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Finding a fellowship


To choose a fellowship, an expert recommends considering everything from which procedures one will learn to what former fellows say about the experience.

Finding your fit in a fellowship program requires knowing how the program works both on paper and behind the scenes, said someone who has been through the experience.

When considering fellowships, said Sabrina Guillen Fabi, M.D., factors to consider include how much hands-on work and autonomy are offered. Because these elements may not be evident during a brief visit, she suggested spending a week – if not a month – in a preceptorship at a practice/program you're considering. Other parameters to evaluate include how engaged the fellow is in preoperative and postoperative care, as well as call duty. She is a double board-certified dermatologist and dermatologic cosmetic surgeon based in San Diego, Calif.

For unvarnished feedback about a prospective fellowship's strengths and weaknesses, Dr. Fabi advised asking previous fellows, because a current fellow probably won't be completely candid. She also suggested checking out where the practice's fellows ultimately gain employment.

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"Also consider where you want to practice. You may have to sign a non-compete clause, although usually they don't stick. For me, I didn't want to set up shop across the street from someone who became my mentor and friend."

To locate fellowship programs, she recommended starting with the following resources:

  • The American Society for Dermatologic Surgery (ASDS) DermSurg Fellowship Finder provides a comprehensive listing of ASDS-affiliated procedural, Mohs surgery, cosmetic and independent fellowships, and information regarding requirements and specific procedures performed in each. (http://asds.net/_DoctorResources.aspx?id=4699&terms=fellowship%20finder)

If you're interested in Mohs surgery, Dr. Fabi added, "Visit a procedural dermatology fellowship and pay close attention to how much cosmetics you get" because, with no standards as yet for dermatology fellowship programs, the balance varies.

  • The American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery fellowship directory details 18 cosmetic surgery fellowships available through this organization (https://www.cosmeticsurgery.org/?page=FellowshipDirectory).

In applying for fellowships, "Unfortunately, each program has a different timeline," which Dr. Fabi said she hopes will change as the field increasingly becomes streamlined. "But, for the most part, if you're in your second year of residency, around February is the time to reach out to these programs to try to establish a good rotation. That should be done by June or July of your third year – most applications are due in September or October of your third year."

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To cover some costs, "Take advantage of the resident grants and young physician award programs that exist. It's free money to help you with some of these preceptorships. The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) also offers international travel grants, so you can learn different ways people practice around the world." The American Society for Laser Medicine and Surgery and the Women's Dermatologic Society also offer incentive programs, she said, for young dermatologists who are interested in research or writing, to name a couple examples.

Additional resources she recommended include the AAD Leadership Forum. Somewhat similarly, the ASDS Future Leaders Network pairs young dermatologists with mentors in the field. At any stage of your career, Dr. Fabi said, "These are people you can count on for advice."

Disclosures: Dr. Fabi reports no relevant financial interests.

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