In January, I started as the Anesthesiology residency program coordinator, so for the most part, I have had to learn from home. Right now, our department is in the midst of interview season, and it has been entirely virtual. This year, the AAMC Coalition of Physicians made the recommendation to move recruitment to a virtual platform. As an institution, Duke is doing their part, following the recommendation and conducting all interviews virtually to keep everyone safe.

Even under “normal” circumstances, interview day is a very long day, during which candidates meet with several faculty, and in the traditional, in person format, we would provide them breakfast and lunch. Typically, candidates attend a reception with current faculty and residents the evening before their interview day.

The face to face reception would be a laid-back mix and mingle with dinner. We wanted to replicate this tradition in the virtual format. Faculty members host small group question and answer sessions in breakout rooms. The residents do the same, with each room having a slightly different theme, such as what it’s like to live in Durham, or what they did in the OR today. Of course, the feel of the virtual reception is a little bit different. In Zoom, it’s a more structured setting, and only one person can talk at a time. However, with all the movement between breakouts, candidates get exposure to a high number of faculty and residents, like they would at an in-person reception.

Why did you choose this format?

Duke Anesthesiology is one of the top five programs in the nation, and so this past spring, we began asking our peers about their strategies for the upcoming virtual interview season. All reported plans to host some sort of a virtual reception and to also offer a meal benefit.

To maintain our competitive status as a top tier residency program and attract the brightest and best residents and researchers in the field, it became clear that including a meal benefit was a vital necessity. I started looking into meal delivery service platforms, discovered the ability to setup a corporate account with Grubhub and immediately proposed the idea to our department. The implementation of the virtual meal benefit required a heavy dose of administrative teamwork, and the abundance of overwhelmingly positive feedback from candidates affirms a return on our investment. We are confident that our virtual recruitment efforts will result in another excellent match.

What resources and partners did you use in creating these virtual receptions?

Ethical standards do not allow us to provide gift cards to doctors, nor can we provide them to candidates. A corporate account with Grubhub allows planners to bulk upload guest names and email addresses and use event permissions to limit the dates and times for redemption. For each event you can specify a meal budget, and while there is a small administrative charge to planners (9% if paying by credit card), there are no event minimums.

For the virtual reception, I setup an event with the allotted budget, redeemable between 11am and 11pm, to account for different time zones. I also setup a “lunch” event for the interview day. The purchase of alcohol has been excluded in these group permissions.

After the guest list is uploaded, each candidate receives a welcome email from Grubhub, announcing the meal benefit, and prompting them to create a password for their account. We also incorporate meal benefit details in our pre-interview communications to the candidates, using a template provided by Grubhub.

What did you learn from planning these virtual events?

We have received extremely positive feedback about the virtual experience from the candidates, as well as the faculty and the residents. Sure, we’ve lost some of the personal interaction we are used to, but I think we have added our own touch to the experience. The candidates are still able to get a good sense of all that the Duke Anesthesiology Residency Program has to offer, and helps them to make an informed decision about their future.

I also think the Grubhub function has been well-received by the candidates. For one thing, they are Millennial age range, and ordering online is how they do most of life anyway. There is a really broad selection of restaurants to choose from, so guests can pretty much get anything they might want.

I should mention that we actually found our guests prefer to enjoy their Grubhub meals before or after the virtual receptions. It’s just too difficult to eat while you are on Zoom!

What advice do you have for colleagues planning a similar event?

If you would like to learn more about setting up a Grubhub sub-account for your department, you should contact Chip Richards, Enterprise Sales Executive, Grubhub Corporate Accounts. His email is, and his cell phone is 678-360-4622.

After Chip walks you through the minimal paperwork, it only takes two days for his team to do the back-end work to get your department setup. You will also be connected with a client success manager who will do an introductory training, help create your first event, and be an ongoing resource. As a planner, I find the Grubhub corporate account really user friendly, and really well designed for hosting virtual meal benefits. But like us, they are learning more every day about how to improve, and they are open to client feedback. For instance, I have suggested that they add filtering options to the account address book.

What is your next virtual event challenge?

Our interview days are challenging enough! Our virtual interview day consists of two different meeting sessions, which overlap slightly, and it takes multiple computers and multiple people to make it work! We’ve got it down now, and we only have two rounds left this season.

We do celebrate Match Day, when all candidates nationwide learn which program they have been matched with. This past March, it happened to be the same day we all started working remotely! So that was our very first attempt at a virtual event, and our skills were pretty rudimentary. Nearly a year later, we know so much more about the virtual space, and we have some new ideas for how we might take Match Day 2021 to the next level!

Virtually yours,

Hannah Nicksic

Residency Program Coordinator, Anesthesiology

Duke School of Medicine


Kathy Wright, Editor