Alumni offer DMU students valuable residency insights

Tanner Olinger was a second-year student in DMU’s doctor of osteopathic medicine (D.O.) program when he served on a committee of Sigma Sigma Phi, the honorary osteopathic service fraternity, that worked with the University’s alumni relations staff to organize discussions with D.O. alumni about their residency programs and the residency application process. In September, he was on the other side of that exchange: Now a first-year resident in emergency medicine at Ascension Resurrection in Chicago, he was among eight DMU D.O. graduates who gave advice to current students on everything residency-related, from navigating the application process to selecting a program to acing the interview.

The graduates are members of the University’s Alumni Sharing Knowledge (ASK) program, a mentor network of DMU alumni and current students. The alumni who participated in the recent residency sessions offered many pearls of wisdom, but all encouraged the students to follow their passions.

“You expect residency to be work, but you also want to enjoy it,” said Dr. Olinger, D.O.’22. “Choose something you enjoy, because you likely will do it for the rest of your career. And if you don’t enjoy it, it’s going to be a long three years.”

The graduates also reassured students: You got this.

“You all are worthy of learning and of the space you’re in; you’re all going to be great doctors,” said Erik Engelsgjerd, D.O.’22, an internal medicine resident at Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis. “There will be high times and low times, but you’re all going to get there.”

Joshua Rehmann, D.O.’06, third from left, was among the DMU graduates who offered great advice regarding residency during recent Alumni Sharing Knowledge sessions. With him are D.O. students and Sigma Sigma Phi members who served on the committee that organized the sessions (from left): Dylan Livington, committee chair; Connor Frawley, Nick Romano, Adam Schweitzer, Will Zochner, Nick Melott and Austin Cross.

The process of getting into residency was a major topic of the ASK sessions, which occurred via Zoom with one “hybrid” virtual/in-person session led by Joshua Rehmann, D.O.’06, residency director of the UnityPoint family medicine residency program at Iowa Lutheran Hospital in Des Moines and Allen Hospital in Waterloo, IA. He offered several practical tips for the application process, including beginning work on one’s personal statement early and being ready to sign up for an interview when offered a spot.

“In your personal statement, tell why you want to do that specialty and what sparked your interest,” he said. “During the interview, ask questions. Find out where the program’s graduates go, their board pass rates and whether people transfer from the program. And get to know the people you may work with. Rank where you want to be, not where you think you will match.”

Each graduate explained the factors that drew them to their specialty. Annie Yao, D.O.’21, a second-year resident at Rush Medical Center in Chicago, chose anesthesiology in part because of its diverse practice options and flexibility. Elliot Berger, D.O.’22, a resident at Aurora St. Luke’s Medical Center in Milwaukee, was drawn to radiology for its procedure orientation.

“I like that the procedures are very cutting-edge, minimally invasive and have an impact on a wide variety of patients,” he said. “I like getting to use my hands to do many different things. I really like reading images, and I can do interventional as well as diagnostic radiology. The wide variety in the field won me over.”

The ASK alumni encouraged students to build relationships and network, too. Dr. Berger said he found Twitter to be valuable in following other physicians, including radiologists, to learn from their cases and ask them for advice. Dr. Rehmann advised students to “shadow wherever you can, whenever you can and get involved however you can,” including during their rotations. Demonstrating genuine enthusiasm and passion is key as well.

“No one expect you to know everything when you begin residency,” said Dr. Olinger. “Your job is to show up engaged and ready to learn and to develop relationships with people.”

In addition to the DMU alumni noted above, other participants in the recent ASK residency sessions were Grethel Perez Marrero, D.O.’22, psychiatry, Creighton University School of Medicine; Tori St. Martin, D.O.’22, family medicine, University of Minnesota Medical School; and Danielle Thiessen, D.O.’21, pediatrics, University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics.

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