Rick Vavolizza, MD
Medical School: University of Virginia
Welcome to UVA Surgery!
As you may already know, I went to medical school at UVA. I fell in love with our surgery department from the time I started 3rd year. As I continued into my 4th year I really wanted to do away rotations to ‘truly’ see first-hand what other programs were like. While I really enjoyed my away rotations, those experiences made me appreciate UVA Surgery and the culture we have here so, so much more. I had always been between UVA, schools in North Carolina, Boston, or Chicago. But after my experiences and especially after the interview season, it was very apparent to me which environment I would thrive in the most- both culturally and academically.
At almost any place you interview at, you will likely get very good training. You really will. However, I personally think what separates the top schools on your list are the intangibles. It’s the people. It’s your co-residents (who will become life-long friends) and it’s your teachers (your attendings) who will cultivate you into an amazing surgeon and leader:
Culture: There is truly no culture like that at UVA Surgery. We are an incredibly close-knit family. Every program will tell you that, but the culture we have here inside and outside of the OR is truly unparalleled (and I was finally able to realize that after my away rotations and interviews). We truly enjoy coming to work. It is stimulating and uplifting, never patronizing or demoralizing. We have each other’s back. We cover for each other whenever someone has a family urgency. We send them home and cover for them until they can make it back. Unfortunately, that happened to me during my intern year. I didn’t even have to ask- my co-residents said please go home, we got you. The people here remind me so much of the incredible people I was surrounded by in North Carolina for undergrad and I cannot be more appreciative of that. We hang out all the time together, from Monday viewing nights to going out on the downtown mall or to vineyards on the weekends- we have a lot of fun.
Academics: A program focused on constant teaching was something I heavily sought after. Our attendings here are so heavily focused on teaching during OR cases and equally so during busy clinics. They ensure our foundation of knowledge is sound and that we are able to apply it to become autonomous decision makers. We also have didactic teaching sessions every single morning for 30 minutes co-lead with 1-2 attendings, including our program director, Dr. Friel. There is a specific topic of the week and over those 5 days it progresses in a step-wise fashion from the fundamentals of the disease pathology and diagnostic work-up to practice case studies and treatment algorithms. This structure prepares you exceedingly well for the ABSITE, Oral Boards, and of course to take diligent care of our parents on a daily basis.
Matching into Fellowship: UVA’s success is corroborated by our remarkable track record for fellowship matching: https://surgery.virginia.edu/education/general-surgery-residency-program/destinations-of-former-chief-residents/
Fun in Charlottesville: I could go on forever but there is truly so much to do in Charlottesville, from the hikes, lakes, river rafting, wineries, breweries, sporting events, concerts, and downtown nightlife, we all have a lot of fun with each other and with residents across many departments as we frequently all go out together. The beauty of Charlottesville allows for a relaxing ‘escape’ from the hospital.