Transitional Year

The WellStar Kennestone Regional Medical Center’s Transitional Year Residency Program offers a well-balanced program of graduate medical education in multiple clinical disciplines designed to facilitate the choice of and preparation for a specific specialty, including specialties requiring a year of fundamental clinical education as a prerequisite.

Our Transitional Year Program will also provide clinical education for those medical school graduates planning to serve in public health organizations or those who desire or need to acquire at least one year of fundamental clinical education before entering administrative medicine or non-clinical research.

Diverse and capable

WellStar Kennestone Hospital is a 633-bed community hospital that continually earns its distinction as a “Top 100” hospital with ongoing investment in new technologies like Georgia’s first CyberKnife®, TomoTherapy® and da Vinci® robotic surgical systems. It is a Level II Trauma Center Providing Full-Service Emergency Care, Accredited Chest Pain Center with Dedicated Chest Pain Observation Unit, Certified Comprehensive Stroke Center, full complement of outpatient, inpatient and specialty services.


Transitional Year Program at WellStar Kennestone Regional Medical Center is dedicated to providing a well-balanced curriculum to the resident physicians pursuing specialties including, but not limited to, Dermatology, Interventional Radiology, Ophthalmology, Radiology, Radiation-Oncology, Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (PM&R), and more.

It offers a series of conferences, including three times a week noon conferences and intern reports; weekly board review sessions; monthly Journal Club; quarterly Mortality, Morbidity and Improvement; as well as quarterly Quality Improvement conferences. Additionally, a two-month Quality Improvement curriculum will be required for all Transitional Year residents. We will also encourage and help facilitate any research activities that the residents may wish to pursue. It is our desire to recruit candidates with excellent medical school training, strong interpersonal skills and leadership qualities, from diverse cultural and educational background.

The Transitional Year 12-month curriculum includes seven months of fundamental clinical skills rotations as follows:

  • 2 months of Inpatient Wards
  • 1 month of Medical Consultation
  • 1 month of Chest Pain Observation
  • 1 month of Emergency Medicine
  • 1 month of Ambulatory Services
  • 1 month of Intensive Care Unit

An additional five months of elective rotations from the accompanying list are required.

*All content is subject to change without further notice. Please check back often for updated information.

Electives may include:

  • Anesthesia
  • Dermatology
  • Cardiothoracic Surgery
  • Ethics
  • Neurology
  • Neurosurgery
  • Opthalmology
  • Orthopaedic Surgery
  • Palliative Care
  • Pathology
  • Pathology with Radiology Focus
  • Radiation Oncology
  • Radiology
  • Rheumatology
Leadership & House Staff
Joanne Zhu
Program Director, Transitional Year
Dr. Joanne Zhu received her master’s degree from the University of South Florida in Tampa, Fla. She received her medical degree from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School in Dallas, Texas. Dr. Zhu completed her internal medicine residency at the University of North Carolina Hospitals in Chapel Hill, N.C. Dr. Zhu is board certified in internal medicine with focused practice in hospital medicine. She is a member of the American College of Physicians, American Association of Physician Leadership and the Society of Hospital Medicine. Dr. Zhu currently is in practice with WellStar Hospitalist Group – Kennestone, and is Vice Chair, Department of Medicine, at WellStar Kennestone Regional Medical Center. She has been a Clinical Assistant Professor with the Department of Medicine, General Internal Medicine Section, at Georgia Regents University since 2015.
Sara Acree
Core Faculty, Transitional Year
Sara Acree, MD is staff pathologist and director of Transfusion Services at Kennestone Regional Medical Center. She joined WellStar in July 2013 with a background in general surgical pathology and hematopathology. Dr. Acree is also a former English major and language arts teacher, as well as medical writer and editor, and has joined the GME team to pursue her ongoing interests in these areas. More recently, she became core faculty for the Transitional Year Program. In addition, she holds a clinical appointment with the Medical College of Georgia and established an elective clerkship for their students. A native of Nicaragua, Dr. Acree is a first-generation Hispanic-American, fluent in Spanish, and retains a strong passion for Latin music and cuisine, as well as her Roman Catholic roots. She grew up in the “City of Our Lady of the Angels”, where she completed her medical and postgraduate training, and remains an ardent fan of the Los Angeles Dodgers, whom she misses dearly. Dr. Sara Acree graduated from California State University, Los Angeles, with a B.A. in English, and UCLA (David Geffen) School of Medicine, Los Angeles, in 2007. After completing her residency training in anatomic and clinical pathology (AP/CP) at USC Medical Center, Los Angeles, she completed fellowships in surgical pathology (SP) and hematopathology (HP) in 2012 and 2013.
Rosa Gomez
Program Coordinator, Transitional Year
Rosa joins the WellStar Kennestone GME team with more than 15 years of healthcare experience obtained in the Atlanta and NYC metro areas. She most recently served in administration at a privately-owned orthopaedic practice, and as the coordinator for the Orthopaedic Surgery Residency Program at WellStar Atlanta Medical Center.
David Christopher, MD, MHSc
Duke University School of Medicine
Radiation Oncology
Sherwin Chiu, MD
University of Alabama School of Medicine
Diagnostic Radiology
James Cordova, MD
Emory University School of Medicine
Radiation Oncology
Caleb Epps, MD
University of North Carolina School of Medicine
Diagnostic Radiology
Andrew Fischer, MD
University of Maryland School of Medicine
Melat Gebre, MD
Emory University School of Medicine
Aryan Jalilvand, MD
Emory University School of Medicine
Diagnostic Radiology
Mark Kelly, MD
Duke University School of Medicine
Diagnostic Radiology
Christopher Kuang, MD
Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University
Crystal Seldon, MD
Morehouse School of Medicine
Radiation Oncology
Jennifer Sun, MD
Baylor College of Medicine
Mary-Katherine Sweeney-Hampy, MD
University of Alabama School of Medicine
Salary & Benefits

Our salary and benefits program reflects our concern for the resident who has a life, not just a medical degree. Residents enjoy the same top-tier benefits offered to other WellStar Health System employees, and your health and wellness is a top priority. We’ve got people and programs to help you stay healthy, stay focused and not get overwhelmed.

Singular Concierge Services

  • Let our professional concierge team take your car for an oil change, restock your groceries or simply pick up a birthday gift for your loved ones while you stay focused on providing great care.
  • From simple errand running to event and travel planning, if you can dream it, our team can do it!
  • Residents can place concierge requests via phone, fax, email or in-person. Once a request has been made, a concierge team member will process and fulfill the request, then follow up with the resident to ensure everything is perfect.

Vacation and Incidental Sick Time

  • 20 paid work days per contract year. To be granted at the discretion of the Program Director.
  • Time not taken will not carry over to next contract year.


  • Five paid days per contract year. Unused days will not carry over to next contract year.


  • Eligible for 120 hours of paid time off after six months of employment if full-time; 60 hours if part-time.
  • Paid time off will be applied before Illness pay or Vacation pay.

Malpractice Coverage

  • WellStar provided coverage at no cost to Resident.


  • Up to $1,000 PGY-1, $1,400 PGY-2, $1,500 PGY-3, and $1,600 PGY-4-8 per contract year for professional dues, journal and subscription fees.
  • Board Certification/Recertification, DEA, Georgia medical license and city/county business license.

Group Long Term Disability (LTD)

  • Eligible after 30 days of continuous employment. No enrollment required.
  • Provided at no cost to Resident.
  • Payable on the 91st day of disability if approved by LTD Insurance Carrier.
  • Benefits equal 60 percent of monthly base pay (maximum $16,000 per month).

Supplemental Individual Disability Insurance

  • Eligible after one month of employment. Premiums paid by Resident.
  • Requires approval from Supplemental LTD company after completion of enrollment form.
  • Pays in addition to Group LTD plan providing a benefit up to 75% of total compensation.

Short Term Disability (STD)

  • Eligible on the first day of the month following 30 days of continuous employment.
  • Enrollment Required.
  • Premiums paid by Resident.
  • Benefit coverage equal to 60 percent of your base pay up to a maximum weekly benefit of $1,500.

Life Insurance

  • Eligible on the first day of the month following 30 days of continuous employment as Resident.
  • Basic Life and AD&D provided at no cost to Resident. Coverage amount equals 1.5 times annual base pay (not to exceed $500,000).  No enrollment necessary.  Will need to complete beneficiary information on web enrollment portal.
  • Optional Life provided at group rates. Can purchase up to four times annual base pay (not to exceed $500,000).  Spouse and child coverage available at group rates.  Imputed income recognized.

Qualified Pension Plan (defined benefit plan)

  • Generally, automatically enrolled in plan on first of month following age 21 and 12 consecutive months of WellStar employment with 1,000 hours from date of employment.
  • Will earn a year of credited service for each pension payroll plan year you are credited with at least 1,000 hours.
  • In most cases, you become fully vested after five years of service (i.e., paid at least 1,000 hours for five plan years). Vested benefit is payable once you reach normal retirement age.  Several payment options available.
  • May retire as early as age 55 (with a reduced benefit) as long as you have at least ten years of vesting service. Alternatively, you may elect to receive your benefit while working through the In-Service Distribution Option as early as age 62, provided you have completed at least ten years of vesting service.

Supplemental Retirement Savings Plan (403(b) defined contribution plan)

  • Eligible on first day of employment.
  • Resident directed investments.
  • Maximum contribution — $18,000 (age 50 and older $24,000). Limits subject to change according to IRS Regulations.
  • Resident contributions matched each pay period with a “true up” option at year end. For every $1 contributed, up to 4 percent of eligible earnings, WellStar will contribute $.50.
  • May contribute a percentage of bi-weekly salary or flat dollar amount each pay period.
  • Contributions taken from all taxable income throughout the payroll calendar year.
  • Roth and pre-tax options available.
    100 percent vested in WellStar contributions after three years of service.

Eligible Deferred Compensation Plan (457b)

  • Eligible to enroll on first day of employment, however deductions will not start until the month following the election.
  • Maximum annual Resident contribution $18,000. Limits subject to change according to IRS Regulations.
  • No WellStar matching contributions.
  • May contribute a percentage of bi-weekly salary or flat dollar amount each pay period.
  • Pre-tax contributions taken from all eligible taxable income throughout the payroll calendar year.
  • Investment options identical to 403(b) investments.

Medical Plan (High Deductible Health Plan Options)

Health Savings Account (HSA) or Health Reimbursement Account (HRA)

  • Eligible on the first day of the month following 30 days of continuous employment.
  • Three plan options — WellShare Premium, WellShare Select and Minimum Basic. Two WellShare plan options with access to Health Savings Account (HSA) or Health Reimbursement Account (HRA), if not qualified for HSA.
  • HSA includes pro-rated WellStar lump sum contribution with optional Resident per pay period contribution up to annual IRS limit.
  • HRA includes pro-rated WellStar lump sum contribution. No Resident contribution allowed.
  • Resident and WellStar share in cost of medical plan option selected. Resident premiums deducted each pay period on pre-tax basis.

Dental, Flexible Spending Accounts, Vision, Accident, Critical Illness and Permanent Life Insurance

  • Eligible on the first day of the month following 30 days of continuous employment. Enrollment required. Premiums deducted each pay period.
Application Requirements & How to Apply

Thank you for your interest in the WellStar Kennestone Regional Medical Center’s Residency Program.  It is our mission to create an exceptional and personalized training environment for people interested in serving patients as internists – whether as generalists or subspecialists – in order to provide the highest quality of care for our community.

Our interview season will run from mid-October through mid-January.  Applications will only be accepted through the Electronic Residency Application Service (ERAS) and any interested individual must be registered to participate in the National Residency Match Program (NRMP); no program positions will be offered outside of the NRMP.

Our application deadline is December 1st, of the interview year; applications not submitted (and complete) by this date will not be considered for review by the residency selection committee.  The program’s residency selection committee will review the ERAS applications and interview offers will be extended based on the applicant’s overall portfolio.  Interview invitations will be issued only through the ERAS post office to the applicant’s e-mail address, as indicated on the ERAS application.  Available interviews will be scheduled on a first-come first-served basis.

Application Requirements:

  1. Applicants must be U.S. citizens, have a valid U.S. Permanent Resident Card or EAD, or possess a J-1 visa.  (Our institution does not sponsor any visas.)  In addition, candidates must provide documentation to support this requirement to the GME office if a letter of Agreement is extended.
  2. Applicants must also either be a:
    1. Graduate/pending graduate of a U.S. or Canadian medical school accredited by the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME).
    2. Graduate/pending graduate of a college of osteopathic medicine in the U.S. accredited by the American Osteopathic Association (AOA).
    3. Graduate of a medical school outside the United States or Canada who also meets one of the following additional criteria:
      • Holds a currently valid Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG) certificate; or,
      • Holds a full and unrestricted license to practice medicine in a U.S. licensing jurisdiction in his or her current ACGME specialty/subspecialty; or,
      • Completion of a Fifth Pathway program provided by an LCME-accredited medical school.
  3. Applicants must be within two years of graduation from medical school or direct patient care activity.
  4. Applicants must qualify for a full or unrestricted educational limited license in the State of Georgia.
  5. Applicants must have the following materials entered into the ERAS program:
    • Dean’s Letter (or MSPE)
    • Three letters of recommendation (a Chairman’s letter is not required, but the program does take special note of letters of recommendation from the attending physician during medicine sub-internship/acting internship/externship rotations performed during the senior year)
    • Official medical school transcript (no photocopies accepted), including grades for all required clerkships
    • Personal Statement
    • Current curriculum vitae
    • An official transcript with score on the USMLE/COMLEX Step 1.   Preference will be given to first-time takers of the USMLE/COMLEX; applicants who did not pass a USMLE/COMLEX on the first attempt may still be considered for an interview, but it is imperative that those who retake the exam have a competitive score.
    • Applicants must have an official transcript with scores on USMLE/COMLEX Step 2 CK and CS; this is due before the due date for NRMP Rank Order List.
    • Although not required, applicants are encouraged to provide an optional photograph.

Please note that the required information, including letters of recommendation be in English; non-translated documents will not be accepted.  Only applicants who satisfy the above requirements will be considered for an interview.  Interviewees will be evaluated based on medical school performance, letters of recommendation, board examination scores, personal statement, and their overall interview performance.

WellStar Health System, including the WellStar Kennestone Regional Medical Center is an equal opportunity employer and does not discriminate with regards to a person’s ethnicity, gender, age, religion, sexual orientation, disability, or veteran status.

We invite qualified candidates to apply for the WellStar Kennestone Residency Program through the national resident matching program. Use this link to the program’s Electronic Residency Application Service (ERAS®).

Questions? Contact Program Coordinator Rosa Gomez.