As I wrap up my final year as an internal medicine resident, I’ve looked ahead to the next steps in my career – fellowship. For the past month, I have been flying, driving, training and bussing around the country to interview for an endocrinology fellowship. It is an exciting time for sure, but can also be somewhat stressful. Unlike residency interviews, you still are in the middle of your third and final year of residency, with responsibilities.
Residency Interviews vs Fellowship Interviews
Back in medical school, fourth year allotted for these crazy excursions to venture to far away cities to see which one would fit. Fellowship is much different. The time is truncated, and in between interviews you need to go back to work. All that being said, the actual interviews are quite fun. What seems to be true for both residency and fellowship interviews is that once the offer to interview is on the table, the burden shifts to the program to demonstrate to you that they are the right program. The question you want to ask is, “What can this program do for me and how can it advance my career while supporting my interests and goals?” not the other way around. Your application did the hard work of proving how capable you are. Now it’s the program’s turn to do the heavy lifting of convincing you to rank them high.
Fellowship Interview Tips
Fellowship interviews typically have you interview with most, if not all of the department faculty. This is an excellent opportunity to see if you jive with the department and future mentors, but it is also taxing. Having to be “on” all day is exhausting, so pace yourself appropriately. What I found helpful was having my “why I want to be a(n) [insert flavor of doctor] when I grow up” spiel down, which can set you apart from others and demonstrate your passion. Do your best to not just repeat your CV, but add to it. It can also be a time to clarify things on your CV that may be grey – such as when one interviewer asked me about my post-bac program and why I clicked “no” to if I received a degree. He assumed something fishy happened, when in actuality the post-bac is not a degree granting program but rather a certificate program. These details can get lost in the binary radio-buttons of the ERAS universe.
How Do I Know Which Fellowship Program is Right For Me?
After completing all of my fellowship interviews, I began to wonder how I should evaluate each program and which ones I want to do my fellowship at. Here are some factors I considered and questions I asked myself on choosing a fellowship program:
- What was the gut feeling at the end of that interview day? Did you leave feeling warm and fuzzy or tense or uncomfortable?
- How important is location and is location enough to offset other factors? Does family, significant others, friends factor in?
- Research vs clinical strengths of the program and what aligns with my career goals?
- Vibe of the program, are the fellows happy?
- Lesser factors that can play a role include size of the program (which impacts call schedule), prestige of the program, and how much it really matters for your career goals.
The above will carry more or less weight depending on what is most important to each individual, but at the end of the day, I think if you can envision yourself being happy at a place, everything else falls the wayside. We have worked far too long and far too hard to not be happy, even if that means forgoing a “big name.”