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How to choose and apply for your Fellowship

The plain fact of the matter is that more than 90% of Radiology Residents pursue subspecialty fellowship training beyond residency. Subspecialization in Radiology has become expected.  As we mentioned in our last Blog article, while most available positions are still general and require interpretation of more than one subspecialty,  practices are following a trend of consolidation dramatically increasing the demand for fellowship training.  Some residents are pursuing multiple fellowships in addition to “mini-fellowships” pursued in residency.

Maybe you’ve been fortunate enough to have known what type of fellowship you want to pursue since you first year of medical school, and if that’s the case, all you have to do is get your application accepted, but for those of you who do not know, the first step is understanding what fellowships are available. Here is a list courtesy of The American College of Radiology.

Of course there are other things to consider when choosing a fellowship. How does your demeanor and temperament line up with your speciality? Some fellowships are more cerebral while others allow for more patient care interactions and procedures.

Here’s a list of how your personality type might mesh with specific fellowships.

Gregarious and outgoing- General Radiology, Interventional Radiology, Mammography, Pediatric Radiology

Fiercely independent- General Radiology, Interventional Radiology, and Neuroradiology

Introvert- Body Imaging, MSK Radiology, MRI, Trauma and Emergency Radiology

Jack of all trades- Body Imaging, MRI, Nuclear Medicine

Likes working with hands/interventions- Body Fellowship, Interventional Radiology, Mammography/Women’s Imaging

Nurturing and friendly- Mammography/Women’s Imaging, Pediatric Radiology

Techie- Body MRI, Informatics, Interventional Radiology, Neuroradiology (Interventional and Nonintervention), Nuclear Medicine

From “How to Choose a Radiology Fellowship” By Barry Julias, MD – radsresident.com © 2019

Now that you’ve chosen a fellowship that fits your career goals and personality it’s time to apply. Right out of the gate, you should probably decide if relocation is an option, obviously, the more amiable you are to moving, the more options you will have. At this moment in time, almost 900 doctors beginning their third year of residency are preparing their fellowship applications or already awaiting a response.

When to Apply

Right now, Neuroradiology and Interventional radiology are the only radiology subspecialties to use the match system. While residents sign up for the match in spring of their third year of residency (matches are made in June, at the end of the third year), the individual programs often begin accepting applications closer to the end of second year or beginning of third year.

While each subspecialty (and even each program within that subspecialty) has its own timeline, there are some basic guidelines to keep in mind. The best thing to do is ask residents who have been accepted into your fellowship of choice what their timeline was like and call a few programs you are interested in to see when they will start accepting applications and interviewing.  Many programs offer rolling admission, so its best to take the first few interview dates they offer. Expect to start sending applications out between June-September.

When to Start Thinking About It

Most people start thinking about options in the second year.  It is good to start narrowing down subspecialties you are likely not going to pursue and working backwards until you narrow it down to the final one.  It is also wise to pick a subspecialty you enjoy the most and are the best at as this is likely going to represent the bulk of your daily career.  Asking previous residents and fellows is often the best way to get a true feel for what drives one to pursue a certain subspecialty.  During rotations, really get to know the ins and outs of daily practice and ask yourself if you would want to do this all day every day.  Some programs allow away rotations or you could try to shadow at a program you are interested in on a day off.  Feel free to reach out to program directors and faculty early at programs you are interested in to ask for advice and mentorship.

Application Strategies

While applications may be accepted over several months you should send applications at the beginning of the application period to be at the top of the pile . If you apply late, you’ll have lost the opportunity to get in to many of the programs.  Even if incomplete, send applications in early.  Letters of recommendation and transcripts can be sent later  if unavailable.

Networking is helpful. Reach out to people at national meetings in your second year. Go to those subspecialty sections or courses and talk to people at programs you’re interested in.

Residents should keep their CV up to date from the moment they start residency, You can include activities, research, and committees that are planned but not yet completed; it provides something to talk about during the interview process. Ask faculty members to  review your CV and applications.

The personal statement is less weighted that it was during residency applications and should not be a source of stress.  Residents should focus on writing something that makes the reviewer want to meet them in person and explain their interest in the fellowship.

Letters of recommendation should come from your PD and/or Associate PD and you should have one from someone in the planned subspecialty.  Then get one from an attending who knows you best. Ask for letters two months before you’ll need them, to give the physicians enough time.

When questioning if its better to go to the “higher ranked” program over one in your desired practice location, the answer is typically to go for desired practice location.  Practices often hire from local programs over distant ones, and in your fellowship time you can network and get a feel for the practices early on.

When considering how many programs to apply to- more is better.  You can always cancel interviews if your list gets high enough. It is difficult to apply to more than one fellowship at a time as there will be significant overlap in programs and interview dates.

What Are the Fellowship Programs Looking For?

Every program looks for something different but mosty programs select applicants that they would be comfortable working closely with for the year.  Programs typically want hard working applicants who will focus on education research and mastery of their subspecialty in that year.

Program directors often call colleagues who know the residents to do an informal reference check.Anything questionable in your background may come up at some point, so be up front about it.  In the same fashion, applicants can request contacts to contact the fellowship director on their behalf.

Are There Enough Fellowship Spots?

Most residents get the fellowship of their choosing, just not maybe in the location of their choosing.  Just remember its only 1 year in most cases.

Here are some resources for applying for fellowships
06/13/2019

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