Residents in the Department of Surgery at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis are part of an academic program with diverse surgical training, strong research opportunities and mentors who are national leaders in their fields. With residency programs in General Surgery, Plastic Surgery, Urology and Vascular Surgery, residents in every specialty have access to world-class training. What makes each of these programs truly special is the community and camaraderie.
Dr. Clanahan is from Swansea, Illinois and attended University of Pennsylvania for her undergraduate degree in Biological Basis of Behavior. Her medical school training was also at University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine.
From Bozeman, Montana, Dr. Han received her undergraduate degree at the Brown University, a BA in Economics. She attended University of Michigan for medical school.
Why was WashU the best fit for you?
JC: WashU checked lots of the boxes I had when searching for an ideal residency program: high operative volume, successful fellowship matches, focus on education, flexible research options. More importantly, WashU felt like the best fit for me because of the PEOPLE. The faculty, residents, staff, friends and family in this community are the real deal.
BH: The people here felt like a good fit, and that was important to me. The breadth and complexity of training is very broad here and this was confirmed when I saw PGY5 chiefs leave WashU at the “fellow-level” due to the fast track opportunities. Also, Saint Louis is a good place to train and live.
What makes WashU attendings special? Is there a memorable moment with a mentor you could share?
JC: They care about their residents as people beyond just operative skill and academic prowess. In January of last year during one of my Vascular Surgery calls, I received the painful news that my grandmother had passed away after a COVID-related decline. In typical fashion, the evening had become busy with emergent transfers and OR add-ons. I was rolling another case to the OR around 8PM when my attending walked in and confusedly stated: “What are you still doing here?” In that moment he knew that, despite the chaotic call, I needed to leave the hospital and be with my family. He followed this with a check-in message the next morning, asking if I needed anything. It was a small gesture but one that meant so much. Life is going to continue happening during residency; I’m just happy to be at a place where faculty care and respect that.
BH: Many of the attendings at WashU are world-renowned and still are very approachable and down-to-earth. They are all interested in teaching and mentoring residents and medical students.
What is a valuable piece of advice you’ve received from faculty?
BH: “Know who you are, what your values are, and what is right for the patient – everything else is noise.”
What do you like about research training at WashU, and what are your research interests?
BH: There are a lot of opportunities for a variety of research with an incredible amount of support. Also, if your interests change over time, there is a lot of support to be able to mirror those interest changes.
Do you have a memorable moment from a rotation you could share?
JC: I started my PGY2 (postgraduate year two) last July as the surgery consult and trauma resident in the ER. Some parts of surgical residency are challenging, and the ER rotation is definitely one of them. I was leaving my shift late one hot, muggy summer evening, feeling particularly tired and questioning my ability to do the job. As I came home to my apartment, I checked the mail and found a handmade postcard. It read simply “You got this – YOU CAN DO IT” from Bucky, a co-resident in the class ahead of me. In that moment the words were exactly what I needed. I still have that card and keep it in my backpack for days when I need a gentle reminder of the army of co-residents at WashU that I have for support when things get tough.
What do you like most about your fellow residents?
JC: I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a group of young adults work so hard and care so much about their patients, their co-residents and their families. As brilliant and promising as they all are, I think what I appreciate most about my fellow residents is their ability to propagate a supportive, nonmalignant culture.
BH: A lot of different strengths, backgrounds, and personalities – it pushes me to re-think my thought habits and biases.
What is your favorite resident team bonding/event/outing and why?
BH: Recruitment season! I love the excitement of the new applicants and also being able to see people who I may not have seen in awhile due to our busy schedules.
What do you plan to do after graduation?
JC: Figure out how to make a career as a promising lady surgeon, surgical educator, supportive partner and hopeful mom all in one!
BH: Operate! Everything else is to-be-determined.
What advice do you have for those applying for residency?
JC: Be yourself. If you have certain unique interests, goals, quirks (and we all do), don’t be afraid to share these during your interviews and interactions with programs. If a program doesn’t like what it hears, it may not be the perfect place for you. And that’s okay – there are lots of fantastic programs out there, and you will find the right one.
BH: Have fun, be yourself, and find your people!
What is your favorite thing about living in St. Louis?
JC: Being close to my family. I didn’t realize how incredible it would be to have my immediate family just a short car ride away. Residency is hard wherever you are, but I’ve been so lucky to have my lifelong cheerleaders and support crew here for the journey.
BH: A lot of free events, great restaurants, neat neighborhoods, the history, Forest Park and actually a lot of beautiful parks in general!
What are your top 3 places to go in St. Louis?
BH: Clementine’s, the Novel Neighbor book store, and The London Tea Merchant
Is there anything about St. Louis that surprised you?
BH: The number of neat neighborhoods with their own shops, restaurants, etc. and the number of awesome local book shops – Novel Neighbor, Subterranean Books, Left Bank Books, The Book House and Fantasy Shop.
What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
JC: Cycling on Peloton (team #WashUSurgery), running in and around Forest Park, learning about and sampling new wines, creating charcuterie board masterpieces and going to Blues hockey games.
BH: Going to local book stores or coffee/tea shops and reading.
Washington University Residencies
To learn more about residency programs at Washington University School of Medicine, visit https://surgery.wustl.edu/education/. For information about the General Surgery residency program, visit http://gsres.wustl.edu/.