Ask the Program Directors Education

Ask the Program Directors: Alison Snyder-Warwick, MD

Choosing a residency program can be a challenging decision. Luckily, the residency program directors in the Department of Surgery at Washington University School of Medicine are here to help answer some frequently asked questions about their programs.

Alison Snyder-Warwick, MD, Assistant Professor of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, serves as Director of the Plastic Surgery Residency program. Snyder-Warwick completed medical school, as well has her general surgery residency, plastic surgery residency, developmental biology and plastic and reconstructive surgery research fellowships right here at Washington University School of Medicine. In addition to leading the Plastic Surgery Residency program, she serves as Director of the Facial Nerve Institute and Co-Director of the Cleft and Craniofacial Institute at St. Louis Children’s Hospital.

The Plastic Surgery Residency program is a six-year integrated program that includes one year of general surgery and five years of plastic surgery training in breast, craniofacial, head/neck trauma, hand, microsurgery, cosmetics, and peripheral nerve surgery. Subspeciality rotations in oculoplastic, surgical dermatology, orthopedic trauma, and anesthesia are also included.

What do you like most about being at WashU?

Chief Residents Austin Ha, MD, Amelia Van Handel, MD, and Danielle Cooper, MD.

The people. The People at WashU are not only experts in their fields, but they are also collegial, generous with their time and ideas, humble, collaborative, and kind. The Division of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery is like family. The atmosphere created by teamwork helps everyone flourish and be better.

How do you feel residents grow during their time in the program? What makes you the most proud?

There is a large professional metamorphosis for residents during their training program. It is very rewarding to watch residents bloom into exceptionally competent, innovative and confident leaders in plastic surgery during their training. It is rewarding to see trainees evolve into teachers. We are proud of our graduates and enjoy following their accomplishments even after they leave WashU.

What are the strengths of the Plastic Surgery Residency program?

The people, high-volume, innovation, breadth and depth of clinical care, research experiences, strong teaching, multiple types of clinical sites, camaraderie… The list is long!

How do you support resident research?

WashU is a phenomenal research powerhouse and Plastic Surgery is no exception. We have a strong framework for research oversight and guidance in the basic, translational and research spheres overseen by Amanda Westman, PhD, Director of Clinical and Translational Research, and Matt Wood, PhD, Scientific Director of Plastic Surgery Research Laboratories.

Residents are required to complete a research project annually after they complete their first year of residency. Research projects are presented annually at our James Barrett Brown Research Day in June. Trainees can pursue a more intensive research experience by pausing their clinical training for dedicated research time as a research fellow.

How do you support resident wellness?

Wellness is hugely important for a successful program and career. We have a supportive and inclusive culture within our program. Twice yearly, the residents have a resident-only wellness retreat for the day. They select various activities for the retreats, such as float trips, a ropes course, paintball, etc. We care for our residents like family. We ensure they look after themselves with annual wellness health check-ups and dental visits every six months.

The residents have protected Genius time from 9-11 a.m. every Wednesday to use however they’d like—to schedule a doctor’s appointment, work on research, study, sleep, or exercise. They also have access to exercise equipment, including a Peloton bike, in the Department resident lounge. Dennis Nguyen, MD, MS, serves as our Wellness Director and is open to other ideas and suggestions from our residents to improve wellness. 

For additional information about the Plastic Surgery Residency Program, how to apply and more, please contact Stephanie Martino, Residency Program Coordinator.