Our Story

STAR was founded in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic to facilitate connections between medical students and residency programs. Initially, students were asked to create a 5-minute video presentation, which included a 1-minute biographical speech and a 4-minute academic presentation on a topic of their choice. To encourage networking at a time when personal connections were limited, students were able to select a volunteer faculty member to assist them with the video creation process. Following a successful pilot, we gathered participant feedback and conducted customer discovery with the guidance of the Vanderbilt Wondry Center for Innovation. Based on our insights, STAR evolved to address the challenge of limited evaluation metrics in the residency application process. We created a platform that allows students to showcase personal details that they believe would be relevant to residency programs in determining their fit.

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

Our core team comprises of highly motivated individuals passionate about addressing the challenges in the medical residency application process. The group includes two resident physicians with a wealth of practical experience and a recently matriculated medical student with a fresh perspective. Our team is in a unique position as we are at the intersection of being students and future faculty members, providing us with a comprehensive understanding of the needs of both parties. We strongly believe that our roles at the inception of STAR have given us a unique perspective on what will help students succeed without introducing too much burden. Our team is dedicated to driving the success of STAR and bringing innovative solutions to the medical residency application process.


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