HOST program helps medical students save on travel

Dean Vaglia, Staff Reporter

Traveling for residency interviews can be one of the most expensive barriers to getting a medical degree. One Oakland University William Beaumont (OUWB) program helps make the experience a little bit cheaper.

The OUWB Help Our Students Travel (HOST) program connects students traveling for residency interviews across the country with OUWB alumni who live in the area to offer the students a place to stay.

“The M4 students are interviewing at multiple locations, which can be extraordinarily expensive, especially if they are interviewing in key areas like California,” said Pamela Holtz, OUWB parent program coordinator. “HOST volunteers also sometimes provide transportation to and from the airport, meals, tours of the area and most importantly — especially from our alumni hosts —  they provide valuable insight and networking opportunities.

“This is a journey they have gone through recently,” Holtz said, “so it is a really excellent opportunity to keep our alumni engaged with our OUWB students and for our students to have the opportunity to ask real questions about what to expect next.”

The OUWB HOST program started in 2017. Modeled after hosting programs found at other medical schools, the first year featured a small number of hosts and a low number of connections.

“Our first graduating class was in 2015,” Holtz said. “We did not have too many matches in the first two years that we utilized this program.”

However, the number of  OUWB students matched with hosts shot up in the past year.

“We have seen an explosion in growth,” Holtz said. “We were able to match over 60 students with hosts all across the country. Although 60 may not sound extraordinary, when we go from just 10 matches the year prior that is very impressive, and we were seeing upward of 80 requests each weekend because students are looking for these opportunities for engagement and for cost savings.”

Nathan Loudon, OUWB M4 student, used the HOST program during his residency search throughout the fall 2019 semester and stayed with at least five hosts.

“It was awesome,” Loudon said about his time in the program. “I did not have a single bad experience. Mostly it was people who were alumni or relatives of alumni, and everybody was extremely friendly and welcoming. There was definitely a strong sense of community among the alumni.”

Becoming a HOST volunteer is simple. OUWB graduates or alumni can submit a form to OUWB containing information such as who they are, what they can provide, what kind of living space and sleeping accommodations they have, and what training opportunities are in the area. A frequently asked questions page can be found on OUWB’s website.

For Holtz, the future only looks brighter for the HOST program.

“I anticipate seeing more requests coming in this year,” Holtz said. “I am also expecting, because this year of M4 students were so involved in making these requests and had such wonderful experiences, I very much anticipate seeing them paying it forward to the following class.”

Paying it forward is exactly what Loudon plans to do.

“I would be happy to host,” he said. “If we have the space for it, I plan on hosting.”