Jan. 4, 2017 — Flight delays, hotel costs, navigating a maze of an unfamiliar medical center — traveling for a medical residency interview can prove trying for even the most seasoned globetrotters.
To alleviate this burden, the University of Florida College of Medicine Medical Alumni Affairs Office created the HOST program. Help Our Students Travel matches a participating fourth-year medical student with a volunteer alumnus who makes the interview trip manageable by providing not only a clean, safe space to stay, but also valuable advice about prospective medical centers and the surrounding community. The Medical Alumni Affairs Office matches participants based on specialty, location and proximity to the medical center, and other requests like animal allergies or host gender.
In 2013, when Marielle Gross, M.D., M.A. ’14, was a student at the UF College of Medicine, she stayed with UF alum Dr. Andreea Nemes in her New York City apartment. Nemes prepared Gross for her residency interview, and her husband even drove Gross home from the interview. Nemes and Gross became friends and still correspond today.
Now a third-year resident in gynecology and obstetrics at Johns Hopkins Women’s Health Center, Gross opens her own home in Baltimore to current UF medical students facing grueling interview and travel schedules. She has hosted at least two or three students a year for the past three years.
“The interview trail is incredibly stressful and expensive,” Gross says. “After my first experience staying with a HOST alum, I knew I would do the same thing once I had the opportunity. I feel like I’m repaying my debt from all the people who were so kind to open their homes to me.”
She says this program serves as a model for medical schools across the country. She counts among its benefits financial reprieve and networking opportunities with medical professionals both within The Gator Nation and outside.
“On my trail, I remember speaking with other interviewees. I don’t remember meeting anyone who had anything similar offered to them,” she says. “I feel incredibly thankful. This program is a guide for how other institutions should be, and how medical alumni should support students from their institution.”
Selina Sutchu, MS4, stayed with Gross earlier this year. Gross’ apartment stands a little more than a mile from the hospital Sutchu interviewed with for an internal medicine residency. Sutchu calls the experience a blessing.
“She provided a comfortable place to sleep. It made me feel at home,” she says. “She left this nice note taped to the door that said, ‘Best of luck on your interview. You’re going to do great.’ When I took it off the door, I wrote her back my own thank you note.”
Sutchu says the HOST program is a testament to the enduring connections and dedication cultivated at the UF College of Medicine.
“It shows me that these alumni valued their time at UF so much that they wanted to give back after graduating,” she says.
Tim Gooldy, MS4, has used the HOST program several times, staying with alumni in Chapel Hill, Houston, Birmingham, Washington D.C. and Charleston. He says he doesn’t fear traveling throughout the country for interviews because the HOST safety net continues to support him.
“I’ve been traveling all over the country, from New York to San Diego, and have almost always been able to find a UF College of Medicine alum to stay with,” he says. “This speaks to the generosity of these alumni but also to the spread and diversity of the alumni across the country in almost every specialty.”
Marta Hampton, M.D. ’82, hosted Gooldy in her Charleston home that she shares with her husband, Archibald Hampton, M.D. ’81. The pair has hosted two students every fall for the last five years. She calls the experience gratifying.
“These students become part of our family. It’s a very personal thing. We keep in touch afterwards and learn of their future plans,” she says. “This experience brings us back to the days when we went through the same process.”