Relocating for residency? Keep these things in mind

Timothy M. Smith , Contributing News Writer

For many graduating medical students, the excitement of this year’s Match Day can be a career-defining milestone. 

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Then there is another, more mundane reality to contend with—the uncertainty of relocating for residency. Three young physicians whose days of residency training are not so far behind shared some great tips for finding a new home that balances meeting the demands of clinical training with achieving family, financial and lifestyle goals.

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These might include building a family, owning a home or pursuing avocations.  

“My No. 1 concern was safety because I had a newborn at the time and my mom was going to move in with us,” said Ellia Ciammaichella, DO, a spinal cord injury medicine physiatrist in Nevada who did her internship year at College Medical Center, in Long Beach, California. “I also couldn’t deal with a long commute, so that narrowed my options quite a bit.” 

Scott H. Pasichow, MD, MPH, is an assistant professor of emergency medicine at Southern Illinois University. He completed his residency training at the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University, and he and his wife adopted pit bulls.  

“Finding a rental property that allows that is very difficult, so we bought a house,” he said. “This went against the general advice I’d gotten, but our situation was unusual.” 

The people you met while interviewing may be able to answer your questions or point you to residents who can.  

“If you’re a single person who likes nature, or if you have kids and you need child care, find residents in similar circumstances and talk to them about neighborhoods they considered and resources they used,” said Laura E. Halpin, MD, PhD, a child-and-adolescent psychiatrist in California who completed her fellowship at the University of California, Los Angeles Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior. 

“If you’re going to be renting, ask them how they found their apartments and also what kind of lease timeline the city works on so you know when to start looking,” said Dr. Halpin. “In L.A., renters only need to give their landlords 30 days’ notice, so you can’t find many places further out than that.”  

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The costs of living can vary widely as can moving expenses.  

“If you’re moving to a city like Los Angeles, it’s pretty much impossible to buy a home, so plan to rent,” Dr. Halpin said, noting that her program paid for some of her moving expenses. “But if you’re moving to a more affordable city and you could see yourself living there long term, then ownership might be worthwhile.”  

Even if she had stayed in Long Beach beyond her intern year, Dr. Ciammaichella still would have rented because, given her needs, that’s all she could afford in that market. When her advanced residency sent her to Houston in her second year, however, housing there was much more affordable, and she was able to buy a home.  

You should note, however, that being tied down to a mortgage can reduce your geographic mobility and may limit your fellowship and practice location options.