Caitlin Mahaffey, associate director of career advising at the Keck School of Medicine of USC, recently received an award from the Association of American Medical Colleges for the outstanding work she performs as an adviser to the students at the Keck School of Medicine of USC.

The award, dubbed the 2017 Careers in Medicine Excellence in Medical Student Career Advising Support Staff Award, recognizes one outstanding support staff member for excellence in implementing effective career advising services.

“Through her diligence in compiling current and pertinent information and her sincere interest in supporting students along their medical school journey, Caitlin’s contributions have played an integral role in the success of Keck’s career advising program,” said Stephanie Zia, MD, MACM, clinical assistant professor of medicine (clinician educator) and assistant dean for career advising at the Keck School’s Office of Student Affairs.

Mahaffey is responsible for helping keep Keck School students on track with their coursework and acts as a liaison between students and faculty at key points in their medical education. She provides both individual and group advice to medical students, helping to prepare them for some of the biggest milestones of their medical careers: choosing specialties and applying to residency programs.

Just as residency programs in medicine have become increasingly competitive in the U.S., career counseling has had to adapt to help students better navigate the competitive landscape. Mahaffey noted that getting into residency programs, particularly for the most popular specialties, has become more arduous in recent years.

“As things have gotten more competitive, medical school has become more stressful for students,” Mahaffey said. “Because of that, staff support has become more important to get them through.”

Zia noted that Mahaffey revolutionized the Keck School’s advising process by creating a database of information that staff and faculty advisers can use to monitor each student’s progress toward meeting certain goals. For example, the database helps staff and faculty understand which students are getting numerous interviews for residency programs and which students are not getting as many.

That information helps staff and faculty identify the students that may need additional help to achieve their goals.

“Her nine years of experience and dedication to the Keck School students is exemplary, and we are truly fortunate to have Caitlin here,” Zia said.

— Hope Hamashige