(Editors’ Note) This is the first in a series of highlighting FemInEMs who are starting small businesses while being EM docs. Let us know if you have any others FemInEMs we can highlight!)
Please describe your website
Swap&Snooze is a new social hospitality (mashup of social media + hospitality) website specifically designed to help fourth-year medical students (including MDs, DOs, FMGs, military, residents changing specialty – basically anyone applying for residency) save money while traveling for residency interviews. We connect applicants who need places to stay with other applicants willing to host.
Since launching on October 1st, we’ve verified nearly 300 members from over 80 schools and 120 cities! While we’re definitely so excited about the 80 schools we’ve reached – there are still nearly 100 schools with students we hope to connect with soon.
Please describe yourselves
We [Megan Tresenriter and Jessica Paz] are both current 4th year medical students from UC Davis going into Emergency Medicine. We were roommates during our first year of medical school. We’ve been studying, exercising, and vacationing together ever since!
We both enjoy traveling, cooking, and trying new things! Neither of us is married nor have children. Megan has two cats which she treats like children. Jessica has been practicing making fancy sushi rolls in her spare time.
Please describe the origin tale of your website
Megan: Last year, I watched my boyfriend go through the match process. He had the luxury of traveling with a classmate for most of their interviews so he travelled pretty cheaply. However, at the end of interview season, he had still acquired a lot of debt. Knowing that my own interview season was approaching, I was thinking about ways to save money.
There were a number of experiences that inspired this idea. During my MS1 year, I helped organize a medical school applicant host program at UC Davis. Jessica and I had hosted many applicants in our home (we were roommates at the time). My brother had also just travelled 4000 miles through Europe on his bicycle, staying for free through sites like couchsurfing and warmshowers (couchsurfing for cycle touring). He had a phenomenal time and met amazing people through these sites that enriched his trip. Shortly after my brother returned, my parents started hosting couchsurfers in their own home and have had a great experience. I searched for something similar for residency applicants, but couldn’t find anything similar.
Knowing Jessica is always up for a new challenge, I texted her about the idea to create a couchsurfing-like website for residency interviews. We were in different parts of the country doing away rotations and planned to talk when we were back together in Sacramento. Several months later, when we were finally back in the same city, we sat down and talked about the idea.
We started out thinking we would use a google doc directory of residency applicants who were willing to host. The idea gradually evolved into creating an actual a website so information could be easily accessible, secure, and up to date. Neither of us had created a website before, so designing took some trial and error. We polled our friends on website name and design. We left to do other rotations and continued to work on it while in different states. On Oct 1st, we launched the site!
What needs were you trying to meet in creating the website
Every year, thousands of medical students (>40,000 registered this year) spend tens of thousands of dollars travelling around the country for residency interviews. By staying with other student hosts, students can reduce their traveling expenses while getting insider tips about the program and city. As an added benefit, we hope Swap&Snooze will be a catalyst for friendships between medical students across diverse specialties, programs, and geographical regions.
What challenges did you encounter in creating the website
Our biggest challenge was probably getting the word out and making sure the information we gathered was organized, safe, and stays up to date.
We were both doing AI’s when we launched the site and in separate states (Megan was doing an away rotation in Oregon, Jessica in California). Finding time to keep up with the website while trying to excel on our rotations was a challenge, but also a ton of fun!
What were some unexpected good surprises that came from this
The amazing support of the EM community! Two weeks after launching, we had about 60 members, mostly by contacting students we knew at other medical schools. We also used reddit and tried to use SDN but got banned for spamming – getting the word out was proving difficult. We reached out to one of our EM advisors for advice who sent an email out to the CORD listserv. After that email, we went from 60 to 200 members in less than a week!
Another great surprise was the willingness and welcoming nature of the Swap&Snooze community. We’ve been so inspired by the generosity shown on so many of our member profiles. Even non-4th year medical students have graciously offered to host applicants. We can’t wait meet our members while hosting ourselves and traveling around the country for our own interviews.
Where do you hope the future of this website will be
We have a few specific goals:
- Sustainability – We’d like to see this website continue for future years. We’ll be setting up a team to help make that happen.
- Expansion to help other interviewing students such as PhDs, pre-meds, MBAs, etc. We’ve already had some requests from these communities!
- We’re also looking into becoming more than a hosting website, but a place where students in higher education can connect and share ideas to help through the stressful application process.
- We didn’t start the site to make money, but we’d like to look into different revenue models so we could offer some sort of insurance protection or coverage to our members since there will always be an inherent risk involved in hosting new people.
Where do you both hope to be in the future
Megan: In the near future, I hope to match into a residency program that values academic rigor, equitable patient care, an uplifting learning environment, and physician wellness. In the long term future, I desire to become a competent physician who is known for her service to her community and colleagues. I really enjoy teaching and imagine that I will seek out opportunities to teach and mentor medical trainees for the rest of my life. As far as geographical goals, I am open to traveling for residency and for my future job. I would love to help set up EM as a specialty in other countries.
Jess: In the next few months, I’m looking forward to traveling and learning about EM programs across the country. I’m very excited to start my training in emergency medicine and join such awesome community. In the long run, I would love to use my engineering background to work on projects and develop methods to improve efficiency and quality in the ED. I also hope to contribute to the advancement of women in medicine and science. And of course, I plan to be working on Swap&Snooze! I would love to see site become a sustainable, growing social network to support higher education communities.