Spotlight on Graduating Chief Resident Dr. Beth Hochman

Dr. Hochman at the 2013 Graduation CeremonyBeth Hochman, MD is a recently graduated member of the 2013 class at Columbia University Medical Campus’s Surgical Residency Program. Dr. Hochman is currently pursuing a fellowship in trauma and surgical critical care at the University of Pennsylvania. We caught up with Dr. Hochman to learn more about her time at Columbia.

Q: How long have you been at Columbia? What was the focus of your residency?

Dr. Hochman: I have been at Columbia for nine years. I went to medical school here and then stayed for my residency in surgery. Initially, it was difficult for me to decide which area of surgery to focus on because I found most fields interesting. In the middle of the program I did some research in breast surgery, but I later changed course and decided to focus on acute care surgery. I felt acute care was the best match for my personality and interests.

Q: What are your plans now that you have graduated? Are you going to continue working in acute care surgery?

Dr. Hochman: I am starting a fellowship in trauma and surgical critical care at the University of Pennsylvania, with the hope that I will ultimately be an attending acute care surgeon. The first year of my fellowship will focus on the critical care aspects of surgery, and the second year will focus on trauma surgery.

Q: Could you tell us a little bit more about why you chose acute care surgery? What types of surgery are performed in this field?

Dr. Hochman: Acute care surgery is a relatively new field, and it is a subset of general surgery, just as colorectal and breast surgery are subsets of general surgery. An acute care surgery program is designed specifically to handle emergency cases arising from both the emergency room and inpatient population. These cases would otherwise be divvied up among all the subspecialties, without necessarily having anything to do with those particular subspecialties. The concept of a dedicated acute care surgery team improves patient care by providing urgent surgical care without detracting from other services’ pre-existing caseloads.

I chose acute care surgery because I enjoy the variety and breadth of cases that it entails, from hernias and cholecystectomies to colectomies and trauma. Also, the way the service is structured at Columbia, I felt my growth as a surgeon and a teacher was greatest while learning acute care. Acute care is one of the primary teaching divisions here because of the sheer size of the team and the so-called “bread and butter” general surgery cases that we tackle.

Q: You have been at Columbia a long time. What are some of the things that you will miss about working here?

Dr. Hochman: What I will miss the most are my fellow residents. I loved working with them. They were great clinicians but more importantly they were just fun people, and we established such a great camaraderie working together over so many years. It is going to be a tough transition for me, because I am leaving what has basically become a second family. I have been here for so long, it kind of feels like I am leaving home.

Q: What advice would you give to an incoming resident?

Dr. Hochman: I think the most important thing for a new resident is to take advantage of your colleagues’ knowledge. Everybody begins their residency with a slightly different perspective and skill set, so you can learn a lot from them as well as share the things you know. This is probably your greatest asset in residency.

Q: Acute care surgery can be stressful. How did you balance your work and personal life?

Dr. Hochman: Living in New York was helpful for keeping my work life and personal life balanced. There are so many outlets for one’s energy here; the city is basically an unlimited resource of activity. I enjoyed running in the park, going to the museums, seeing various performances, exploring the food scene, and my guilty pleasure is watching tons of movies. More importantly, my boyfriend during residency, who is now my husband, is not in medicine. I think it helped immensely to have somebody close who regularly reminded me that there is life outside of the hospital. Having somebody to keep things in perspective is really important.