Understanding fellowships – Part 2

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Factors to consider when applying for a fellowship

The application process for fellowships can be complex by itself. Add to it the tough competition and it can become even more daunting. Most organisations that offer fellowships receive applications in hundreds for just a few vacancies. To be successful in winning a fellowship, it is crucial to focus on your grades and strive to be among the top in your class.

Before you start exploring opportunities, it is important to first define your objectives and determine what it is you hope to achieve from the experience. Are you looking to gain teaching skills, improve in a particular surgical skill such as mitral valve repair surgery or laparoscopy or build a network of international contacts?

Gathered round observing a surgical procedure Depending on your objectives, you may find that a single fellowship does not satisfy all of your requirements. Fortunately, you do not have to choose one or the other. You can still achieve all of your goals by splitting the fellowship period into two parts or even more.

There are several sources that you can tap into when you are looking for information on fellowship opportunities. Professional contacts and mentors are almost always in the know in this regard and are a good place to start your search. Another great resource is the websites of specialist units and societies such as the British Cardiovascular Society and the Royal College of Surgeons of England.

Once you have identified a potential fellowship, it is a good idea to get in touch with a previous or current fellow of that particular unit and get more details of the programme. That will give you a better idea of what the fellowship entails and whether or not it will help you meet your objectives.

Some but not all centres require fellowship candidates to complete application forms to be considered for a post.  If the programme you are interested is has no application form listed on their site, sending an updated copy of your CV along with a carefully drafted covering email to the fellowship supervisor is a good way to get started. Expect to be invited for a formal personal interview as part of the application process.

If doing a fellowship is part of your career plans, it is important to remember that simply being in a training programme does not automatically qualify you for a fellowship position or guarantee that you will be accepted. The best fellowships are in high demand and receive impressive applications from all over the world. Your references and contacts can help, but only to a certain extent. What is more important in tipping the balance in your favour is having an outstanding CV in terms of publications and presentations.

Fellowship experience is given due consideration by all training programmes. The time spent in completing an approved fellowship will usually count towards your total training hours so you may not need to do any further training extension. However, it is important to seek prospective approval from the deanery and the General Medical Council before you proceed with a fellowship. This approval can take a few months so it is advisable to start the process as early as possible.

 

Part 3 on this topic will consider the costs involved in undertaking a fellowship.

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