdays are an incredible learning experience and something I always look forward to as an intern. Though the PGY-1 is overseen by a senior resident and does have them as a safety net, interns are expected to fully evaluate, come up with a plan, know the evidence behind why you’re choosing that plan over any of the other options, perform procedures, and most importantly, take complete ownership for our patients from day one.
Something unique to our program is that we operate frequently during our intern year. In my first month of residency, I was in the operating room literally every day. My seniors gave me the necessary technique guides to prepare for success and then walked me through multiple surgeries.
I learn by doing and a hands-on experience like this is exactly what I was looking for in a residency program. I believe our experiences make our residents extremely prepared for night float as a PGY-2. I have never seen residents handle triple threat (trauma + hand + spine) calls at a busy level-one trauma center as purposefully and efficiently as the PGY-2s I’ve worked with at WashU. I truly believe that because of our curriculum, exposure and incredible mentorship we receive here from both senior residents and faculty, there is nothing that can come through the ED/trauma bay doors that our residents can’t handle.
What do you love about St. Louis?
I could go on for a long time about what I love about St. Louis…
Nature and outdoor exercise/sports are really important to me and there is no shortage of any of it in St. Louis! I live in the Central West End (importantly, I can’t see the hospital from my window but can still walk there). I have absolutely loved having access to Forest Park for outdoor running, biking and taking walks outside with friends or while I call my family. Forest Park also has a boathouse, a ton of free museums, the MUNY for shows (I went to see ‘Chicago’ there with a few coresidents) and the St. Louis Zoo, which is also free! Coming from Miami, seeing the leaves change in the fall was a MUST and STL did not disappoint. Already counting down the day until the winter ice skating rink opens.
I’ve also found some amazing hiking trails and biking paths about 25-30 minutes west of St. Louis and have gone there to hike on many of my weekends and days off. A nice thing about STL you’ll realize is nothing is ever really going to be further than 30 minutes away. Many of our attendings live close by and often have residents over for dinner, which helps a lot with providing a sense of community here. We also do an annual float trip down the river in the Ozarks which is an absolute blast, and a group of us have gone to a couple of concerts at our outdoor venue in STL.
As a foodie, having access to good restaurants is also a must. We have a nice collection of local coffee shops for studying/de-stressing/caffeinating, great takeout options (basically anything you can think of), very authentic Italian food on The Hill, almost every variation of ethnic food close by, and so many more places I have yet to discover. We also have a ton of breweries in the area where we like to meet and destress on Friday evenings and weekends.
What is one thing you wish you knew when you were searching for a residency program that you know now?
I think something that is so understated during the application process is the importance of loving where you are and the people you work with every day. Residency is hard, no matter what, and we’re all here because we’re capable and want to take exceptional care of our patients. Most residency programs are going to train you to be a great orthopedic surgeon, but not all programs are going to keep you happy and motivated throughout the process. At WashU, I can honestly say I’m constantly inspired by the people around me. I’m so motivated to get better every day because I see how excellent my coresidents are, not just as orthopedic surgeons (which they absolutely are), but also as well-rounded human beings. There is so much support here within and between resident classes and that’s something that has really helped me excel and stay happy even during the tough times.
I’ve had coresidents (from co-interns all the way up to chiefs) call my phone out of the blue just to make sure I’m doing okay or leave “you’re doing great” notes by my bag, drop off surprise snacks while on my intern nights-rotation, because they’ve been there too and know it’s a tough one. It truly feels like a team here within our residency program and I know they always have my back.
My advice: make sure your prospective residency program can honestly offer you the tight-knit feel. It will make all the difference.