Understanding fellowships – Part 1

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What is a fellowship?

A fellowship is a short-term, intensive training programme that a medical professional may undertake in a chosen sub-specialty. As a medical trainee, for example, you may consider a fellowship in a sub-specialty such as electrophysiology or stroke medicine, whereas as a surgical trainee you may decide to spend some time in cardiac catheterisation or minimally invasive surgery. These are just a few of many options available.

In the middle of complex surgery! Most fellowships are done in the penultimate year of the residency programme and they generally last for about a year, although some may be for a shorter or a slightly longer period. During the time you are doing your fellowship, you will be known as a ‘fellow’. You do have the option to do your fellowship at any time during the residency, but experts recommend doing it closer to receiving the completion of your training programme as that is the time you are likely to accrue the most benefits. In a job market that is becoming increasingly competitive, a fellowship can be a deal maker and is increasingly becoming a fact of life for junior doctors.

 

Fellowship benefits

Fellowship programs are not very easy to get, which can be very demotivating for many med students. However, there are several benefits associated with fellowships that make them worth doing.

1. Offers exclusive clinical experience 

The exclusive responsibilities and project work associated with a fellowship program can do much to help you develop the skills and experience required while working in a real job. The clinical experience gained during a fellowship can give you a huge advantage when looking for a job after graduation as many employers will consider it in lieu of entry level work experience. 

2. Extensive opportunities for professional development 

Fellowship programs offer plenty of opportunities for extensive professional development through global seminars and conferences where you will reinforce your basic skills in public speaking, media relations, grant writing, community organisation and leadership traits.

3. Considerable monetary benefits

Most students receive significant financial support for a nine to twelve month program. The support is equivalent to a full-time job.

4. Support for research

Fellowships are an excellent option for students who wish to pursue research in a specific field. The award will not only provide you with the financial assistance you need, it can also add credibility to your research and inspire other organisations and foundations to fund you as well.

5. Boosts your personal confidence

Winning a prestigious fellowship can go a long way in boosting your confidence and could encourage you to take up a leadership position at a large corporation or a top university.

 

Miscellaneous incentives

 Many organisations that offer fellowship programs also offer additional incentives such as housing and health insurance. The type and extent of the compensation or incentive depend on the terms of the program. Regardless of how small some may sound at first, when you add it to all of the other perks you enjoy, it can add up considerably.

 

Look out for Part 2 on this topic, which looks at how to apply for a fellowship.  

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