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VA Postdoc Competitiveness

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TiptoeConqueror

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So I am looking into applying to some VAs for fellowship but I don't really know much about them and I worry that if I wanted an AMC career later that I would not be a top candidate. I am interested in a mainly clinical career but see the benefit of continuing to do research. I would like the opportunity to publish a couple papers on postdoc but also get the requisite experience needed for neuro boarding. The thing is, I am not a research competitive student by any means and I would like to have a life outside of postdoc. Since applying to postdoc isn't cheap, I don't want to waste my $ on an application that would clearly not be a good fit. I also have trust issues and don't believe this 40-hour week tour of duty is done at all VAs. Can anyone provide any guidance on any of the following VAs in terms of competitiveness (and what the value in terms of competitiveness), work-life balance, etc?

Boston
Seattle
Hines
Bay Pines
Michael DeBakey (Houston)
Birmingham
James Haley (Tampa)
This last one might be cheating because it's a consortium: OUHSC/OKC VA
 

szymk1sm

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So I am looking into applying to some VAs for fellowship but I don't really know much about them and I worry that if I wanted an AMC career later that I would not be a top candidate. I am interested in a mainly clinical career but see the benefit of continuing to do research. I would like the opportunity to publish a couple papers on postdoc but also get the requisite experience needed for neuro boarding. The thing is, I am not a research competitive student by any means and I would like to have a life outside of postdoc. Since applying to postdoc isn't cheap, I don't want to waste my $ on an application that would clearly not be a good fit. I also have trust issues and don't believe this 40-hour week tour of duty is done at all VAs. Can anyone provide any guidance on any of the following VAs in terms of competitiveness (and what the value in terms of competitiveness), work-life balance, etc?

Boston
Seattle
Hines
Bay Pines
Michael DeBakey (Houston)
Birmingham
James Haley (Tampa)
This last one might be cheating because it's a consortium: OUHSC/OKC VA


I interviewed at both the Tampa VA and the Houston VA last year. Both are top notch sites and highly competitive for neuro training. One is match (Houston) and the other is non-match (Tampa). With that being said, if you wanted more of a clinical career (rather than clinical / research), it can be done at either site. I would say Houston has a more research-y feel than the Tampa VA (though at the latter, you are still expected to produce a research product while on post-doc).

My feeling was that Tampa VA was 40-50 hours per week and Houston was about the same (maybe more if you're actively involved in multiple research projects). Closer to 40 hour work weeks can be done at either of these VAs, but it greatly depends on how efficient you are at report writing and how much guidance (aka extra time) your intern(s) may need.

Happy to answer more specific questions via DM if need be.
 
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Kadhir

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What is your motivation for applying to VA postdocs? Is it just to increase hit rate? That's what I'm gathering from your question about competitiveness. VAs can be very competitive (Boston, Tampa, Houston from your list) to less competitive, just like AMCs. If you're applying to clinical postdocs with the goal of ABPP, these positions are all going to be pretty similar in terms of clinical/research emphasis, regardless of site. With respect to work schedule, I generally feel that VAs are much better at sticking closer to 40 than AMCs. My VA (on your list) is a ghost town by 4:30, sometimes earlier. But of course, your own rate of productivity will be a major determinant.

And career prospects at an AMC are pretty good when coming from reputable (and hence, competitive) VA neuropsych training programs, which provide some breadth of experience in neuro. Smaller programs might have a great outpatient neuro clinic with a couple good neuropsychologists, but if that's it, it could be somewhat limiting.
 
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TiptoeConqueror

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What is your motivation for applying to VA postdocs? Is it just to increase hit rate? That's what I'm gathering from your question about competitiveness. VAs can be very competitive (Boston, Tampa, Houston from your list) to less competitive, just like AMCs. If you're applying to clinical postdocs with the goal of ABPP, these positions are all going to be pretty similar in terms of clinical/research emphasis, regardless of site. With respect to work schedule, I generally feel that VAs are much better at sticking closer to 40 than AMCs. My VA (on your list) is a ghost town by 4:30, sometimes earlier. But of course, your own rate of productivity will be a major determinant.

And career prospects at an AMC are pretty good when coming from reputable (and hence, competitive) VA neuropsych training programs, which provide some breadth of experience in neuro. Smaller programs might have a great outpatient neuro clinic with a couple good neuropsychologists, but if that's it, it could be somewhat limiting.

I realize I made it sound like I was only applying to VAs. I’m casting a wide net as in I’m applying to both VAs and AMCs. I’ve had experiences in both settings and am currently at an AMC but would like the next phase of my training to have more work-life balance with protected time for research. Part of me fears that research time at an AMC would be 100% of my own time regardless of what is supposedly built in on top of going way over 40 hours in terms of clinical work. I want to be productive with clinical work and research but not at the expense of my sanity and personal life.

My question is not to increase the number of interviews I get if that’s what you mean by hit rate. I am worried that I won’t be competitive at the VA sites I am most interested in and also don’t know if I would regret going to a VA if I later decided I wanted an AMC career (I feel like I’ve been told this very often). So I really appreciate any and all advice I can get.
 

AcronymAllergy

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Broadly (and anecdotally): I attended a VA fellowship and have never felt limited in my career, AMC or otherwise. Multiple other folks who attended the same VA for postdoc have gone on, at one time or another, to AMC positions. As Kadhir said, VAs as a whole seem to be fairly good at sticking to 40-45 hours/week, with more time and opportunity available if you want it. I never felt overworked, and was still able to be involved in a couple publications, some posters, and a few research projects.
 
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Kadhir

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with protected time for research.

This largely will be based on how you structure your time, personally. Fellows have protected time here, but that turns into protected time for... case management, really easily. So research will inevitably go overtime to some extent, but I think your total time spent working will still be less at most VAs vs. AMCs. I don't think any of those sites will necessarily limit you for the future, but they do seem a bit random to me. Might help to identify what specific clinical experiences you are seeking in a VA postdoc.
 
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