Charlene Blake

After eight years of medical school and graduate school, I was finally done amassing degress- it was time to choose a residency and career path. Building on a foundation in translational research in genetics and genomics, I planned to transition into personalized medicine via a career in academic anesthesiology. The programs I ranked highest were all research integrated residencies that afforded dedicated time for research throughout the training program as opposed to sequestering this time at the end.

Washington University’s Scholars Program was for me the perfect balance of world-class clinical training and protected research time, available during the intern, CA-2, CA-3 and PGY-5 years. The main highlight of the scholars program, however, is the individualized mentoring: I know I will have a successful transition into academia because of the dedication and support of the department and our residency program. In addition to the appeal of the Scholars Program, I chose Washington University because of the comprehensive nature of the clinical base year (i.e. the intern year). If anesthesiologists are intensivists in the operating room practicing perioperative medicine, we should become familiar with the management of surgical patients with medical problems and cultivate a calm competence with emergencies and critical care. To me, it makes senses to choose an intern year that reflects this diversity. The base year affords two blocks of surgery, two blocks of emergency medicine, three blocks of medicine and one block of cardiology. These external rotations allow you to get to know people of other departments, thus expanding your knowledge base and letting you get to know your future colleagues on other services. You will be working “across the curtain” from a lot of these residents, which fosters a sense of trust and familiarity in the OR. (This helps tremendously when you start your CA-1 year!).

We also have five rotations that are “in the department”: cardiothoracic ICU, surgical ICU, anesthesiology, preoperative evaluation, and clinical simulation. The CTICU is run solely by double-boarded CT anesthesiologists / intensivists and is invaluable in understanding cardiac physiology and critical care. The Center for Preoperative Assessment and Planning (CPAP) teaches you how to properly “preop” a patient—the importance of which you fully understand once you start in the ORs, and the Simulation Center is great way to brush up on ACLS and preview anesthesia while training medical students and medicine residents. Another perk is that there are no nights or weekends, which makes this rotation a great time to take Step 3.

Yes, Washington University’s Anesthesiology Residency Program and Scholars Program have tons to offer—but so does St. Louis! After leaving the tree-lined streets of Durham, North Carolina, I was determined to live within walking distance to Forest Park, the largest inner city park in the country. In addition to its sheer beauty and great running/biking trails, the history museum, art museum and zoo are all free! There are also events such as Shakespeare in the Park, musicals at The Muny, beer festivals and free outdoor concerts called Twilight Tuesdays. There are many neighborhoods within St. Louis, each with their own feel, food and nightlife. There is always something to do between the Central West End, Clayton, Soulard, Tower Grove, Laclede’s Landing and Downtown. For those who love the outdoors, Arcadia Valley in the Ozark Mountains is two hours away and the Lake of the Ozarks is three and a half hours away. You can also take a day trip to one of the many Missouri small towns with quaint shops, restaurants and wineries. Whether you’re from a small town or a big city, you’ll find something to do in St. Louis that feels like home, while stretching yourself to try something new.

Overall, I could not have made a better choice. What makes Washington University’s Department of Anesthesiology so special is the people and their determination to help you achieve your goals, whatever they may be. Fortunately, the program is in a city that has so much to offer, particularly if you are willing to look.

Charlene Blake, MD, PhD
BA, Fisk University [2002]
PhD, Duke University [2009]
MD, Duke University [2010]