Meet your chief resident: Kara Wegermann, MD

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Kara Wegermann, MD, is the 2018-19 chief resident for internal medicine at the Durham VA Medical Center. Dr. Wegermann is a graduate of Stanford University and received her MD at Harvard Medical School. As chief resident, Dr. Wegermann will serve as a mentor to the residents and be a liaison to the administration. Dr. Wegermann will return to fellowship in the Division of Gastroenterology after her chief resident year.

How did you end up at Duke?
I couples matched with my husband for both residency and fellowship, Zach Wegermann, MD, who is now a cardiology fellow. We were coming from different medical schools in the Northeast, and we wanted a change. Duke was our first interview. I remember we were the last people to leave on interview day. We were hanging out with the then chief residents and Dr. Aimee Zaas and having a great time. When we left, we got in the car, and Zach turned to me and said, "Maybe we should just go ask if they'll take us and be done." We were very impressed by how smart, motivated, and passionate people were, but it was clear that Duke was a place we could definitely see ourselves fitting in. When we got to the end of interviews and were deciding on our rank list we agreed that Duke was one of those places where we felt at home even though we had never met any of these people before that day.

Did you always want to go to into medicine?
Yes and no. I come from a family of doctors so it was always in the back of my mind. I didn't really decide until the end of college. I was a political science major, and I thought I was going to end up in nonprofits or government. I worked after college in a youth mentoring program, but then I decided that a lot of the things I loved about that work are true with being a physician, as well, and you get the other side of it, which is the potential to have an impact on populations through research.

What are your main responsibilities as chief resident?
I think fundamentally I am a mentor to the residents. I am also a liaison to the administration of the residency and the VA. I am an advocate for the residents when changes need to be made.

What sets the Durham VA apart as a training site?
The VA is an amazing opportunity for trainees. It’s a place where our trainees are given a lot of responsibility. I think the VA is a place where there is adequate supervision and the attending physicians are always available, but the faith that's put into residents to run that place is so cool. It was my favorite rotation of my second year of residency. It's an incredible growth experience for the junior residents because they are running a team, and you can see how they transform during that rotation.

Can you share a fun or meaningful moment from your training that illustrates #DukeFamily?
There have been silly moments and serious moments. On the sillier end, I was on call on New Year's as an intern and one of my co-interns was eating veggies with ranch dip and she opened the ranch and dumped it all over herself by accident. She didn't have a change of clothes. Eventually with the help of some of the nurses on that floor we found paper scrubs that they give to patients, but they only come in one size: XXXL. She is very petite. The rest of the night she was wearing this paper top and paper bottoms that she had rolled five times and of course we like made fun of her relentlessly.

On the serious side, I had several family emergencies during residency, and the willingness of my co-residents to step up, cover and support me was really touching.

What makes you a good fit for this role?
I have always had a lot of enthusiasm for this residency. I have always believed in the residents, my colleagues, and this program. I want it to be the best that it can be, and I really enjoy the job. I like to listen to people, I like to understand where they are coming from and that's a really important part of the job. I also think it is an opportunity to identify people who are struggling and get them to where they need to be.

What assets did you look for in your chief resident that you plan to bring forward during your chief year?
My favorite chiefs always had our backs, even when they were giving tough love or criticism. People always respect when a chief resident is willing to roll up his or her sleeves and pitch in.

What do you want to do after you chief resident year?
I will complete fellowship in gastroenterology, with my last two years of fellowship consisting mostly of research on non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. I plan to stay in academic medicine.

What do you like to do for fun?
I like anything outdoors; I spent a lot of time hiking and running.

Is there anything else about you that you'd like to share with the Medicine faculty or residents?
I am excited and honored to do the job.

Written by NyAsia Harris, communications intern for the Department of Medicine.