Fellowship is an incredible time for exploration and self-discovery. It’s a time in your life which you can never get back, so make sure to take full advantage. Here are some tips to ensure that your training experience is the best one yet.
1. Have an Open Mind
You may enter fellowship believing that you are destined to be a particular type of specialist, but keep your options open. There are so many aspects of cardiology that you may not have discovered yet, and this is the best time to do so. Depending on where you do your residency, there usually aren’t many opportunities to truly learn all that the field has to offer. Spend your time learning about interesting conditions that you aren’t familiar with. Always look to expand your horizons and challenge yourself. You have the rest of your life after graduation to decide on your niche.
2. Start Research Early
Many fellowship training programs have research time built into your schedule, typically after the first year. This should not mean that you start looking for a research project in the beginning of your second year. Keep your eyes open to interesting projects and find something that excites you. Start looking for a mentor early on in order to find a good project. The earlier you start your research, the more productive you will be with your research time (i.e., submitting a publication or presenting at a conference). Make this your goal before you graduate.
3. Do as Many Electives as Possible
Fellowship is the best time to learn about all that our wonderful subspecialty has to offer. Cardiology is very exciting and our world is intertwined with many other specialty groups – pediatrics, endocrinology, and surgery. Get to know your colleagues in these other fields, and learn why we make referrals to them. Follow along patients whom we made referrals on to see how they are evaluated and learn how we can improve on co-management of patients. Take part in electives.
4. Listen to Your Patients
Being a doctor is a very special profession where we get to hear the intimate stories of each and every one of our patients. Take the time to listen to each one of them carefully. Let your patient’s experiences guide you and your practices. Ask patients about the details regarding both good and bad experiences during their medical care. Learn from the mistakes of others, and ask questions. Each and every story can help guide you into becoming a better doctor.
5. Get to Know Your Faculty
As a trainee you are able to work with many different faculty members. Talk to them about their careers – how did they end up where they are today? Ask them for words of advice regarding your future career. Tell them about your own future goals and aspirations; perhaps they can connect you with others who are doing similar work.
6. Attend Surgeries & Procedures
There is no better way of learning how an inferior petrosal sinus sampling is performed than watching one (or assisting in one) in real time! Surgeries are quite interesting as well, and can help guide you when discussing surgical options and techniques with your own patients.
7. Attend Conferences
Learn the dates of all the national conferences, and plan to attend if possible. Learn about the “fellows conferences” that are part of some of the major conferences like the ACC.16 and others. Conferences allow you to keep up-to-date with all things related to cardiology and learn from the leaders in our field.
Last word of advice is to enjoy your training. Even though its hard work, it really is one of the best years of your life.
Deena Adimoolam, MD, is an assistant professor of medicine at the Ichan School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York.