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Resident Reflections

As you consider the University of Florida College of Medicine – Jacksonville for your pediatric residency training, please read what our alumni had to say as they looked back on their experience with us.

Heidi Vander Velde, D.O.Heidi Vander Velde, D.O.
Pediatric Residency Alumni

"Going through my residency program at the UF College of Medicine – Jacksonville gave me many mentors. Looking back, I consider that to be one of the most important parts of my experience. There were several attending physicians I looked up to personally and professionally, who helped me learn and also supported my growth as a pediatrician."

"In addition, the range of pathology and variety of patients I saw in Jacksonville was unmatched. Now that I am in private practice, I am even more thankful for my training, as it is only rarely that I see something that I had not encountered in residency."

Nicolas Chiriboga Salazar, M.D.Nicolas Chiriboga Salazar, M.D.
Pediatric Critical Care Fellow, University of Florida College of Medicine, Gainesville, FL

"Before beginning my residency program, I completed two rotations as a medical student at the UF College of Medicine – Jacksonville. I loved my time during these rotations, so when I started residency interviews, my gut told me UF College of Medicine – Jacksonville's program was the program for me. Although there were many places I initially considered, I have not regretted my decision for a moment."

"The people are the main asset of the residency program. Everyone from program administration, faculty and all the residents formed one large family. I always felt supported. Resident wellness was a priority, as was a healthy work-life balance."

"There was a progressive and expected autonomy for senior residents that allowed us to gain confidence and experience. I valued the combination of training at a full-service, free-standing children’s hospital and a university hospital in an urban core. This exposure allowed for a diverse pathology base, ranging from mild conditions to complex and rare diseases."

"Research was also fully supported by both the program and the hospital leadership. I was given opportunities and funding for presenting at important national conferences."

"Finally, Jacksonville is a great place to live. It is a thriving city with a plethora of food and entertainment options while also providing a small-town feel."

William Chotas, M.D.William Chotas, M.D.
Pediatric Residency Alumni

"Although Colombia is a country with excellent physicians, modern health care facilities (limited to the larger cities) and a medical system that allows for health care for even its most destitute children, it is challenged by 30-plus years of armed conflict and remote regions that make travel difficult, if not almost impossible. After my two-week international rotation in Bogotá, I returned to Florida with lots to ponder and a greater appreciation for the physicians working in tropical environments."

"I hope to practice in the far reaches of the tropical world. But even for those of us who continue to work in Jacksonville and elsewhere in the United States, there is much to be learned from our Colombian colleagues. Although our large refugee population in Jacksonville has already forced us to work through larger lists of differential diagnoses, the new tropical diseases that will come with the changing climate will require us to rely more on the knowledge and experience of some of our physician counterparts from other countries."

Douglas Shapiro, M.D.Douglas Shapiro, M.D.
Pediatric Intensive Care Fellow, Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA

"How do you measure your success in a pediatric residency? Sure, you will discover how you want to practice medicine, learn what you need for the boards and — finally — get to be a real doctor. What if residency could be more than that? Somewhere during the middle of interviewing season, a yearning for a training home that would care about my growth and well-being trumped the organized scoring system devised to rank programs. I was told, like many others, to follow my gut when making my ranking list. Once I found UF College of Medicine – Jacksonville, I understood that advice."

"I'm forever grateful to the down-to-earth mentors and lifelong friends I made in Jacksonville. While I found the clinical work rewarding and the camaraderie supportive, the communities I melted into at the local neighborhood garden, weekend farmer’s market, and mom and pop eateries gave me a sense of belonging outside the hospital. What truly made my pediatric residency successful was not the titles, publications, or university name on my white coat — it was the human connections. It takes a culture of humble participants willing to engage to make that possible. These are the memories I keep with me."

Amr Matoq, M.D.Amr Matoq, M.D.
Pediatric Cardiology Fellow, Nemours/Alfred I. DuPont Hospital for Children, Wilmington, DE

"I had such a wonderful experience in the pediatric residency program at the University of Florida College of Medicine – Jacksonville. The program not only enriched my knowledge and skills to take care of children, but also offered me great opportunities for research and scholarly activities. With the support and mentorship of the prominent researchers and investigators in the program, I was able to publish several projects and present them in local and national conferences."

"The program appreciates the importance of the well-being of its residents and puts it as a priority. I was very satisfied with the degree of responsiveness and flexibility when it comes to residents’ needs and suggestions. Our faculty members are constantly working hard to create an enjoyable learning environment for us. There is a formal, dedicated time for education daily, in addition to lots of teaching opportunities in rounds and morning reports. The program provides career guidance and different tracks tailored to fit any post-residency plan."

"These were three enjoyable years of my life. I was also able to start a family and have kids with an appropriate work-life balance. I got to know and learn from great people, who I will definitely keep as mentors and colleagues. Thanks to them, I was prepared to pursue the next phase of my career as a pediatric cardiologist."

Danish Vaiyani, M.D.Danish Vaiyani, M.D.
Cardiology Fellow, Emory University, Atlanta, GA

"Coming out of medical school, I knew I wanted to train at a freestanding children's hospital. Most everyone in pediatrics tend to be pleasant but what set this program apart from others were the people. The attendings, staff and especially the residents just seemed to be on another level in terms of being friendly, outgoing and supportive."

"My experiences here were enriching: I saw a huge variety of patients from the perfectly healthy kid with worried parents to the critically ill that required interventions every hour. I was also able to participate in multiple research studies and presented my work at regional and national conferences. Balancing clinical and research responsibilities was hard work; but the seamless transition I had in moving on to a top-ranked cardiology fellowship was proof of the excellent training I had in Jacksonville."

Caitlin Wainscott, M.D., FAAPCaitlin Wainscott, M.D., FAAP
Assistant Professor, Department of Pediatrics, Division of Hospital Pediatrics - University of Florida College of Medicine – Jacksonville Medical Director Pediatric Hospitalist Group Wyoming Medical Center, Casper, WY

"I stepped out of residency and immediately into a job where I work as a lone pediatric hospitalist in a small community, with no subspecialty support and no NICU or PICU in the entire state. Needless to say, I was very intimidated, but I realized quickly that the exceptional training I received in residency had prepared me adequately for the challenge. I am very grateful for my three years in Jax! Not only did I get to train under incredibly gifted and skilled pediatricians who were passionate about teaching, but I also gained a family, and the friendships I made will last a lifetime. I cannot adequately express how thankful I am for the opportunity I had to train at UF College of Medicine – Jacksonville, nor could I properly articulate my gratitude for all that my former attendings invested in me during my time in residency!"

Emmanuel Pena, D.O.Emmanuel Pena, D.O.
Assistant Professor, Department of Pediatrics, Division of Child Protection and Forensic Pediatrics - University of Florida College of Medicine – Jacksonville

"University of Florida College of Medicine – Jacksonville Pediatric Residency Program was my last interview as a 4th-year medical student, and became my first choice by the end of the day."

"I was initially attracted to the combination of training at Wolfson Children’s Hospital, UF Health, and Nemours Subspecialty Clinic, because I felt this would teach me to be flexible from the very start of my pediatric career. My expectations were definitely met and in most cases surpassed. Different systems came with different resources, challenges, teaching styles, and learning opportunities. The exposure to pediatric pathologies was broad and consistent, but just as important was the exposure experiences that taught me how to navigate the healthcare system."

"As a graduate of this program, I felt very well-trained in hospital-based pediatrics and the societal impact that I can have as a pediatrician. The outpatient clinical experience was the only noticeable weakness I can appreciate after 2 years of completing my residency training. However, the emphasis my faculty placed on being a life-long learner has helped me significantly in addressing the gaps I could not fill during my formal training time."

Lournaris Torres, M.D.Lournaris Torres, M.D.
Attending Physician, Nemours Children's Clinic

"My happy memories at the University of Florida College of Medicine – Jacksonville pediatric residency program started almost one year before my residency started. During my sub-internship I fell in the love with the program. I was amazed by the camaraderie among residents and faculty, strong didactics, learning opportunities, and infrastructure. Not to mention a good and affordable city to live in, with beaches and nice weather. It was clear to me that finding a program I liked better was a difficult task. Despite that, I embarked on a plethora of interviews just to prove myself right."

"I continue to have fond memories of my residency training. I received a strong background not only academically, but also in overall patient care, compassion, bedside manners, team work, among other things. The examples set by the faculty and my senior residents were exceptional. It is a nurturing environment, yet residents are given a reasonable amount of autonomy. Overall I believe you will receive an excellent training. Just embark in this new journey with energy and a good disposition, after all you will be doing something you love and there will always be a child to make you smile."

"In a nutshell, I have no regrets and would do it all over again."

Cristina Estrada, M.D.Cristina Estrada, M.D.
Assistant Professor of Emergency Medicine and Pediatrics and Associate Director, Pediatric Emergency Medicine Fellowship Program, Vanderbilt University

"My training in Jacksonville was superb. I chose UF because of the diverse faculty and exposure to a variety of pediatric pathology. Upon entering my residency, I was unsure of whether or not I would subspecialize or practice general pediatrics. I wanted a program that would prepare me for both, and expose me to all of the pediatric subspecialties. I am grateful for the outstanding training I received and felt confident applying for, and ultimately entering, my pediatric emergency medicine fellowship."

"If I had to do a residency all over again, I wouldn't change a thing. My pediatric residency was like being a part of a family. My classmates and I bonded over our three years of training and still keep in touch."

Asma Salahuddin, M.D.Asma Salahuddin, M.D.
Assistant Professor, Pediatrics, Division of Hospital Pediatrics, University of Florida College of Medicine – Jacksonville

"UF College of Medicine – Jacksonville offers a diverse population with great pathology encountered. All pediatric subspecialties are available for consulting and to learn from. The two hospitals provide two different perspectives in patient resources and health care secondary to varying socio economic status. Great opportunity for research or community initiative ingrained within your 3 years, encouraged to attend national conferences."

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