Via a PM, from an SDNer who's been in the trenches looking for a dermatology fellowship:
Things to consider when choosing a research fellowship
1. Make sure your mentor is STRONGLY affiliated with a department (ideally, the PD or Department Chair or at least a well-known and well-respected faculty member). Some mentors may have department affiliation but have their own research center or their own separate clinic and you may work only at that location. This may not be a bad thing (if your mentor has enough pull at that program or the derm world in general), but in general, working in close proximity with other attendings in the department, having your workspace/office in the same area theyíre situated and having frequent contact with others in the department makes a difference.
2. Make sure you will have frequent contact with other department members - just seeing them at Grand Rounds doesn't do much. Itís beneficial if part of the fellowship includes working in clinic with other attendings (at least one day a week, hopefully more). This is important when it comes to getting letters, getting people to call programs for you to get you interviews, or to follow-up on your interviews (more chances that someone will know someone at your desired department).
3. Itís a definite plus when your fellowship includes attending resident conferences/didactic sessions Ė youíre seen as one of the group already, and whether or not residents have a formal vote, this can be a major plus when rank time comes around, since residents can definitely voice an opinion. But obviously, try to be easygoing and fun to be around all while showing your intelligence/what a great resident youíd make and simultaneously not annoying anyone with your personality/gunnership.
4. Make sure you will have sufficient new material on your CV to reapply your first year, and that your mentor will support you reapplying your first year by writing a strong letter. Some fellowships are a definite 2 years - youíre too busy in clinic to write enough to make a difference on your CV, and itís understood that youíll reapply your 2nd year, not your first. If youíre okay with this going in, fine, but most people donít want to wait 2 years to reapply.
5. Try to go to a place where youíre either the only fellow or junior fellow to a senior fellow (bonus points for you if the senior fellow is already matched). Otherwise, you will not be first in line for new positions that your mentor hears about, and you may not get recommended for immediate openings if there's a senior fellow who hasn't matched. Some programs have large numbers of fellows the same year as you that you will have to compete with, and the same considerations apply.
6. Ask how many interviews previous fellows have gotten, whether they've matched on the first go around or not, and where. Ask if they've actually matched or been placed in positions (placement can be a good thing or a bad thing Ė sometimes you can be placed in immediate openings for residency, and sometimes you can be placed in a program where youíre doing 1-2 years more of fellowship prior to starting derm). And talk to previous fellows, outside of the interview. Ask for their personal phone number or personal email address (they will not want to discuss their true feelings at work or on work email). The current fellows (especially ones who have matched, theyíll be more open) will be a great source of info on how youíll be treated, how supportive your mentor may be, and what your mentor will/wonít do to help you match.
7. Get started early working in clinics with your mentor as well as other attendings so you can get LORs or at least someone else to call for you, and maybe get involved in the research/case reports of other attending as well, if you have the chance and youíre not stepping on your mentorís toes. You'll be working hard, you might as well spread out and work with different people so they know your work ethic and remember you favorably come match time.
8. Make sure your mentor will contact programs for you - ask him/her what exactly he does to help his fellows match. In dermatology, calls and personal contacts can matter more than a lot of other things on your CV and can sometimes make up for deficiencies on your CV.
9. This may be obvious, but try to get into a guaranteed match position, or one that has a strong history of taking its own fellows, even if itís not your dream program - derm is so unpredictable, it's better to get in anywhere than to hold out for a better program and not get in at all. Many fellowships donít take their own fellows! Itís generally easy enough to find out about this by looking at where past fellows have matched and talking to current fellows.
10. Another thought to consider Ė doing fellowship in a big city with multiple derm programs (i.e., NYC, Boston, Chicago) may make you more likely to get interviews at the other programs in the city. The name of the institution you do your fellowship at carries weight as well.
11. There are some programs that will take fellows this year for a start date of July 2010 Ė meaning that if youíre a 4th year med student, you could go ahead and line up a fellowship if you want (even if you match in your intern year, youíll have that extra year to kill, and if you donít match your intern year, youíll have a fellowship already). Most fellowships that will be offered this year after match, though, are for a start date of July 2009. Look though old Internet fellowship posts for a pretty good list, and the AAD maintains a list as well: http://www.aad.org/members/residents...pDirectory.pdf
(yes, thereís a typo, but the link works)
It seems like a lot of things to consider and do, but youíve already worked so hard to get into derm, whatís another year of writing like mad and making connections with people in the field? Fellowships are a great way to get in if you werenít lucky enough the first or next times you applied or if you had something lacking in your application. Work your butt off, keep your spirits up, and good things will eventually happen for you. Best of luck!
Thank you to this committed SDNer, who landed a derm spot after a lot of hard work!
Keep this post a stand-alone.
Do not add your replies directly to this thread, as it will make it difficult for others to read. If you would like to post your questions about this topic, please start a new thread in the public dermatology forum.
As I have never looked for a fellowship, please also do not PM me (DermMatch) regarding questions about this topic.
I will unfortunately not be able to answer these specific PMs.