It was just my luck that my first ever Vascular Annual Meeting (VAM) happened to take place in Boston, Massachusetts, where I had spent four memorable years of undergraduate education. Now, after another four years, I had the opportunity to return to the city I so fondly remembered to present a poster and to further pursue a career I had dreamt of in college.
The VAM conference itself is a wonderful opportunity for medical students and physicians not only to learn more and keep up to date with the latest news in vascular surgery, but also to network with other surgeons. The field of vascular surgery is highly specialized, and the community is tight-knit. At the conference, it was not uncommon to see many vascular surgeons who were already familiar with each other, or easily connect through a mutual colleague. Dr. Amendola had gained a bit of fame among the residency directors, for representing VCU every year with so many posters, and was recognized several times in our tour of the exhibits and the residency fair. With every hello from the residency directors and vascular surgeons, came his introduction of us as medical students eager to be part of the field.
Aside from the poster presentation, there are various workshops that cover variety of topics relevant to vascular surgery. While many of them may seem too advanced for us M1 students to understand, VAM provided many events for medical students to attend, such as endovascular simulation training and mock interviews for residency and fellowship programs. One of the highlights of the conference was the residency fair, which is attended by the program directors of 80 different vascular surgery residencies and fellowships nationwide. I thought since I had just finished my first year in medical school, the residency fair would not be as useful to me as it would be for M4s and residents. But once I met all these program directors and fellows who were excited to recruit medical students into their field, I became engrossed about learning more about different programs, their strengths and weaknesses, and what they look for in their residents and fellows.
What we learned during the conference was that we the medical students at VCU have a rare but precious opportunity of having a mentor who is willing and active in helping students interested in research, whether it may be in vascular surgery or other. While it seems too early and nerve-wracking to consider specialties in one’s M1 year, delving into research with Dr. Amendola and attending a national conference in the summer after M1 year has inspired me to become more motivated as a student, to become a worthy applicant to these vascular surgery residency programs in few years. Of course, a few additional lines on the CV aren’t so bad, either.
Next year’s VAM will take place in Washington, DC. It is already exciting to think about going back to present more research, to reconnect with medical students and the residency directors I have met, and to engage myself deeper into the field.
Kyeong-Ri (Katherine) Yu
VCU School of Medicine '21