Resident Update: Our Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery Program
Want to learn about Cleveland Clinic's Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery Residency Program? Hear from PGY3 Lacey Magee, MD and PGY5 Chief Resident David Zimmer, MD as they discuss the highlights of our program, building lasting relationships with their fellow residents and our staff, and the hidden gems of living in Cleveland.
Resident Update: Our Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery Program
Paul Bryson: Welcome to Head and Neck Innovations, a Cleveland Clinic podcast for medical professionals exploring the latest innovations, discoveries, and surgical advances in otolaryngology-head and neck surgery.
Thanks for joining us for another episode of Head and Neck Innovations. I'm your host, Paul Bryson, Director of the Cleveland Clinic Voice Center. You can follow me on X, formerly Twitter, @PaulCBryson, and you can get the latest updates from Cleveland Clinic Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery by following @CleClinicHNI on X. That's @CleClinicHNI. You can also find us on LinkedIn at Cleveland Clinic Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery, and Instagram at Cleveland Clinic Otolaryngology.
Well, it's that time of the year again, it is residency program application season, and today I am excited and honored to speak with two of our current otolaryngology-head and neck surgery residents, Dr. Lacey Magee and Dr. David Zimmer. Dr. Magee is a third-year resident in our program, and Dr. Zimmer is a fifth-year chief resident. So welcome to the podcast guys. Thank you.
David Zimmer: Thank you. It's great to be here, Dr. Bryson.
Lacey Magee: Thank you. Exciting.
Paul Bryson: Yeah. Well, I appreciate you taking time out of your busy schedules to come on and talk about our program. Let's start by having you both share some background on yourselves for our listeners, where you're from, where you went to med school, what got you excited about head and neck surgery?
David Zimmer: Lacey, why don't you go first?
Lacey Magee: Sure. Yeah, so I'm from New Jersey originally. I went to Rutgers for undergrad and then did a seven-year program to Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. I did a research year between my third and fourth year as a medical school in orthopedic surgery because that's what I thought I was going to do, and then was randomly assigned an ENT rotation at the very end of that research year. And I loved all of it. I loved ear surgery a lot. I loved the anatomy, I thought it was amazing, and I just liked the way that, I don’t know how to explain I guess, the personalities of the people I was with. So, I was super excited to have a match here in head and neck surgery after that.
David Zimmer: Wonderful. And you're not far away from the orthopedic surgery path still, is that right?
Lacey Magee: Oh, no. Yeah. My fiancé is an orthopedic surgery resident at Cleveland Clinic.
David Zimmer: Good. And my name's David Zimmer. Like Dr. Bryson said, I'm a chief resident here at the clinic and I grew up in Indiana, northern Indiana. And then I went to med school at Indiana University. I did my undergrad at the University of Notre Dame, also with Lacey's fiancé.
Paul Bryson: I didn't know that. What a coincidence.
David Zimmer: Yeah. And then I actually had a little bit of a non-traditional path in between medical school and undergrad. In medical school. I went to veterinary school, and so I'm actually a licensed veterinarian. And then I went back to medical school. Some of the things that brought me into head and neck surgery were the ability to make a huge difference in everybody's life and the ability to operate, to do procedural work in clinic and to really have your hands on and to have something that you could fix at every single, whether it was appointment or surgery. And that was something that I stumbled on just like Lacey said. And once I rotated through with a couple of otolaryngologists, I saw just the broad path of everything you could do. And so yeah, I did a couple more rotations and I was sold.
Paul Bryson: Yeah. Well, we were delighted to obviously have both of you join the program, and I wanted to see if you, I have a two layered question. So going through the process of applying and interviewing can be stressful. Also, it's hard to figure out when you're going around, what's the program really like? How do the residents and how do you interact? It's a five-year commitment, so it's a big deal. So, can you both share what it was about Cleveland Clinic that made you want to match with us? And then the flip side of that is now that you've both been here for a little while, what's it like? What's it like to be a resident here, and how did your initial impressions, how do they sync with your current lived experience, if you will?
David Zimmer: Yeah, yeah. Lacey, why don't you start again?
Lacey Magee: Yeah, sure. My interviews were all virtual. My year, Cleveland Clinic was actually the last interview in February, and I had never stepped foot in Ohio. I never thought about it too much. I was excited for the interview, but I think right away during it, I felt a connection, especially with the residents in the resident room. I think just seeing how they interacted with each other and talked to me was really special. Personally, when I was looking and I was interviewing, I kind of wanted to find an experience that would expose me to each of the subspecialties, a good breadth of surgeries where I went to medical school. There wasn't an ENT residency program, so there were a lot of outpatient general ENT kind of things that I had been seeing. So, I wanted to see a lot of these more specialized procedures, and I also really wanted to find a place where I could get a lot of experience in them or see more rare cases. And I already knew that was true of Cleveland Clinic. So, I think those are the things that really drew me here were seeing so many staff in so many different subspecialties and then just seeing how the residents acted with each other and how they clearly had got to hang out outside of the hospital as well. So, I was nervous about coming so far from home, but I've loved every single day of living here.
David Zimmer: That's great. It's funny, we probably pick up on some of the same things, and I think it brings a lot of the same type of people here to Cleveland Clinic. And when I came on my interview day, actually, I wasn't very familiar with Cleveland in general, and I wasn't very familiar with the Clinic outside of it had an incredible reputation nationally and internationally. And so, I was honored, got the interview, and then when I came on interview day, I was so impressed with the residents who we met. They were each incredibly impressive. I spent a whole day here for my interview day. You spend a whole day with the residents and the staff, I think you can maybe fake being friends for an interview for an hour or two, but it's hard to fake it for the whole day. And you could tell that these people were really good friends and the way that the residents talked to staff about and the kind of friendships that they had, that was probably the single most important thing that I found impressive. And then now Lacey and I have worked together for three years, and I've seen the incredible surgeon and resident she's kind of grown into, and we've had a lot of late-night calls and emergencies together, and that makes you proud. Looking back on it from my fifth year, I remember what it was like being a junior resident. Now, looking back at my fifth year, I see how far I've come, and it makes you excited seeing how far your junior residents have come as well.
Paul Bryson: Yeah, I mean, on the staff side, it's really cool how to see the growth, like you mentioned before, I mean simply taking calls and consults with people and seeing that evolution on the junior resident side, but then in the senior years too, it's really fun on the education side to see just how ready you are when it's time, right?
David Zimmer: Yeah. Oh, exactly.
Paul Bryson: But still learning when we're on call and having, like you said, difficult cases or unexpected things. And it's been great to see both of your growth. I mean, it's cool.
I wanted to ask, so for maybe the medical student who's listening, you've shared some of your sort of experiences here. Any other highlights of the program? We have a lot of growth. I mean, I think that's one thing, and we have a lot of depth in all the subspecialties, but any other personal highlights or other highlights that you want to share with a student who might be listening about the program?
David Zimmer: Yeah, yeah, sure. Yeah, so Lacey touched on it, you touched on it, but I really don't think you can understate how important it is to have multiple surgeons from every single subspecialty within otolaryngology-head and neck surgery represented. And so out of all of the different subspecialties, we have multiple surgeons on that team. That means you get to learn from the best of the best people who are subspecialty trained and fellowship trained. And when I look at the people who've come through here, we've had a broad range of people going into every single subspecialty. And over my five years, I watched each of our chief classes match into the fellowship that they want their number one choice almost without exception. And really, if you're a medical student and you're looking at what's the end goal? What do I want to do? Who do I want to be like, then this is a place that's going to set you up to get the fellowship that you want and to get the training no matter what that area is. And so, I think that's one of the things that makes this special. But then lastly, I'm on call this week with Dr. Fritz and he's a good friend of mine, and we go to yoga together and paddleboard, and it's so fun to be on call doing really meaningful work with a mentor and a colleague who you also consider a friend.
Paul Bryson: Yeah, that's pretty awesome.
Lacey Magee: I would echo a lot of what David is saying. I think Cleveland Clinic is special. We do have so many incredible renowned big names in the field of surgeons, and it was amazing to me how invested they are in our education. I feel like every single one of them really cares that I'm learning that I am improving over what they've seen, and it encourages me a lot to work harder, study harder to keep improving and showing them that I am as invested as they are in my education here. I also think that the operative experience is incredible. There's almost never a lack of ORs to scrub into, help out with, to learn from. And it's kind of cool. There's this sense of camaraderie, especially with the residents, but even with the staff, that is really special. I've seen a couple, few late nights where I see all of my co-residents coming in from other sites, and we all work together and help each other to get these ORs finished to help everybody get home on time.
It's amazing. It's amazing for patient care and just for overall morale. And then also kind of what David was saying before about, I think I saw really early on what a great senior resident looks like and how I hope to be one day I can always rely on any of them for help with call questions or extra hands in the OR. And I think the way that our staff teach us kind of trickles down so that my senior residents are comfortable teaching me in the OR. And there's even situations where I feel comfortable teaching residents who are junior to me on call. It's really cool. It's an attitude here where we're all teaching each other, we're all learning, and we're all striving to be better, and it's really amazing.
Paul Bryson: I wanted to touch base a little bit about living in Cleveland. So, David, you had a more traditional interview day, Lacey, you were in the virtual visit sort of zone. So as non-native Clevelanders, what's this place like to live, get to and from the hospital, and strike that balance when you're not at work?
Lacey Magee: So, I live downtown, so it takes about 10 minutes to get to work if it's a really easy drive. It wasn't difficult at all to move here, especially, or where I live downtown. There's always a lot of stuff going on. So, it's fun, especially in the summer. We have several different sports teams during the year who are playing, and then we have a lot of concerts that happen, have a big concert center near where I live. Then I really like to run Edgewater Beach, a beach area with sand and a park, and it's really pretty, especially in the summer, but it's also really pretty in the winter. Personally, I have personal goals outside of the hospital to find the best pizza place in Cleveland because I know so many good ones in New Jersey, so we're still working on that. But it's a fun journey that I've been doing. And then there's just lots of restaurants. It's always fun to hang out with your co-residents who are in your own class in ENT, and then also you meet so many people in other specialties, especially in intern year. So, it's fun to go out and hang out with them, go bowling, restaurants, go to the zoo, things like that. There's endless, there's endless things to do there.
David Zimmer: We could probably have done the whole podcast on just this question. After living here for five years, one of my best friends and good buddies who's a co-resident, Kash, he said, Cleveland is a great place to train. It's an incredibly great place to live while you're a resident, and I think it's affordable. Three out of the four people in my class bought a house during training, and over half of the residents own their house. I live about six minutes, a six-minute drive from campus, and I can get here though in three minutes if it's an emergency. Safely. Yeah, safely. Yes, exactly. But I have a house. I have three dogs, and a hot tub.
Paul Bryson: I didn't know that.
David Zimmer: The hot tub was an addition.
Paul Bryson: I hadn't been invited for this, so that's good to know.
David Zimmer: But that's, it's not an anomaly. Almost everybody owns their place, and like Lacey said, we have really good friends across all the different specialties, and there's other good training places here as well, University Hospitals and Metro, and we do a lot of combined events. The Halloween party that all three hospitals throw together, is over 3,000 trainees in one place, which is just raucous and fun. But yeah, it's a great place to make friends, new friends, to really invest in your class and your program, but also to meet people from all walks of life. And then the things that you can do here are just endless, there's an endless number of things that you can do here. And I've been to a football game, multiple baseball games and a basketball game in the last year, sat second row for a concert. I think you might've actually gotten me the tickets. Yeah, yeah, yeah. And that happens. A lot of our staff have box seats for games, and they hand them down to residents, and I live right across the street from a park where I run almost every single day. They did the ultra-marathon there, and it's literally a quarter mile from my house, which is also just three miles from campus. So, everything's close. It's livable, and it's such a wonderful place to live while you're a resident.
Paul Bryson: Yeah, I feel like it's a bit of a secret. Even though we've been here for about 13 years and there's really no shortage of things, and it's so accessible, if it's more than a 25-minute drive, kind of like, oh, what's going on? The traffic isn't really an issue here for the most part, and I mean, there's so much to do, particularly on the activity side, like the parking system. I don't think people appreciate having been here, what the parks are like.
David Zimmer: Yeah, gorgeous. I mean, yeah, you take your family skiing, right? Who knew you could ski here? It's easy to rent boats and go out on Lake Erie. We go to the beach all the time. It's like these are things that you don't really think about for a Midwest city, but it's all right around here.
Paul Bryson: Yeah, it's nice. I think particularly when you're coming in and out of the hospital at different hours and things like that, it's nice to have that time, that extra time for when you can get home and hopefully go do the other things that kind of round out the day.
David Zimmer: Yeah. Oh, exactly.
Paul Bryson: Well, as we wrap up, what are some take home messages for our listeners? Maybe they’re medical students, maybe they’re residents, maybe their friends and family? What are some take home messages about the program or even where you see it going here?
Lacey Magee: I mean, I'm just so grateful every day to be a resident here. I hope that applying medical students will be able to just find the perfect match like I did. And I think we have, like you said earlier, we have so much growth already. I think we're just going to keep going up.
David Zimmer: Yeah, I mean, it is an exciting time. We have an incredible chairman. We have such wonderful young and innovative staff, and it's such a cool place to learn from, and it's probably a testament to itself. A lot of people when they train here, want to come back and work here, and the growth is evident, and we're spreading the reach of Cleveland Clinic and the amount of people that we can help and the amount of good work that we can do, and it's an exciting place right now, and all the little things that you're going to ask if you're a medical student and you're going to interview here, all the little things you're going to ask about on interview day, those we all also cover all those easy parking, easy living, great resident salary, things like that. But if you come and interview, you'll get to see the way that, and I would say just anywhere you interview, focus on the interactions between the residents, among themselves, the residents and staff, and the staff among themselves. And I think that's where Cleveland Clinic, even with all the other great accolades that this place has, that's where it shines the most, is the human interactions and the way that everybody works together.
Paul Bryson: Yeah, you got me thinking too. I think it's important for the applicants to know that while our staff and our program offerings are not static, there's growth. There are refinements that happen in the residency program almost every year. We take the feedback and the advice that we get from you as you go through the process. Our program directors with Dr. Kominsky and Osborne, try to listen. If we think about it as a continuous improvement process, we try to do that, right? A new night float system this year, expanding the resident compliment over the last couple years.
David Zimmer: We asked for computers, and they were like, sure, here's computers next year. All those kinds of things. They expanded the book fund. You're right, all the little things that we asked for. And Dr. Byrne said it. He said, "What can I do to make this place the best residency training program in the country?” We came up with a list and he goes, okay, done. It's exciting, and we're seeing it all kind of come to fruition right now, too.
Paul Bryson: Well, thank you again for both joining the podcast and talking about the program. Happy to do it again anytime, maybe in your hot tub.
For more information on our otolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery residency program, visit clevelandclinic.org/headandneckresidency. That's clevelandclinic.org/headandneckresidency. And to speak with our program coordinator, call 216.444.4949. That's 216.444.4949. And I also wanted to highlight our Instagram account at CCFOHNSResidents. That's CCFOHNSResidents. Dr. Magee and Dr. Zimmer, thanks for joining Head and Neck Innovations.
David Zimmer: Thank you so much for having us, Dr. Bryson.
Paul Bryson: Thanks for listening to Head and Neck Innovations. You can find additional podcast episodes on our website at clevelandclinic.org\podcasts, or you can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, SoundCloud, or wherever you listen to podcasts. Don't forget, you can access real-time updates from Cleveland Clinic experts in otolaryngology – head and neck surgery on our Consult QD website at consultqd.clevelandclinic.org/headandneck. Thank you for listening and join us again next time.