Residency Training Program
Dean S. Morrell, MD
Consensus Statement on Upcoming Dermatology Residency Application Cycle with Respect to COVID-19 Pandemic
This statement was released by the Program Director Task Force of the Association of Professors of Dermatology, and represents the views of our program leadership as well as other program directors around the country.
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused significant disruptions to medical education across the country. We understand that students’ anxiety about the upcoming application cycle has been heightened given the uncertainty surrounding COVID-19 related changes to curriculum and scheduling and how this will affect the residency application process.
As dermatology residency program directors, we would like to address principal areas of the residency application to hopefully lessen students’ concerns regarding the process. These recommendations may change as the situation evolves; please continue to monitor AAMC and institutional policies and guidelines. Additionally, this statement represents the views of a group of dermatology residency program directors, but was not reviewed by all programs; please continue to refer to individual program websites for institution-specific information.
- Research: We understand that projects have been halted or delayed secondary to the COVID-19 pandemic, and will note students’ prior and ongoing participation in research and academic projects in this context. Efforts that students have put forth in these areas are valuable, irrespective of whether they culminated in published work.
- Volunteer/service/other experiences: Many opportunities to serve in traditional areas for medical school volunteer experiences have been altered or made impossible by the COVID-19 pandemic. Additional opportunities associated with changes in institutional practices related to COVID-19 may be available at some institutions but not at others. Prior and current volunteer experiences will be reviewed in this context.
- Away rotations: There is still uncertainty with regards to away rotation availability at many institutions; some institutions may be unable to offer away rotations this year at all, while others may be offering limited spots later in the summer or fall. Many students may be unable to participate in away rotations because of institutional travel restrictions. While away rotations can be helpful for certain students, particularly for those without “home” dermatology programs, or for those with family obligations in other locations, away rotations should not be perceived as required or necessary for matching into dermatology residency. If you have a specific interest in any programs, please visit those programs’ websites to determine whether there are updates to their processes for this year, recognizing that institutional policies are constantly evolving.
- Research year: In recent years, more students have been choosing to pursue a “year off” in research prior to entering into the dermatology application process. While there are reasons for students to pursue such an option, such as potential interest in clinical or basic research, these experiences should not be perceived as required or necessary for matching into dermatology residency. If you were planning on pursuing such an opportunity prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, then it would make sense to continue those plans. However, there is no reason to choose this path simply because of COVID-19 pandemic-related changes to your application.
- USMLE Step 2: Some students may have planned to take the USMLE Step 2 exam but may be unable due to lack of availability of testing centers. USMLE scores are only a minor component of one’s application, and students should not consider alternative application plans due to the absence of this score alone. Please refer to individual program websites to determine whether Step 1 score cut-offs are used and/or whether Step 2 scores are recommended/required.
As dermatology residency program directors, we recognize that the COVID-19 pandemic will result in increased disparities in strength of applications due to lack of opportunity for students with smaller home programs or in areas more affected by this crisis, particularly as some students may additionally be struggling with personal or family COVID-19 illness during this time. Understandably, this will lead to a considerable amount of added uncertainty and anxiety for many students as they consider future career plans. We support holistic review processes and encourage residency programs to consider and weigh these significant factors.
In this time of great personal and professional stress, we hope that by addressing specific concerns, students will feel more comfortable approaching the process and maintaining their application plans, knowing that we will take into consideration the multitude of extrinsic factors affecting applications this year.
Summary of the Residency:
Our residency is a nationally accredited, three-year program, which meets all training requirements of the ACGME. As of 2016, sixteen full-time training positions have been approved by the ACGME.
Prior to entry into our program, each trainee must have creditably completed at least one postgraduate year within an ACGME-approved program. Most of our residents have had one prior year in internal medicine, although additional years of training, or training in another approved field, such as pediatrics, have also occasionally been taken by some of our trainees prior to entering our residency program.
As our overall goal, it is our intent that every graduate of our residency program will have acquired outstanding clinical skills, encompassing all major areas within the field of dermatology. In so doing, our graduates will then be able to successfully pursue any of several career paths, including clinical practice, fellowship training, industry or academic medicine. To accomplish this goal, each resident will be taught clinical dermatology through the evaluation and management of a large patient population, which is seen within a variety of outpatient and inpatient clinical settings, under the close supervision of our clinical teaching faculty, both in Chapel Hill and at affiliated hospitals and departmental clinics elsewhere. The latter currently include UNC Hospitals (Chapel Hill), Piedmont Health Services, and private office settings at UNC Hospitals (Hillsborough), Southern Village, Burlington, and Raleigh.
This traditional approach to clinical training will be complemented by a series of weekly didactic lectures, conferences, and journal clubs, the contents of which comprise a curriculum which is intended to meet all recommended areas of study, as prescribed by the ACGME, to include dermatopathology. At present, this encompasses approximately 6 hours of didactic teaching per week, exclusive of one-on-one teaching within out clinics and on the wards.
Training will be further supported and enhanced by the presence within our department of a number of federally funded research laboratories, clinical investigative programs, clinical trials unit, and active dermatopathology and immunodermatology service laboratories, each of which can provide additionally worthwhile educational experiences to our trainees.
The success of our residency training program over many decades is reflected in (i) the high level of performance of our graduates on the certification examination of the American Board of Dermatology, (ii) the ability of our trainees to obtain fellowships (i.e., in dermatological surgery; dermatopathology; pediatric dermatology; immunodermatology; etc.) or research postdoctoral positions within other nationally acclaimed institutions, and (iii) the number of our graduates who have gone on to develop their own academic careers in clinical or investigative dermatology.
We appreciate and accommodate residents with varying career goals. Although most of our graduates go on to clinical practice, others may wish to pursue academic careers. Indeed, over the past twenty years, approximately 25% of our graduates joined the faculty of a department of dermatology and another 25% pursued post-graduate fellowships.
For those residents interested in research academic careers, opportunities do exist within our department for elective rotations with any of our faculty who have active research programs (laboratory or clinical).
At present, every resident has four weeks of elective time, which may be used to pursue any area of interest pertinent to the field of dermatology, upon approval of the Program Director and Elective Committee.