Interview With Dr. Peter Pelc
Updated: Jan 23
1. Please introduce yourself (name, age, Canadian undergrad/masters, medical school, graduate year, residency program and year, AOA or ACGME, and state).
My name is Peter Pelc, I'm 29, I finished undergrad at Cornell University in Biological Sciences, graduated in 2007, got my master's in Physiology and Biophysics through the Georgetown SMP program in 2008 while I applied to medical schools, then graduated from Western University of Health Sciences in 2012. I'm now in an ACGME psychiatry residency at Loma Linda University in California, and I'll be moving to Miami for fellowship in child and adolescent psychiatry at Jackson Hospital.
2. Why adolescent psychiatry?
I love all of psychiatry, and I want to treat adults in addition to children and adolescents someday, but I truly like working with kids and adolescents. It's been easier for me to empathize with them, and I feel that if we can intervene early, the child can fully adopt his/her potential, something that may not be the case if we let a mental illness go untreated.
3. What is a typical day like as a psychiatry resident?
This will vary by rotation (such as general adult vs geriatric vs child vs adolescent) as well as location (medical center vs VA vs our psychiatric hospital). Generally I get in at 7am and the regular work day will finish at 5pm. We have "short call" that goes from 5pm to 9pm during the week and some weekend calls that last all day (7am to 9pm) as well as a period of time when you do nights (4-6 weeks in second year).
On the inpatient wards I will see the patient, often with a medical student, and get the history as well as do my mental status exam, figure out a diagnosis and start a treatment plan in consultation with an attending. We carry anywhere from 5 to 10 patients, depending on the site. On the consultation service at the medical center we get consults from various services such as IM or surgery or OB for their patients that have depression (and sometimes are suicidal), anxiety, are confused/delirious/agitated, etc. We get similar consults from the ER.
4. At several sites psychiatry residents have the opportunity to moonlight. Is this possible as a Canadian?
I have been able to moonlight because I am on an H1b, and because my moonlighting is INTERNAL. The H1b is specific to the employer, so if I wanted to moonlight externally I would have to get a separate H1b visa for that, which is not practical. I believe on a J1 visa you cannot moonlight.
5. How was the residency match process for you? Many nervous nights?
The residency match process overall was a good one, but definitely nerve wracking. I first had to figure out which places would sponsor what visa. Most places I looked at would only consider the J1, but luckily a few places would do the H1b and I ended up at a place that did this for me. Flying to interviews is costly and time intensive but very fun. I highly recommend applying broadly, then going on around 10 interviews or so. It's worth the money, at the end of the day it's a drop in the bucket compared to the total cost of your medical education. Then, come match day, it's super nerve wracking but also very exciting to find out where you're going for residency!
6. Is there any tips you can provide students who are adamant about getting an H1b visa vs an J1 visa?
I definitely brought up the visa issue both before the interview and during the interview. The PD needs to know what will happen once you match there, and you need to know if they'll agree to sponsor the J1 or H1b, so no use hiding this. I ended up taking the USMLE Step 1 and 2CK, but I did not do 2CS or USMLE Step 3. This was more so that the PD's could compare apples to apples since not all are familiar with the COMLEX. You don't need the USMLE series to get the H1b. My intern year was on OPT, and during this time I completed by COMLEX 3 early (in September), then I submitted my COMLEX exam results, steps 1-3 to the lawyer who was submitting my H1b application to USCIS.
7. Any advice/recommendation you can provide students about the entire visa process? Incl the use of OPT year?
Definitely do OPT, it's basically a formality. You get 12 months of it, so if you do a transitional year it's perfect for this too. During your OPT you have time to finish your exams for licensure and your program can apply for your H1b visa for you. I don't know much about the J1 visa process since I didn't go this route.
8. Did having an H1 visa make it easier to get fellowships?
No. For me the H1b visa is preferable since it's a dual intent visa, and doesn't have the 2 year return to Canada requirement like the J1 visa does (or you have to go through a waiver process and work in an underserved area, I think for 5 years). Matching for fellowships was again difficult because most places only wanted to sponsor the J1, which limited me. But it is what it is. It's not a problem going from H1b in residency to J1 in fellowship, but you can't do J1 in residency to H1b in fellowship, hence why I'd recommend the H1b for residency.
9. Since 2009, the number of Canadian applicants and matriculates to DO colleges has increased from 66 to 210 and from 13 to 56, respectively. Are you surprised to see the Canadian DO population grow so fast (and still growing)?
Not at all. The medical education system in Canada has many problems. There is a huge need for more physicians in Canada, but I think the Canadian government makes things difficult, especially for those that finish their residency in the US and want to return to Canada. Because there is not a high number of medical schools in Canada I'm not surprised that more and more applicants are going the DO route rather than going offshore/internationally.
10. Last question (and most important), do you see Nazem Kadri as the face of the Toronto Maple Leafs franchise, like Mats Sundin was?
Heck no. I'm not a fan of Kadri and I don't think he holds a candle to Sundin. Ahh, those were the good old days.... Neither am I a fan of Phaneuf/Kessel. These changes have been long overdue. Hopefully we get someone good in the draft this year!