Welcome to our pathology residency program at the University of South Dakota Sanford School of Medicine. I like to consider our program as a hidden gem in the heart of America. We are a fairly small program which averages two residents per year. This enables us to develop a strong work ethic and solid relationships with the residents, attendings, and ancillary staff all working closely together. Our attendings have an open-door policy and make our learning a pleasurable experience. This environment makes the program feel more like a family than just a workplace.
We see approximately 50,000 surgical cases a year with a wide variety of specimens, including head and neck, breast, gastrointestinal, liver, genitourinary, gynecologic, dermatopathology, hematopathology, and cytopathology. We are a reference center for many of the small surrounding communities, which leads to an even greater range of cases.
The pathology department is dynamic, and we are always seeking to improve the quality of each resident's learning experience. In the past, the program has added more focused clinical pathology rotations, including blood bank, microbiology, chemistry, and molecular pathology. Residents' special interests are encouraged, and specialized rotations based on those interests can be developed. Over my years as a resident, I have witnessed this program continue to develop and improve upon an already impressive learning environment.
I find that not having fellowships at our program is advantageous. As residents, we are able to present at multidisciplinary conferences, including breast/gynecologic, lung, gastrointestinal, hematopathology, head and neck, dermatopathology and general tumor board. Moreover, we have a "hot seat" rotation that gives us extensive exposure to frozen sections. This rotation helps us develop our communication and multi-tasking skills, preparing us for the world beyond residency and helping the residents become “sign out ready”. This rotation tends to be similar to surgical pathology fellowship rotations and helps residents feel "sign out ready."
Our residents have an impressive track record of continuing their education in competitive fellowships. Recent residents have been accepted to surgical pathology, cytopathology, hematopathology, dermatopathology, and forensic pathology fellowships throughout the country.
Our didactics consist of faculty lectures, microscope sessions, and board review lectures. One of the recent additions that I am very excited about is a "boot camp" for our first-year residents. This is an overview at the beginning of the PGY1 year that covers some basic histopathology, both normal and abnormal. It is such a useful exercise that all the residents make time to attend and have found it beneficial.
In addition to the basic core teaching, we have ample opportunities for case report studies and research projects. The program covers the expense of attending national meetings if a resident has an accepted poster or presentation. The program also provides capped expense coverage for one national meeting for which a resident does not have a poster or abstract to present.
We have an annual education fund to use on books, electronics, or Step 3/Level 3 examination fees. We also have an extensive library which can be accessed online. The GME office organizes multiple social events for all the residency programs throughout the year. One event that the pathology department looks forward to is the Residency Bowl, which is a quiz game among the different residency programs. It's a great way to socialize and we are also able to earn extra education funds. Our program often makes it to the finals and we have even been the champions!
Our resident group has a good sense of camaraderie. Being a small program with an impressive specimen load, we have the good fortune of having a more team orientated rather than competitive attitude, which we feel fosters a healthy learning environment. I have enjoyed my experience here and encourage you to come and see our program for yourself.
Arwyn Cunningham, M.D.