Review Detail

9.5 2 10
South Carolina August 28, 2007 12260
Exceptional Program on the Up and Up
(Updated: February 24, 2019)
Overall rating
Staff Surgeons
Operating Experience
Clinical Experience
Overall Experience

Program Review

Staff / Faculty / Chairman
I am a recent graduate of the residency program and can say that the orthopedic staff are nothing short of phenomenal. Dr. Grabowski is the acting program director and takes extraordinary pride in the resident's education and overall experience. He took over the program directorship from Dr. Koon who still assists in several areas as assistant program director. Dr. Walsh was the acting chairman throughout my residency experience and recently passed the baton of chairman to Dr. Mazoue, who was already with the qprogram as one of the attending sports surgeons. Dr. Walsh still remains on staff and works with residents on the hand rotation. This just goes to show that there is not much staff turnover and everyone works very well together overall as once the program director and chairmanship passes to the next person, the predecessor is still staying on to continue to work with residents. This creates a stable teaching environment overall which is conducive to a great experience of education. One thing to note is that they take great pride in being responsive to resident suggestions and changing with the times to make it the best experience possible. the other thing to note is that when you get down to it, they are all actually great human beings and great to be around in addition to being great teaching surgeons, which I think is a rarity in today's academic teaching environments.
Didactics / Teaching
The didactic lectures are every morning at 6:30 and go through a rotating cycle throughout the year between sports, hand, pediatrics, trauma, foot and ankle, spine, basic science, and all of the subspecialty areas is Monday through Thursday. There are typically reading assignment for each of these but the nice thing is that these lectures Monday to Thursday are lead by an attending physician and not by the residents. So there is great faculty participation each morning for lecture which is nice. Friday Conferences are usually reserved for grand rounds, morbidity mortality conference, or postop conference and is usually presented by the residents or a resident. Overall the didactics are good and it is great to have a daily faculty participation in the lectures. In my opinion this is far superior to other programs I have seen where the residents run all of the didactic conferences on the round without as much guidance from the faculty. It is also better than having one bloc day for lectures.
Operating Experience

The operating experience is one of the best attributes in the program. It originally was more of a community-based program with early and significant operative experience. The program has retained this great attribute throughout its recent growth and expansion as it has become more widely renowned and has become more involved an academics/research over the last several years. I started my time there as a second year resident, and in just 4 years there I logged just under 2000 cases. There is great operative time which is set up on a graduated level of competence. pretty much all of the attending physicians are excellent about letting the residents get their hands on things early. As with any program, there are a handful that are more hands on, but even then once one demonstrates competence, there is excellent operative autonomy for the training residents.
Clinic Experience
Clinic experience is set up for typically 2 days a week so that you are in the operating room for 3 days during the week. This creates an excellent balance between appropriate clinical management and diagnostic skills as well as operating room experience.

One great thing about the program worth mentioning is how the rotations are set up. for starters, the experiences are divided up between 3 different settings which are all within about a 10-15 minute drive away from each other and not spread out. This has changed from from the prior review where they had to go off-site for some rotations. These facilities are the main academic teaching Hospital, a more boutique type private hospital which is mostly devoted to orthopedic surgery, and there is also a physician owned ambulatory surgery Center with attached clinic space. This gives training residents and opportunity to see how these 3 separate practice settings function and helps give some insight into future career choices following residency.
Research Opportunities
The research opportunities at the program have expanded significantly in the last several years.
The overall research requirement is incredibly reasonable, which is to just have a 1 paper which is publishable that must presented at a state, regional, or national conference and does not even have to be published in order to graduate. That being said, for those with an interest there is been in increasingly robust research mechanism in place for getting papers published that continues to improve each year. I did not personally have much consistent research when I began residency, but was able to find an interesting project to get involved with that ended up being accepted to present at the Southern Orthopedic meeting and ended up winning the first place research award, and this also provided me an opportunity present this research paper at the AAOS on a research scholarship. With the improving research backing at the program, without much additional effort I was able to get a book chapter published and also had some of the research published and featured in AAOS Now. I don't list these accomplishments to brag, but more to emphasize that someone like me who essentially hates required research, was able to accomplish this without too much headache due to the opportunities of the program has in place for it. That being said, the overall research requirement is extremely manageable as you don't even have to have a paper published, and just have to make a project that can be present at a conference for a 5 minute PowerPoint.
Overall the resident's are the main strength of the program. when I started there were initially only 2 residents per year however with recent program growth and the consolidation of the orthopedic academic group with a large private practice orthopedic group in the city, there was a large expansion of orthopedic attending physicians, many of which greatly enjoys working with the residents. The overall Hospital system growth resulted in our program growth and we were approved for 3 residents a year towards the end of my tenure there. I would not be surprised at all if they are approved for 4 residents a year in the near future, as the program continues to improve and expand. That being said, the residents that are there are a tightly knit group. We all enjoy spending time together on our down time outside the hospital, which demonstrates a healthy work relationship and overall supportive atmosphere. Your current residents will become your second family and will always have your back. This is definitely not one of the programs where you can eclipse into the background during residency, which to me is a great strength of the program.
Overall the lifestyle is good. The pay is actually on the upper end for residencies around the country, and the cost of living in Columbia South Carolina is extremely affordable. Many people bought houses, and others rent. The good thing is that the living expenses compared to the salary is actually excellent. Some people complain that Columbia South Carolina is not New York City, and it is not Charleston or Atlanta, but there is more than enough to do as far as entertainment, dining out, outdoor activities etc
Location / Housing
Many people purchased houses upon arrival, I personally chose to rent during my time there which was very affordable and was about $480 a month for a very large two bedroom apartment about 12 minutes away from the hospital. the University of South Carolina college campus is located SouthWest of the hospital and there are multiple areas all around the city to live with different personalities depending on what your looking for.
One thing that people may not like is that you are driving between 3 separate locations on some rotations. It honestly is not really an issue as both the ambulatory surgery center and the other boutique Hospital are within 15 minute drive to the main campus and academic Hospital which we spent most of the time at, and the experience of seeing these other practice settings is definitely worth it. The operating room experience is very well-balanced and appropriate with the clinical experience.
Overall Rotation Experience / Conclusion
Overall this is a phenomenal program which in the past had not been very well-known, but has been continually on the rise in the last several years. It has evolved from more of a community-based work-house style program were you get to operate a lot and has maintained the good attributes of that as far as operative experience and autonomy and overall congenially between your peers and the faculty. It has evolved into an exceptionally well balanced program that has taken on the mantle of a more prestigious research institution, a greatly expanded faculty complement, and overall is very well run and managed by Dr Grabowski and the faculty. This is demonstrated in the approval for 3 residents a year and very likely will have 4 residents a year in the near future. The ACGME doesn't give out these approvals easily, and it demonstrates the underlying education and experience the program provides. The way all of the rotations are set up, they are going to eventually have 3 attending physicians on each of the subspecialty services, so that not only due to get a good breath of experience with the different orthopedic subspecialties, but get to see 3 different ways of doing things not only from an operative and clinical acumen standpoint, but also from a practice environment standpoint. One of the attendings of the 3 on each service will be more academic, and one will be more private practice, so that you can see the differences between these practices and overall practice management as you discern what subspecialty and practice environment you're interested in following graduation. I feel that I was provided an excellent education which prepared me very well for fellowship. I arrived at my fellowship this year at Hospital for Special Surgery in Foot and Ankle, and felt extremely well prepared by my residency program upon arrival. They do a great job of not only making you a great fellowship candidate for whichever subspecialty you choose, but also prepare you well to be an overall outstanding orthopedic surgeon. I will forever be extraordinarily grateful for the opportunity to train there. For anyone interested, it is absolutely worth doing an away rotation to see firsthand for yourself!


I am an alumnus of this program.
Date of Rotation
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