Our Story

In 2020, nearly all academic medical Institutions halted visiting medical student clerkships in the setting of the COVID-19 pandemic. These clerkships are essential for medical students seeking to showcase their abilities while building meaningful relationships with faculty and residency programs. The Short Talks by Aspiring Residents (STAR) Initiative was developed by resident physicians to leverage the evolving virtual landscape to provide students with an equal opportunity to showcase themselves while obtaining task-specific guidance and support from volunteer faculty mentors.

In Fall 2020, an optional pilot program for STAR was launched within Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery. Twenty percent of the applicant pool and seventy faculty members from over 30 residency programs elected to participate in the program. The video library was viewed nearly 1,600 times over three months.

Feedback from the pilot validated the need for additional metrics in the residency application process that provide a more holistic review of an applicant and their capabilities. Students valued the networking opportunity and the ability to showcase themselves in an engaging format not present within the traditional residency application. Areas for improvement included providing more time for video presentation creation and refraining from making this initiative mandatory for all applicants.

Drawing from the valuable information obtained from the “STAR-OTO” pilot, we conducted over 25 customer discovery interviews with medical school deans, residency program directors, medical students, and attending physicians to better comprehend the needs of the major stakeholders in the residency application process.

We plan to maintain the STAR platform as an optional program for aspiring residents seeking professional development and mentorship opportunities. We aim to identify metrics that identify intangible qualities of importance to residency programs as we continue to grow. Our mission is to highlight the capabilities of future physicians when they are provided with ample resources to succeed.

Ongoing National Development

The STAR Initiative was presented at the 2021 National “Lead, Learn, Serve” AAMC Conference  and received the following comments from reviewers:

“This is an interesting and innovative approach to solving an important problem, and the fact that an existing model was adopted is a real plus compared to running the project with an untested approach or technology.” 

”​What the authors have described here can easily be transferred to other specialties.” 

“Developing new and effective ways of interacting with applicants is an important topic and highly relevant across medical education programs.” 

Our team has participated in courses offered by the Harvard Macy Institute and Vanderbilt’s Innovation Center the Wond’ry to utilize evidenced-based approaches as we develop and grow the STAR platform.

Our Team


Brandon Esianor, MD

Resident Physician, Vanderbilt
Founder and Director

Madelyn Stevens, MD

Resident Physician, Vanderbilt
Co-Founder & Associate Director

Vikas Dodda, BS

Aspiring Physician | Vanderbilt Graduate
Executive Assistant/Program Manager
STAR Advisor

Kyla Terhune, MD, MBA, FACS

Vice President for Educational Affairs, Associate Dean for Graduate Medical Education, Designated Institutional Official, Professor of Surgery and Anesthesiology | Vanderbilt
STAR Advisor

Lee Jones, MD 

Medical Education Dean, Professor of Psychiatry  | Georgetown
STAR Advisor
Dr. Ray

Roland Eavey, MD 

Former Chair & Professor Emeritus, Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery  | Vanderbilt
STAR Advisor