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. Liu is from Fujian, China and attended Tongji University School of Medicine (TUSM), China for his undergraduate degree and medical schooling.
From Phoenix, AZ, Dr. Shepherd received her undergraduate degree at Dixie State College for her Bachelor’s in Biology, Minor in Chemistry. She attended University of Utah Medical School for her graduate studies.
Why was WashU the best fit for you?
ZL: I knew this program would treat me the same as a categorical resident. It has great resources to boost my surgical skills and patient-care capacity. It has amazing attendings, high volume surgeries and fantastic stimulation labs.
HS: I knew WashU had one of the top cardiothoracic training programs in the country, but it was the collaborative, supportive working environment that made me confident I would thrive here. Not only having the opportunity to learn from and operate with legends in every specialty, but also with a strong emphasis on mentorship and personal growth. That kind of culture is hard to find elsewhere. Incredible operative volume, prestigious academics and research, and amazing people.
What makes WashU attendings special? Is there a memorable moment with a mentor you could share?
HS: WashU recruits some of the most amazing surgical teachers in the field, who are truly passionate about resident teaching. As an intern at the VA, I remember Dr. Klingensmith asking me what my learning goal was before the case. I replied, “dissecting the correct tissue planes.” She then guided me through my very first laparoscopic cholecystectomy, allowing me to make every move from skin to skin. After the case, she smiled at me and said, “So? Did you meet your learning goal?”
What is a valuable piece of advice you’ve received from faculty?
ZL: When I struggled with my language barrier in my internship, Dr. Aft told me to not be discouraged but to work to improve myself. She also suggested excelling in other ways. I benefited a lot from her advice.
HS: “Always ask. Your goal is filling those educational “black holes” of knowledge gaps while you’re still in training. Because those “black holes” are like heat-seeking missiles, and sooner or later, they will find you.” – Dr. Michael K. Pasque
What do you like about research training at WashU? What are your research interests?
ZL: My research interest is lung transplant. I was fortunate to work on a project investigating the mechanism of chronic lung allograft dysfunction for several years. It was a great experience for me. It gave me insight into the pathophysiology of disease in aspects of cells and molecules. When you discover something, you will also have a great feeling of accomplishment, which I believe it won’t be inferior to the feeling of treating a patient with your surgical skills.
HS: Having the opportunity to work with the top specialists in my field of interest – heart and lung transplants – who are not only receptive to my in‐ put, but also invested in my personal goals. Dr. Kreisel became my re‐ search mentor during my intern year and was extremely helpful providing resources and scheduling regular meetings to ensure I hit the ground running when I started in lab!
Do you have a memorable moment from a rotation you could share?
ZL: Last weekend when I was discharging a bariatric patient with bypass surgery for my first time and struggling with her virous nutrition supplements, my co-intern Usman carefully instructed me with great details via the phone, and half an hour later he showed up in the floor to teach me step by step!
HS: On my second lung procurement, I was so nervous and excited that I scrubbed in without putting my gear on. My attending, Dr. Pasque, was so patient, and after noticing my shaking hands, silently handed me shorter forceps and showed me how to brace my hands to ease the tremor. After repeatedly asking why the lighting was so poor, he finally realized my mistake and smiled and said, “Can we get her a headlight and her loupes on? Let’s get her all fixed up to do this.”
What do you like most about your fellow residents?
ZL: Close and supportive. We have potlucks held by our co-interns. Beers, foods and chatting were always the best time after a busy week.
HS: The residents at WashU are so incredibly kind and supportive. I vividly remember being a new, overwhelmed intern and receiving an email regarding “Liver Rounds” (a laidback weekly gathering of residents and attendings at our local bar, unrelated to the liver except the alcohol). It stated “We are sponsoring this week’s liver rounds as a toast to our new interns. Interns, we know you’re tired, which makes socializing hard. Come anyways. Come in pajamas or scrubs. Come share your horror stories and let us to tell you how we made the same mistakes but survived anyways. We’ll be here for you.”
What is your favorite resident team bonding/event/outing and why?
HS: The scavenger hunt! I was so lost and had no idea where we were or how to navigate around campus at all. Now, when I’m walking through the hospital and see one of the spots we “found” on our scavenger hunt, it makes me smile every time.
What do you plan to do after graduation?
ZL: Try my best to get a second year position here! I cannot image there is a better place for me than WashU.
HS: Cardiothoracic fellowship. I’m currently interested in heart and lung transplantation.
What advice do you have for those applying for residency?
ZL: My advice specifically for IMGs – Never give up your dream of becoming a surgeon if you really love this specialty. Be prepared to take a harder or longer path compared to US medical graduates. And “a thousand miles’ journey starts with one single step.”
- For every decision in life, ask yourself one question: “Does this answer make me feel heavy or light?”
- It is 100000% worth it.
What is your favorite thing about living in St. Louis?
ZL: Good education and health care resources for a family, especially if you have the plan of having a kid during your residency.
HS: All the fun activities available on days off! Blues hockey games, Cardinals baseball games, the free St. Louis Zoo, the aquarium and all of the free history and art museums!
What are your top 3 places to go in St. Louis?
ZL: Forest Park, Creve Couer Lake and the St. Louis Zoo!
- St. Louis Zoo (the Silverback Gorillas are the best!)
- Café Osage
- Central West End, especially Up/Down arcade bar!
What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
ZL: Running or playing basketball in my neighborhood
HS: Yoga, painting, “hiking”
What do you do to check in with yourself and ensure your wellness is a priority?
ZL: Make sure you are not working overtime.
HS: I have regular sessions with the wellness therapist provided by WashU, who is fantastic. Also my meditation and yoga practice usually helps me pause and process events from the week.
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/.