Clinical Research: Your Questions Answered

Do the residents have continuity in their clinics?  Yes, our residents start a continuity clinic beginning on the first day of residency. All of the faculty members share in precepting the continuity clinic. Every new patient seen is then followed by that resident for the duration of residency. Residents spend 7 half-days per week in continuity clinic. This experience is excellent preparation for the practice of dermatology.

What is a typical week for a resident?  Each resident has 1 half-day of surgery every week. There are 2 half-days per week allotted for academic/research time. The remainder of the week is spent in patient clinics. All residents have clinics at the Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center. Residents also have 1 day per week of continuity clinic at Nyes Road (Harrisburg, PA) or at our Camp Hill office.  Residents only go to 1 satellite clinic, no resident goes to both.

Do the residents meet for Journal club?  Monday is journal club and each month we review 1) JAMA Dermatology and 2) the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.  On other Mondays, we review Ancillary Dermatology or Medical journals (including The Journal of Investigative Dermatology) or topic specific round-table discussions.

How often is call?  Call is rotated on a weekly basis, divided among the residents.

What are the satellite clinics?  Our patient load has been growing dramatically in recent years, and so has our staff.  We have outgrown our space at Hershey so we have added several satellite clinics in the community, and our residents go to 2 of them. One of these offices is on Nyes Road in Harrisburg, and the other is in Camp Hill. They both have a more of a "private practice feel" but still offer the same excellent educational experience as our hub at Hershey. Residents see patients in a continuity clinic attended by our core faculty one day per week, but no resident goes to both offices.

To ensure that travel to the Nyes Road/Camp Hill satellite clinic is not burdensome, residents have only 1 day at the satellite office per week. There are no half-day clinics at the satellite office-- once you are there, you stay there for the whole day to minimize travel requirements. When at the satellite office, residents are not expected to come back to Hershey at the end of the day, but they are still expected to attend morning conference at Hershey. Adequate travel time is allowed to get to the Nyes Road and the Camp Hill satellite offices after morning conference.

What electives are available?  Each year, residents spend time rotating through Mohs surgery and Dermatopathology. Third year residents have also have several weeks of available elective time, which may be utilized for Dermatopathology, Mohs surgery, research, or training in outside institutions. For ease of patient continuity during elective months, 1 half day of clinic is incorporated per week during the elective time. Special arrangements can be made for clinic coverage during away electives.

Will I be bored in Central Pennsylvania?  There is a reason Hershey is known as the sweetest place on earth (besides Hershey's Chocolate). For the outdoor lover, there are numerous activities to pursue. Hiking, biking, and running are encouraged with numerous trails within and around Hershey. The Hershey gardens and Longwood gardens are two world class arboretums.  The Susquehanna River (as well as multiple tributaries) is in our backyard, so kayaking, canoeing, and boating are easily pursued. Hunters are thrilled to have access to the State game lands for vast areas of inviting forest. For those with a love of music, plays, or theater, Harrisburg has numerous theaters. Hershey boasts about the Hershey Theater, which offers many orchestral performances, off Broadway plays/musicals, and ballet. The Hershey Giant Center and Stadium also attract top rock and pop artists. For the perpetual shopper, there are many outlets within Hershey and nearby Lancaster, as well as exclusive department stores. Finally, food lovers will enjoy the wide range of offerings - cuisine from Italy, France, Thailand, Mexico, Vietnam, China, Korea, and Japan, as well as local Pennsylvania Dutch cuisine - are found throughout central Pennsylvania.

For those interested in city life, Hershey is located 15 minutes away from Harrisburg, 1.5 hours from Philadelphia/Baltimore, 2 hours away from Washington DC and 3 hours away from New York City.

What is the learning environment?  Although challenging, this program remains friendly, nurturing and collegial—feel free to ask our residents!

Are your residents prepared well for the boards?  Boasting a near 100% pass rate since the beginning of our residency in the early 1980's, our graduates are well-prepared for boards. Weekday conferences are held from 8-9 AM. Monday is journal club and is held four times per month. The four Journal Clubs are:

     1) JAMA Dermatology.
     2) Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.
     3) Ancillary Dermatology journals (including The Journal of Investigative Dermatology).
     4) Ancillary Medical journals/Ethics Conference (i.e. NEJM).

Attending physicians are present and prepared for the lively discussions that ensue in Journal Club. Wednesday mornings are dermatopathology conferences. Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday mornings are an opportunity to review various topics - general dermatology, surgery, basic science, Kodachrome unknown sessions, etc that are lead by attendings.  Once a month during faculty meeting the residents have their own didactics, but otherwise, 100% of conferences are attending run.

In addition, each resident is responsible for a Basic Science Lecture each year, given formally delivered during Grand Rounds on the topic of their choice/interest.

Is teaching by the faculty emphasized in your program?  Yes. As mentioned above, all attendings are expected to participate in Journal Club. In addition to clinical preceptorship, every attending rotates the responsibility of consult round attending as well as the discussion leader during the morning sessions. It is very rare to have a morning didactic session without at least one attending.

What textbooks are utilized by the program?  Each year, the senior residents determine what texts to use. Texts are provided by the program.

Is research emphasized by your program?  Every resident is required to complete at least one research project. This may be a clinical trial, review article or basic science research. There are numerous opportunities to pursue research. Our attending physicians have varied interests and areas of expertise, for example hair loss, contact dermatitis, acne, rosacea, skin cancer, immunology, pediatrics, and pharmacology.

Do you have adequate surgery and cosmetic training?  Yes. Each resident has a minimum of one half-day per week of surgery. Residents are the principal surgeon on the vast majority of cases, supervised by an attending. Emphasis is placed on basic surgical techniques for removal of neoplasms. A Mohs surgery elective is scheduled every year. There are surgical conferences frequently throughout the year. Cosmetic training is available to residents through cosmetic clinics, lectures, on and off campus shadowing of cosmetic procedures, and through elective time during third year.

What meetings do residents attend?  Second and third year residents attend the Annual American Academy of Dermatology meeting. Third year residents attend the Pennsylvania Academy of Dermatology meeting. All Residents attend the State-of-the-Art Issues meeting held every other year when Penn State Dermatologist Alumni return to campus. Residents are provided with 5 conference days per year in their second and third years.

How many vacation days are allotted per year to a resident?  We allot 20 vacation days per year per resident.  They can be taken one day at a time or all at once.

What are the strengths of the residency program?  The strongest aspect of the program is the people—the residents, faculty and support staff—not to mention the patients. You'll find everyone is enthusiastic, friendly, and willing to take the time to answer your questions. Once monthly there is a clinic meeting run by our chairman which allows for input from every staff member, secretary through attending. Likewise, the facilities are modern, clean, and constantly updated.
Are there weaknesses? Of course, we are biased, but there are relatively few weaknesses. There are fewer minority patients in our clinics than found in inner city hospitals, but minorities are not completely lacking.

What happens to graduates of this residency program?  Our graduates are located across the United States—some in academic positions, others in private practice. There are numerous grads who have pursued Mohs surgery fellowships and Dermatopathology fellowships. Several graduates have opened their own practices; some in Central PA.

Is the faculty stable?  Yes. Some joke that once you arrive in Hershey, you never leave. Notably, several of our prior residents have chosen to remain as attendings, despite tempting offers from outside.

What community service projects are there in the program?  Every month at least one of our doctors/residents travels to the Bethesda Mission in Harrisburg for a dermatology clinic. This clinic cares for the homeless population of the city.  In addition, Penn State Dermatology hosts an annual free skin check clinic each May where all doctors participate.  Our second year residents volunteer at Camp Horizon, which host children with severe skin diseases.

Are there significant changes for the future?  We are constantly making changes in order to improve the program. Suggestions are always welcomed by the staff. Residents feel free to give their input and often alter "standard operating procedures" as well.

Why choose Penn State Hershey Dermatology for your physician scientist training?
Penn State University is among the top 10 NIH research funded universities in the nation.  Dr. Diane Thiboutot, lead basic scientist in the department has over 2 decades of successful external funding from foundations, NIH, and industry. She is the Director of the educational portion of the prestigious Clinical Translation Science Award for Penn State University/Hershey Medical Center and has successfully mentored Ph.D. and M.D./Ph.D. students.
We have a highly successful dermatology residency program that repeatedly receives 5 year approvals with no deficiencies. Our residents have gone on to be faculty in dermatology departments e.g. University of Pennsylvania, Boston University, University of California-Davis, Phoenix Children's Hospital, The Ohio State University, Penn State, etc.
There are internationally known researchers/mentors at Hershey and University Park. Our department has a culture that values basic and translational research and strongly supports our educational and research missions.