Vascular Coast to Coast 

by the Vascular Surgery Interest Group at VCU


Words of Wisdom

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Navigating a National Conference

Posted by vsig.vcu on June 23, 2017 at 5:10 PM Comments comments (0)

I recently had the amazing opportunity to attend the Vascular Annual Meeting (or VAM), sponsored by the Society for Vascular Surgery. As a medical student who just recently completed my first year of school… this was my first conference (let alone national conference), first time presenting my research, first time to California- a whole lot of firsts. But it was also an incredible learning experience, and I’m going to share my ten tips for anyone looking to go to a specialty conference:

1. Arrive early, leave early (or at least look at the schedule beforehand and figure out the must-see events). The conference I attended was very front-loaded. The first two days were packed with things to do and people to meet, but the third was like a ghost town. If money is tight (which is more than likely between hotels and flights), definitely err on the side of arriving a day early and missing that last day, rather than arriving late and hanging around until the bitter end.

2. The exhibit hall is basically a massive science fair where device reps are eager to demonstrate their newest products and answer any questions you might have. This is a chance to introduce yourself (or, if you’re lucky and have a mentor or faculty you know at the meeting, be introduced around) to begin the all-important task of networking. There will also be coffee, snacks, and promotional goodies to entice you in, as well as devices to play (ahem, develops skills) with, at the different stalls. Be sure to snag a pamphlet as you leave each stall!

3. The Interactive poster session is a chance for you to present your research. During the interactive poster session (a dedicated time within the conference) there are rows of posters organized by subject; you stand by your poster, and any interested party can come by and hear you explain your research and answer questions.

4. Moderated poster session: a step up from the interactive poster session. It’s more difficult to have your research accepted for this session, and there are a number of residents presenting their research here. Posters are divided into groups, and each person presents their work to everyone in their group, and they rotate through. Each poster has three minutes to present, and then two minutes to defend their research against questions from fellow presenters and the moderators. For each poster the moderator and fellow presenters vote on a scale of one to ten on how the presentation went; this is then tallied up, and the winner from each group goes on to compete the following day.

5. Attend as wide a variety of sessions as you can. This includes not only the usual lectures (where there will be a number of speakers on related subjects) but also plenary sessions, “Live” presentations, concurrent sessions, and unique sessions. Plenary sessions are timed presentations of research where you have a chance to ask questions. “Vascular Live” presentations discuss research and are sponsored by device companies such as Gore. Concurrent sessions are where you have to decide which of the three interesting subjects being talked about at once you want to prioritize. The presidential address would fall under the category “unique session;” this is a (self-explanatory) tradition where the outgoing president addresses the attendees, and is easily the best-attended session at the conference. Come early and claim your seat- it fills up fast, and if you aren’t careful you’ll be standing at the back for the whole session.

6. Residency fair- a chance to rub elbows and network with your dream residency! This fair is only for a limited time- so be smart! Look at the map and pick out 7 or so tables you really want to visit. Introduce yourself, where you’re from, and what year you are in either school or residency (for example, don’t just say you’re a first year- say you’re a first year med student). Also make sure to mention whether you’re presenting research at the conference (and if so, in which session), etc. Have a few questions prepared just in case. If, after hitting your must-sees, you still have time, then you can go to more booths (or go back to one you really liked and ask them more questions). IF YOU ARE A MED STUDENT: stay on the side for residencies, not the side for fellowships. This ties in with the “go in with a plan” theme.

7. Go to receptions and dinners. Especially if you have a mentor or faculty from your home institution at the conference, there’s a good chance you’ll be invited to receptions and dinners. Receptions are usually held by a particular program or residency as a chance for past and current alumni to chat and reminisce, but they’re also a great place to meet a wide variety of people and make a (hopefully) good impression. Dinners, on the other hand, are usually held either by a program or a device rep at a nice restaurant. Another fantastic opportunity to meet people and get to know each other over some amazing food.

8. Use the mentor program. This was a special (informal) opportunity where students are paired up with a surgeon, you’re given each other’s contact info and meet up during the meeting to chat, ask questions, get advice, and NETWORK.

9. Apply for a travel scholarship. Students apply for this about 6 months before the meeting, and if accepted are given a “passport” to get stamped- in order to receive the scholarship, you have to attend certain events throughout the conference (that you’re probably going to anyway).

10. Network. In case I haven’t said this enough, a national conference is all about networking. You meet device reps, residency programs, and vascular surgeons from all over the world. A meeting like this gives you a chance to meet alumni from your school after they’ve moved on to new programs and residencies. If they only recently graduated, you might be able to set up a meeting to get to know them, get advice etc. before the meeting is over. Especially important is to know your home program beforehand- at least be aware of who runs the department, and if possible meet them and/or the program director before coming out to the conference.

11. Don’t go alone. Make sure you have a mentor or fellow student who knows people and knows the drill so you aren’t completely lost at your first conference. Even better if you can get a whole group of people together. If none of that is possible, have a sit down with someone in the know before you go.

Meg Reeves

President VCU VSIG

[email protected]

A Glimpse into Vascular Surgery: Observations by a Preclinical Student

Posted by vsig.vcu on June 23, 2017 at 5:10 PM Comments comments (0)

It was a typical Tuesday clinic at the Veterans Affairs Hospital: 60 patients on the schedule being seen by two attendings, two interns, and several medical students in their clinical years. 

Clinic was in full swing when I arrived, with the interns doing an initial interview and exam before presenting patients to the attendings, who would then go see the patient and make a final decision with regards to treatment, testing, and follow-up. All pretty standard, no matter what specialty the clinic belongs to. What seemed different to my eyes, at least, was the sheer acuity of problems the patients came in with, and the number of admissions to the hospital straight from clinic. In the first hour of clinic, three patients in a row were admitted to the hospital. The first was admitted for a constellation of symptoms (some vascular, some not), whose pain at a site of previous intervention concerning for claudication met the criteria for admission. The second came in to clinic status post a previous below the knee amputation with gangrene in his remaining foot. The third had also already had an above the knee amputation, and had a wound down to the bone on the toe of his remaining foot.

While shadowing in clinic, I also had a chance to see a critical component of the vascular practice: the vascular lab. This is where talented techs perform noninvasive imaging such as duplexes, dopplers, and ABIs to help monitor disease progression and determine optimal treatment plant.

Vascular surgery sees a sick population where, when something goes wrong, you don’t have time to wait weeks or days before treating. You don’t have to worry about filling up the surgery schedule in advance; it fills itself up (and quickly) when you’re admitting so many people from clinic. I was later told that for any given clinic, vascular surgery at the VA hospital will admit 10% of the patients they see in clinic that day.  


Meg Reeves


President VCU VSIG


[email protected]

Information about vascular surgery residencies

Posted by vsig.vcu on February 8, 2017 at 2:10 PM Comments comments (0)

Hello faithful readers!

Dr. Amendola suggested shairing this with anyone who is interested inknowing more about persuing a vascular surgery residency.

What You Can Do During The Holidays.

Posted by vsig.vcu on November 30, 2016 at 7:40 PM Comments comments (0)
As we approach the holidays I thought I would take the time to give pre-medical and medical students some advice to what they could potentially be doing during their down time. The holidays are great for a variety of reasons - family, friends, time off from traditional work schedules and usually lighter clinical burdens at the hospital. With those thoughts in mind taking each section of students:


1. Pre-Med Students

This time of year is great time to shadow physicians in the hospital and out of the hospital. The clinical load is usually lighter which will restrict what you potentially see but it is better in that you will have more time with attendings and get a true sense of what their lives are like and ergo what yours would potentially look like in their shoes. Also depending on the situation one can get involved in smaller research projects like case reports and case series that many physicians have sitting around and need to be written up. :


2. Pre-Clinical Medical Students

No matter in the operating room or on the wards, get your hands into the game. You might need to get permission to place for example a foley in the operating room, regardless, the more you do - the more you see and the more you experience - the more you grow as a doctor. Especially around the holidays, there are several residents/fellows who are not present in the hospital which means you can get closer to the action especially if you are present and especially if you ask to help. The take home is more hands on time for you as a student which equates to improvement of your exposure and education/training. You can also be involved in interesting cases that might serve as a potential case report that you could write up.


3. Clinical Medical Students

Usually most clinical students have an abridged vacation during their clerkship year. Thus time is very valuable especially if you are travelling to get home to see family/friends. That said, because you have had some time and if you had a good clinical rotation in the fall you might want to revisit your previous rotation. It will allow you to see the material for a second time and spend more time with attendings and residents. This will help you potentially make some decisions about your career. If you have an upcoming rotation in the spring and want to get a taste of the clinical environment I would reach out to the clerkship director and seek permission to rotate early for exposure (I would not ask for credit in terms of your official rotation). This will give you a preview of what you have in store when you hit this rotation. It will also potentially put you in contact with students who are currently rotating and maybe give you some hints/pointers about the clerkship and/or shelf exams. Also, heading back to a rotation that you had previously been on will allow you to ask if any case reports and/or research projects are lying around and need to be written up.


4. Fourth Year Medical Students

Usually during this part of the year you are setting up interviews and/or AIs (home and away). It is a good time to preview if you want to do a mini-AI that is off the official books in terms of a grade from the medical school but will give you more exposure and potentially set you apart from others on a dedicated AI for a good letter. Also these additional times on service will go a long way especially if someone is writing you a letter of recommendation.


So there you have it, some quick tips for your vacation time. All of the pointers are good if you want to take on more exposure. That said, resting during this time is also completely acceptable and remember you have the rest of your life to work, and being in medicine you will have your share of holidays that you will have to work. Any feedback you have please forward on to me here at the website.


Hang in there and good luck.


Michael Amendola


Top 10 Tips for Surgical Clerkship

Posted by vsig.vcu on July 6, 2016 at 10:40 PM Comments comments (0)

At this time of year, we see a variety of changes on surgical services in our academic medical center. We see graduating residents and new attendings, but the most exciting dynamic is when new third year medical students arrive ready to cut their teeth on some good clinical experiences. Over the years I have seen several students succeed and fail on surgical rotations. With that in mind, I have the following ten tips of advice for anyone getting ready to start a surgical clerkship rotation:


1. Come early and leave late

Surgery is a game of capturing the moment. Most operating rooms start their first cases at 730 to 800 AM. This means most resident teams are rounding at 600 AM. I would allow an additional thirty minutes of pre-rounding to gather overnight information and to examine your patients. There are several reasons for this. One it will be helpful to your team if you have done some of the leg work of getting the story about the clinical progress of your patients before the team actually rounds on all the patients. Also when you examine your patients each morning there might be things that you pick up that others might have missed. Additionally, it also builds clinical rapport.


2. Get involved

No matter in the operating room or on the wards, get your hands into the game. You might need to get permission to place for example a foley in the operating, regardless, the more you do - the more you see and the more you see - the more you grow as a doctor.


3. Talk to everyone

Either on rounds or in the operating room, make conversation with all the members of the health care team. You might or not might know it but you are picking up subtle information about your patients and their disease states. But more importantly, you are learning how to talk with people at all levels in the hospital as a medical professional.


4. Know a little bit about every patient

As a student you will be most likely assigned a set of patients to follow while admitted. I would keep an ear open to all the patients especially on rounds. You will become essential and lots of people (residents, attendings, nurses, etc.) will start asking you what is going on with so and so. Being in the know means you are in the know.


5. Wound care

An essential part of any rotation is the wound care you render to patients. Get to know what the dressings are and more importantly why you are using them. Regardless of if you become a surgeon or not, you will most likely remember your wound care training as a medical student.


6. Dress the part

Try to dress professionally especially on clinic days. It is easy to fall into “scrub causal” but dressing you nice will distinguish you from your classmates and patients like that you are dressed up to see them.


7. Help in the operating room

Most of the time as the student you are at the end of the bed and sometimes you don't see too much. Take time to look at the instruments – it is an easy way to learn the names as instruments are called for during an operation and what is handed up to the surgical field.


8. Have fun

Most students will not end up choosing surgery as a career, that said this is the only time in your life when you get to see how surgeons act and take care of patients. Most people don't this close of an picture of surgery and you should take advantage. Listen to what helps and hurts surgical care especially what people are asking for or not asking for in consults. It will help you especially if you are not a surgeon in the future because you will be interfacing with surgeons most of your professional life in some fashion.


9. Hang out in the operating room

The operating room is a busy place and by simply hanging around you will get exposed to more surgical education than you can imagine. Try to get to know the nurses in the operating room, they will help you. Most of the time they start with a healthy criticism of all students, from their point of view, they are just trying to keep the patient safe. Once you have their trust they will go out of their way to help you.


10. Talk to your residents

Talking to your team constantly, let alone your fellow medical students, is essential to your rotation. Talking to residents to find out how you can help and what's going on as well as relaying information about the service will go a long way. Residents play an important part in your education and they often help you especially in tailoring your studying for the shelf exam. By speaking with residents, you get a sense of what their lifestyle is like and if you think you could do surgery as a career.


So there you have it, some quick tips for your rotation. Any feedback you have please forward on to me here at the website.


Hang in there and good luck.


Michael Amendola