Many academic programs host an annual visiting professor (VP) conference, in which a distinguished professor from another institution is invited to speak and engage with the host faculty and trainees. The tradition holds a long history in my own department at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, initially established in 1963 under the leadership of Harry M. Spence, MD, with our first VP, Howard Hanley, MD
The conference provides a unique and valuable opportunity for residents to interact with a leader in the field on a professional and personal basis. Heavily resident-run at our institution, residents present challenging cases related to the VP’s field of expertise, thereby enabling an educational forum to discuss various approaches to addressing complex urologic problems, both cognitively and surgically. From these discussions, it often becomes evident that there are multiple ways or techniques to resolve an issue, and trainees can benefit by learning strategies employed at other institutions and combining them with their own training.
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A unique aspect of our VP conference is the inclusion of visiting residents from several other training programs as well. Indeed, these visiting residents make invaluable contributions by adding diverse experiences and viewpoints to the discussions. Last year alone we hosted as many as nine visiting residents from various domestic programs, in addition to several international trainees.
This past March, I had the honor of attending the Northwestern University department of urology annual Vincent J. O’Conor, Jr. VP event as a visiting resident. There has been a long-standing “resident exchange” tradition between our departments. By interacting with the Northwestern faculty, residents, and their VP, I had the chance to experience how other academic institutions approach urologic problems. At the same time, I participated in a hands-on urinary diversions pig lab and compared notes on operative experiences, training curricula, surgical simulation facilities, and approaches to educational conferences.
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Fun is certainly an integral part of these conferences as well. A number of social events were arranged when I visited Northwestern University, including a (very humbling) bowling event to enable interaction with the VP in an informal setting, along with dinner outings. Indeed, opportunities like this are educational and provide the chance to meet old friends while making new ones.
As our department prepares for its 54th annual VP conference in June, we look forward to an exciting, educational, and fun-filled program, with six visiting residents from different programs throughout the country. Having the fortunate experience of being both a host and a visiting resident, I undoubtedly support increased resident exchanges among other programs as well.
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