Perspectives from Past Residents

In their own words, some of our residents explain their training experiences and why they chose Michigan for their residency.

Brandon Smith, M.D. (2013-2020) 

When you match at Michigan, you aren't just entering a residency program. Instead, you are joining a tight-knit family. Although you will get exposed to the highest level of neurosurgery in each subspecialty while living in Ann Arbor, one of the biggest strengths of the program is the family you gain. There are numerous sitting chairs, major journal editors and committee members, and more rising stars amongst the faculty, graduates, and trainees of the program.

Not only is the instant network impressive; every member of this network is willing to help you move forward and succeed.

As a new academic faculty member, many of the opportunities afforded to me have been a direct result of the Michigan Neurosurgery family advocating on my behalf. 

At a recent meeting, I had a colleague ask why it is that he can’t go anywhere without hearing a Michigan grad advocate for another Michigan grad. Although his comment was in jest, I took it as a major compliment to what our program is.
 

Khoi Than, M.D. (2007-2014) 

Khoi Than

I absolutely loved my neurosurgical training at the University of Michigan. There, I was surrounded by people who shared my passion for neurosurgery.

When I think about the three pillars of academic medicine––patient care, research, and education––Michigan helped me excel in all of those areas. 

The clinical training at Michigan is broad, and your mentors there are motivated only by doing the right thing for patients. The research experience is wonderful and entirely what you want to make of it. I am so proud to be a member of eight consecutive Michigan neurosurgery residency classes where every single person went into academics. I suspect that record is not matched anywhere. Lastly, there is a huge emphasis on resident education, and since you learn from the best you also hone your ability to educate by teaching younger residents and students. I have been at three different institutions since leaving Michigan, and I have still not found a place quite like it. I will always be fond of my time in Ann Arbor.

 

Anthony Wang, M.D. (2007-2014) 

Our neurosurgery internship year is designed to expose our residents to the fields most relevant to our chosen specialty, while providing experience in the care of a broad variety of surgical patients. Much of the year is spent rotating through general and subspecialty surgery services including trauma/burn, ENT, vascular, GI, pediatrics, and ortho spine. In addition, we spend time rotating through anesthesiology, SICU, neurology, and of course, neurosurgery. Intern responsibilities at Michigan typically include the care of floor, stepdown, and ICU patients -- often simultaneously. In no less than four of these months, you will spend the bulk of your time in the ICU, which is made possible through the invaluable work put in by staff PAs, NPs, social workers, and our ancillary services. Throughout your internship here,

you can expect respect from your seniors and faculty with regard to your abilities, schedule, work hours, and family.

The truth is, I arrived expecting to duck my head and trudge through my internship, learning nothing but bitterness along the way, but my experience here has been nothing short of fantastic. 

 

Emily Levin, M.D. (2006-2013) 

Dr. Emily Levin

Junior (PGY-2) residents in Neurosurgery spend the full year on both of the adult neurosurgery services, Peet and Kahn. Typically, the junior is in the OR two to three days per week, in clinic one to two days per week, and is on call one night per week. Floor work is primarily managed by interns and nurse practitioners, with the junior resident actively participating in morning and afternoon rounds and assisting with consults. On the Peet service,

the junior resident gets a wide exposure to functional cases, including DBS, depth electrodes, vagal nerve, motor cortex and spinal cord stimulators and intrathecal drug infusion pumps. There is a variety of simple spine cases, including some minimally invasive.

The junior resident begins to participate in diagnostic angiography with the neurovascular neurosurgeon and the neuroradiology team. There is also exposure to simple craniotomies for biopsy, with Stealth experience. In clinic, the junior gets exposure to the Neuroendocrine pituitary clinic, with a large referral network. This clinic is attended by both neurosurgery and endocrine faculty and residents, and is a great educational experience. Clinics also include a wide variety of new patients and the standard post-operative follow-ups for all faculty. The junior resident takes call five nights per month. We are strictly adherent to the 80-hour work week, and days off are respected.

 

W. Chris Fox, M.D. (2003-2010) 

Dr. Chris Fox

Michigan Neurosurgery was #1 on my rank list because of the combination of excellence in all aspects of neurosurgery, along with a collegial work environment where patients received the same care you would want for your family.

Now, more than a decade after residency ended, I am so happy to have trained at Michigan. 

The support of residents is outstanding – a direct example of this is the fact I was able to pursue an endovascular fellowship at the University of Florida while a senior resident. I have remained in touch with my attendings, who I’m happy to call friends and colleagues. The respect the department has earned across organized neurosurgery has helped advanced my career and I use what I learned during training every day, particularly in the approach to patient care instilled by not only competent neurosurgeons, but great people. Combined with research opportunities at one of the top institutions in the country and everything Ann Arbor has to offer, being part of Michigan Neurosurgery is an incredible opportunity in all aspects!

 

J.C. Leveque, M.D. (2001-2008) 

Dr. J.C. Levenque

While a chief resident on the adult neurosurgery service, I was responsible for coordinating the day-to-day care and management of our patients. The caseload was quite diverse, encompassing aneurysms, complex spinal fusions, surgical procedures for epilepsy, intraspinal tumors, and most other high-level cases. At times, it was tough trying to coordinate the junior and senior residents, nurse practitioners, and consult teams while spending many days in the OR, but we had a truly dedicated team who all pitch in to get the work done. It's only as chief that you really realize how essential all of the other support staff truly is - without them my job would have been much harder and much less enjoyable.

I also found that the chief resident year is when I began asking "Why?" instead of "How?" in reference to the clinical problems we encountered.

My surgical training was top-notch, and by the end of my chief year I was confident that I had been well-prepared to handle the vast majority of cases that might enter my office.

I think most chief residents would tell you, however, that at this time, you suddenly start trying to figure out the algorithms that you're going to use to select patients for surgery vs. those that can be managed non-operatively. I really feel that our program shines in this respect, because we have had a clinic-based experience throughout the entire residency, rather than clumping it all into one year. Taking calls throughout multiple years has also been useful, as I've been able to become much more independent managing and triaging patients than I was as a second-year resident.

Overall I'm very satisfied with my training here at Michigan. I've been surrounded by an amazing faculty and really feel that they include me in the care of their patients, from the clinic to the OR to the bedside.