Alumni Find Common Ground in Emergency Medicine, Louisiana Roots
When you’re heading into unfamiliar territory, there’s nothing like a healthy dose of advice and encouragement from someone who’s been there to help put you at ease. For Tim Marcus, MD ’18, that person has been fellow AUC alumnus Aaron Tiffee, MD ’12, emergency medicine attending at Our Lady of Lourdes Regional Medical Center in Lafayette, LA.
The two Louisiana natives first connected through AUC’s Physician Match Advisor (PMA) program, back when Dr. Marcus was navigating the complexities of residency applications as a medical student. Developed by the Office of Student and Professional Development, the PMA program matches fourth-year students with a physician mentor who provides individualized recommendations and coaching for the residency Match. The goal is to help students increase their chances of attaining a desired residency position in the United States or Canada.
“Going into the Match blind is a bit daunting,” says Dr. Tiffee, who first became involved with the PMA program two years ago. “It’s good to have somebody there from the other side to lean on and ask questions.”
All Physician Match Advisors hold an MD degree, and many have years of experience evaluating residency applications for their own programs. Students benefit from the opportunity to discuss all aspects of the Match, including application strategy, academic performance, and the residency interview, as well as input on their personal statement, CV, and noteworthy characteristics.
“Once the clinical advisors found out I wanted to do emergency medicine, and especially after finding out I was from Louisiana, they put me in contact with Dr. Tiffee, and I was really thankful for that,” says Dr. Marcus, now an emergency medicine resident at Louisiana State University School of Medicine (LSU) —his first choice program. “He gave me a lot of guidance, reviewed my applications and my CV, and gave me recommendations on how to proceed with the Match. He was a sounding board for me throughout the whole process."
From Sint Maarten to Baton Rouge
It didn’t take long for Dr. Marcus and Dr. Tiffee to realize they had more in common than just their chosen specialty and their southern roots (Kentwood, LA and Monterey, LA, respectively).
“We took similar paths in life,” says Dr. Tiffee. “We were both nontraditional students, applied to medical school later in life, and already had careers and families.”
For both, those careers were in healthcare—Dr. Tiffee as a paramedic, Dr. Marcus as a nurse. They found their work so rewarding that, as Dr. Marcus put it, deciding to pursue medicine was “a no-brainer.” Each moved to Sint Maarten to begin medical school with their families by their side, and their spouses became active in the AUC Spouses Organization. Dr. Marcus even welcomed his fifth child during his first semester.
And although they loved their time on the island (“I’ve been back four times since I left,” says Dr. Tiffee), coming back home to Louisiana was always top of mind. Both were able to complete the majority of their clinical rotations at Baton Rouge General Medical Center, one of AUC’s affiliated clinical sites.
“Baton Rouge General was close enough to my home that I could go back and forth, and my children could stay in school where they grew up,” says Dr. Marcus. “It also allowed me to get to know some of the ER residents from LSU that were rotating through at the time, which was helpful when I later applied there for residency.”
So perhaps it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the two grads’ paths would naturally converge. Dr. Tiffee and Dr. Marcus recently worked together in the pediatric emergency department at Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center in Baton Rouge, a rotation site for Dr. Marcus and where Dr. Tiffee regularly takes on a few shifts. It was a welcome opportunity to meet in person for the first time after exchanging emails and calls over the past couple of years.
“[Dr. Tiffee] has been very active himself when he hasn’t heard from me in a while, he reaches out to see how things are going,” says Dr. Marcus. “So it’s been a really good experience and I’m glad I got connected with him.”
Leading the Way
One of the best Match-related recommendations Dr. Marcus received from Dr. Tiffee, was to be thoughtful and strategic in selecting residency programs. “Given my application and my scores, he was able to keep me from applying to too many places and advised me to look at certain programs,” Dr. Marcus says.
Both alumni agree: To give yourself the best shot at matching into a competitive residency, concentrate on boosting your United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) Step scores.
“Residency programs are gauged on how well their residents do on respective board certifications,” says Dr. Tiffee. “They want good doctors, but they also want good doctors that can test well, so you’ve got to be able to prove that with your experience and your medical school grades.”
Dr. Tiffee encourages students to participate in AUC’s PMA program to help put them in the best position possible to navigate residency. And, he notes, it’s a valuable learning experience for alumni as well.
“We’re getting more and more AUC alumni from various specialties involved in PMA and other mentoring opportunities,” he says. “It helps me out as well and keeps me up-to-date on what’s going on with the ACGME and how things have evolved since I was in residency—kind of the same thing I get from teaching medical students and residents. They usually teach me more than I teach them.”
At its heart, the PMA program is about getting students where they want to be: caring for patients.
“When you’re taking care of the sickest of the sick and the critically injured, you feel like you can actually do something immediately to turn it around,” said Dr. Tiffee. “I was hooked from way back and I don’t see myself doing anything else, ever.”