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An eye to the future: U provides unique training opportunities to tomorrow's pediatricians

Fourth-year medical student Johannah Krueger has enjoyed working with children almost as long as she can remember. Throughout high school and college she found herself fascinated by how they grow and discover their world.

Third-year resident John Anderson, M.D. (left), is training in the University's pediatric residency program, one of the most sought-after in the country, which is led by John Andrews, M.D.

That fascination eventually led her to the University of Minnesota Medical School‚ where her experiences helped solidify her interest in a career as a pediatrician.

“In medical school there were a lot of rotations I really enjoyed‚ but with my pediatric rotations‚ I just really loved going to work every day‚” Krueger says. Today she’s applying to pediatric residency programs as the next step in shaping a career focused on kids.

From medical school clerkships to residencies and fellowships‚ the University of Minnesota’s Department of Pediatrics plays a key role in educating tomorrow’s pediatricians. Those who have trained at the University have taken their skills across the country and the world to improve children’s health. On a local level‚ the University’s pediatric residency program has had a huge impact‚ training about two-thirds of Minnesota’s practicing pediatricians.

And the residency program continues to grow in popularity: It has received nearly 500 applications for 23 spots in this June’s residency class.

“This has become one of the most sought-after places for pediatric training in the United States‚” says Joseph Neglia‚ M.D.‚ M.P.H.‚ interim head of the Department of Pediatrics.

A well-rounded perspective

All medical students at the University get a taste of pediatrics through a six-week pediatric externship‚ part of the clinical experience that fills their third and fourth years. Students also may sign up for any of 15 other pediatric clerkships‚ including pediatric cardiology‚ adolescent medicine‚ and clinical genetics.

A hallmark of the experience is the variety. Students spend time not only at the University of Minnesota Children’s Hospital‚ Fairview‚ but also at three other hospitals in the Twin Cities. The different settings expose students to diverse patient populations‚ resulting in a well-rounded perspective on the range of situations pediatricians can encounter.

For instance‚ Krueger completed a general pediatrics rotation at one venue‚ a neonatal intensive care unit rotation at another‚ and a pediatric nephrology rotation at a third. “That’s a great thing about the training in Minnesota—they really do a lot‚” she says.

Diverse experiences

The department’s residency program attracts graduates of medical schools around the country who decide to specialize in pediatrics.

As with medical school‚ a big advantage to the University’s pediatric residency program is the spectrum of clinical experiences it offers‚ says program director John Andrews, M.D. With opportunities to work at an academic children’s hospital and other hospitals in the community‚ “Our residents really feel as if their pediatric skills are portable‚” Andrews says.

The three-year pediatric residency program provides a full range of hands-on honing of skills through 13 four-week rotations each year‚ including general pediatrics‚ critical care‚ ambulatory care‚ and electives. Each resident also is involved in a continuity-of-care situation that entails following patients in a single primary care clinic for three years.

And for many residents‚ the program’s global health track sets the University apart. Last year 22 of 23 first-year residents signed up for the track‚ which allows them to devote part of their training to working in Uganda‚ Nicaragua‚ Bolivia‚ or one of several other countries.

“A lot of my interests go well with this track‚” says third-year resident John Anderson, M.D., who heads to Cambodia in March for four weeks as part of the program. “I have a big interest in infectious diseases. I’m also interested in public health and immigrant health.”

Expected to expand

Resources and opportunities for medical students and residents alike are expected to expand with the opening of the new home for the University’s children’s hospital in 2010.

The facility‚ which will consolidate pediatric care that’s currently on two campuses‚ is being built with the needs of the Department of Pediatrics’s teaching programs in mind. Features will include conference rooms on the patient floors and a larger conference center.

“There’s space set aside for education‚” Neglia says. “It really allows us to translate what we do in a state-of-the-art environment.”

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