EM Residency Program Director at Dell Medical School – The University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX


We spoke with Dr. Todd Berger about the Dell Medical School at The University of Texas Austin Emergency Medicine Residency.

What makes your program stand out from the rest?

There are many wonderful programs available. We have excellent ratios for attending to residents at UT Austin to maximize the time spent teaching and supervising residents. We offer a multi-institutional training program to help residents prepare to work in all settings upon graduation. Our focus is on leadership training. We provide residents with early exposure to many career paths in EM Leadership. Then, we allow residents to meet role models and mentors to help them along their way to success after graduation. There are many opportunities in the areas of Public Advocacy and EMS Administration. Our small class sizes and residency culture make our residents a close family that cares for one another and the program.

What are the advantages of a 3 vs. a 4-year EM residency program, and what are they?

A 4-year program is a great opportunity to gain more experience. However, you would get a different experience from a 3-year program. You could also practice as an attending for one year. You should consider what you will get from a four-year program if you enroll. Do you have a research year? Or an online Master’s degree? It’s great if it aligns with your career goals. As an attending, you can see more patients and gain experience. After graduation, our 3-year-old grads had no difficulty finding jobs, academic jobs, or other opportunities.

What are some things students might not know about your program

Virtual interviewing has lost human interaction. Our residents are close-knit, as I said above. They were there for each other even during the latest winter storm. They are a family, and I love seeing our alumni remain best friends for the rest of their lives. They are a great group of people, and I am proud to be a part of their daily lives.

What scores are you looking for in applicants for the program, USMLE/COMLEX Level 1?

We do not use an ERAS filter or cutoff score. The criteria for applicant screening are Good doctor (SLOES from EM residency-based rotating) > good person. We have common values on our CV and Personal Statement. > Good academics (class rank/quartiles, clerkship grades, scores). Although it is possible to avoid the question entirely (there are programs that filter), the USMLE 234/247 national average for EM-matched candidates is 230+, so a 230+ will be competitive for EM. A COMLEX score of 600+ is also competitive. Your mentor should discuss your application strategy based on your grades, scores, and performance in EM rotations.

Are there research opportunities? Are you looking for research-experienced residency candidates?

Each program will have its own set of values. Our strong research program supports clinical (not bench) areas, but our values revolve around community service, organized medical leadership, school involvement, and administrative experience.

Are there opportunities for global health exploration at your institution?

Global health is not available at our institution. A few faculty mentors make this part of the job, and they often take residents on trips. Residents can take two elective blocks, one in PGY 2 or one in PGY 3. This is a great opportunity for residents to explore the months of global health.

What is your program doing to promote wellness?

Some events are scheduled, such as a welcome picnic and resident weekend retreat, well-being days, journal club, and wellness days. Our residents work 18 shifts, including 2 weekends per month, so that they can explore leadership and professional development opportunities. Residents are like a family that take care of one another. They are a happy bunch. Residents and their spouses rarely miss a week of socializing between shifts.

What is something that you are proudest of about your program?

It’s simple: the residents. They are amazing and come here to make a difference and care for our community. When they graduate, they leave a lasting impression and continue to great careers as leaders in EM.

What qualities do you look for in applicants to your program? Can you name any qualities or attributes that make applicants stand out?

A person who is willing and able to work hard for patients. You must be willing to take part. Residents are encouraged to participate in the ED, hospital, and university. Residents interested in learning to be a great clinician and becoming ED Doc Plus are welcome to apply. We will show you how you can lead your career. Your job is to keep your eyes open for opportunities. We look for evidence of leadership and involvement on the CV, statement, and MSPE of applicants.

What are your suggestions for students who do not have EM academic advising?

Get a virtual mentor. EM is competitive. You will need a mentor, whether you use a formal service like the one through SAEM or EMRA, but you can also meet one by emailing program leaders at a neighboring program. A career mentor is one thing, but you also need an application mentor. This mentor should be someone currently working in EM residency program management. Attend the various forums for medical students about getting into residency hosted by EMRA, SAEM, and other state-level ACEP chapters. The EM residency section of our program website contains extensive information, starting with making your fourth-year schedule and ending with making your rank list. Click here to start (Emergency Medicine Residency,, then click on “application details,” then click on “read our application guide.”

How has COVID impacted your program?

Our ED volumes have fallen. To meet this declining volume, we had to restructure. I was able to create a task force with systems-thinking residents and faculty. We focused on our core educational philosophy (great attending/resident ratios, all residents present directly, etc.) and created a new system that focuses on improving our teaching mission and residents’ experiential learning. The feedback from residents has been positive since the beginning of our new schedule in January. Our residents are reporting more supervision and teaching. They see more patients and receive more critical care resuscitations, and faculty report that they have more time and energy to supervise and teach than ever before. Adversity can bring challenges, and it has brought our resident family closer. However, it also allowed us to enhance our teaching mission.

Are the 2021-2022 applicants encouraged to pursue LORs and OSLOEs in order to supplement their single traditional SLOE?

We don’t even read the letters. They don’t offer any objective data, and there is no accountability. Current recommendations include two EM SLOEs, one from home and one away (or two away if there is no home EM residency program). Audition rotations will resume in August. Respect for other students is expected. We recommend that applicants stick to two EM rotations.


New Dell Med Initiative embeds health interventions into community programs.

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