March 29, 2018

6 Tips for a Successful Fellowship

Strategies for maximizing success

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By Rendell Ashton, MD

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Fellowship is a time for proactive, self-motivated and self-directed learning that will propel you into your desired career path. In a recent paper, I and my fellow Association of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine Program Directors (APCCMPD) board members offered several tips for maximizing your opportunity for individualized learning in fellowship.

1. Take responsibility for learning. As my colleagues and I wrote, “fellowship provides the perfect opportunity to create a learning agenda that is flexible and specific to individual professional interests and needs.” See the below table for tips on this tip.

2. Keep your eye on the future. Keep your end goal in sight as you plan with mentors and program leadership your incremental goals for fellowship. Setting goals also helps prevent burnout and allows you to build and enhance skills and relationships specific to your career plans.

3. Have a mentor. This is a tip for everyone, not just those on a path to academic medicine. Mentorship has been associated with career success and greater career satisfaction in medicine. Relationship quality is key, and the below table offers expectations that, when met, will build a fruitful mentor/mentee relationship.

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4. Write! Engage in scholarship whether or not you plan to conduct research after fellowship. Scholarship includes a range of research-, writing- and teaching-related activities. The significant learning you experience in the pursuit of scholarship is crucial to cultivating the attitude of life-long learning required in our field.

5. Get involved. Join your local and national subspecialty professional societies. You may think that must wait until after fellowship, but professional societies offer many opportunities for trainees, from career development resources and travel funding to courses and educational materials.

6. Stay well. This cannot be overemphasized. While it’s certainly a responsibility you share with your institution and training program, your role in your own health is critical. Learn the signs of burnout and depression. Ask for help, and learn the resources your institution offers. Practice mindfulness, meditation and communication skills. Connect with your family and your patients. Protect your physical health. All of these are key to building resilience.

Follow these tips to maximize your chances at success during and after your fellowship. For an in-depth discussion and a reading list, read our article in CHEST.

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Dr. Ashton is staff in the departments of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine and has led the combined fellowship program since 2010. He is President of the APCCMPD.

Tables republished with permission from Elsevier.

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