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Residents & Fellows Spotlight: Spencer Fuller, MD

Spencer Fuller, MD, MPH

(Third Year Resident)

What are your future plans?

Vitreoretinal surgical fellowship at the Moran Eye Center at the University of Utah for the next two years. After that I’m not 100% sure, but it’s going to be a great adventure!

Why did you choose Ophthalmology/WashU?

My wife and I knew leaving San Diego after medical school for residency was best for our growing family, and we had family ties to the St. Louis area. With Wash U’s reputation as one of the most well-balanced (research and clinical), top-tier ophthalmology residency programs, I wanted to check it out in-person through an away rotation to see if it could be a good fit. During my away rotation, I was impressed with how approachable and down to earth all the residents, fellows, and attendings were that I worked with, while also being enthusiastic, curious, hard-working, and impressive in clinical and research efforts. We also loved St. Louis and everything the city and surrounding area have to offer. My wife and I both felt that Wash U would be an ideal setting to complete residency, and were so happy that I matched here! And to have matched with the four other co-residents in my class (Adam, Brent, Matt, and Tina), I couldn’t have gotten any luckier. Now, after completing the four years, I can’t believe how our expectations were exceeded, how much fun we’ve had here, and we are forever grateful for the people here who invested in my development and helped us navigate residency successfully.

What advice would you give to the new residents?

Invest the time early to learn how to do a thorough, accurate, and comprehensive eye exam. Don’t forget about the history either–you’d be shocked how close you can get to most diagnoses through age, demographics, time course, and other basic features of the visual complaint (i.e. painful vs. painless, acute vs. chronic, etc). Google everything (Cindy is the master of this–I swear she can somehow find the single existing case report on a rare eye condition after only typing 6 letters into a Google search bar) and read up on eye conditions in the BCSC and Wills manuals as starting points. Ask LOTS of questions to residents, fellows, and attendings. Be honest about what you are seeing and not seeing, and ask for pointers on how to improve your exam.

Favorite memory of your residency?

This is impossible! So I’ll go by year:
— Intern year: New Year’s Eve celebration at the VA with my co-residents (kinda had to be there)
— PGY-2 year: that wonderful time on consults in early Spring with James and the interns (Aaditya, Kelly, and Nate) before COVID hit and ruined everything
— PGY-3 year: getting to know all the attendings better and learning their crafts; also post-cornea clinic hangouts with Sollenberger and Pappas were a riot
— PGY-4 year: getting hugged by grateful surgical patients at the VA and UES

How did you survive during quarantine?

Picking up new hobbies – playing guitar and cycling (I’m not very good at either LOL but I do enjoy them and they helped get me through)

How did you deal with the stress of your residency?

Decompressing a lot with my wife and co-residents, having my wife and kids to remind me of what’s most important, dark chocolate.

Favorite thing about living in St. Louis?

Probably Forest Park, and also how easy it is to live here, highlighted by the fact that there is basically never any traffic and you can get almost anywhere in 20 minutes. Oh, and I’m going to miss good frozen custard (Silky’s is my favorite) and Imo’s (yes I’m an Imo’s convert!)

Favorite service and why?

Another impossible question! They were all so good for different reasons. I have to go with the retina service though. I enjoyed the brilliance, good natures, and senses of humor of the attendings and their fellows. Every day on service featured complex exams and clinical/surgical decision making, with seemingly infinite options for how to proceed and not always a clear cut right answer. And getting my first real exposure to vitreoretinal surgery to me seemed like how the desire to travel to space is for astronauts–it might be the death of me but it was just so fascinating that I had to pursue a path to try and learn it.

Favorite teacher and why?

Joe-ndy Monteska – might as well give Cindy and Joe one name, because they will forever be linked together in my brain. The combination of those two in that UES workroom is like Shaq and Kobe (RIP), and it goes far beyond their bestowing seemingly endless clinical knowledge. Frequently we ventured into the realms of career advice, encouragement in low moments, decompressing about difficult patients, and other comical and curious conversations that have played a large role in my journey throughout residency.

What did you learn in your residency that impacted you the most?

Love people. Be and do the best you can for them. Be honest with yourself about your effort in this pursuit, and always strive to improve what the best is that you can offer. The rest will come.