A 101 guide to how to get a good pathology fellowship. For those who have already been accepted for a fellowship, your input on this page is highly valued!
Selecting a specialtyEdit
- Decide what you like (obviously! But not always as easy as it sounds)
- Decide what you DON’T like (just as important)
- Diversify exposure to subspecialties early
- Elective rotations early PGY-2 year (if possible)
- Attend tumor boards/conferences
- Sit in on sign out when you have free time
- Specialty specific information
Becoming a stellar applicantEdit
- Start early for competitive fellowships (Derm, GI, Heme)
- If you change your mind later, you have lost nothing
- BUT, if you wait to get started, it could be a problem
- Publications (of course)
- Start with case report in area of interest
- Move on to bigger studies
- Get Involved
- Committees (national or hospital) show leadership skills
- Grand rounds: attend, network, try to present (but don't step on toes)
- More ideas at our Get Involved page
- Do Away Elective at Programs of Interest
- If not possible, at least ask to visit for a day or so
Networking means getting to know people in the field that might be able to A) offer you a job or fellowship, or B) that will put in a good word on your behalf when you are applying for a job or fellowship.
How to network:
- Attending national pathology meetings, and going to social functions at those meetings.
- Introducing myself to as many people as I can when at meetings.
- Introducing the people I know to each other...it expands your network of connections.
- Attending local pathology society meetings (state or city), if available in your area.
- Making a point to keep in touch with people you meet at meetings (via email, facebook, or in person).
- And of course, behaving professionally and competently with the people you currently work with or train with (that's obvious, I guess). They can put in a good word for you if needed one day.
Example 1: At a recent meeting, I introduced myself to Juan Rosai. I felt a bit nervous (I am a resident, so why should he talk to me?), but I wanted to meet him, so I walked up and told him thanks for contributing his collection of slides to be digitally scanned by Aperio and that I really appreciated it. He shook my hand and said "Thank you very much". Now I am not suggesting that he will remember me or help me get a job or anything, but I make the point that you can walk up to anyone and introduce yourself. He didn't seem annoyed with me for talking to him (how could anyone be angry for someone saying "Thanks for your hard work, I am a huge fan"?)
If you are a very social person, this stuff might be easy (but it might not be for others). No amount of networking guarantees you anything, but it does have the potential to help. Maybe some of these methods will make you reach beyond your comfort zones (e.g. - introducing yourself to well known people), but it might be worth it in the long run. Besides, it is good practice to learn how to talk to anyone and feel confident and comfortable.
The key to networking is doing these things BEFORE you need a job or fellowship, so that you can build relationships over time. People that know you and trust you on a personal level are much more likely to choose you over some random applicant on a piece of paper that they don't know. Plus, you can meet some really cool people this way and develop great friendships that will last throughout your entire career!
Example 2: This next part is from a different person than who put all that hard work into the information above, but it helps bring the point home...and I love the story. :-)
When I was interviewing for fellowship at Cleveland Clinic the program director said something along the lines of: "So you know Dr. X" (a big person in pathology and USCAP), to which I replied (cautiously) "yes". He continued to tell me how just the previous Friday he was at a meeting with Dr. X and this person was telling them that they have to find my information and interview me because I was interested in said specialty and would be a great addition. I had no idea that Dr. X felt this way and certainly never asked him for any help or advice. It was neat to see first hand the importance of just going to meetings and chatting with people (how I met Dr. X). Dr. X does not work in my state, nor does he work in Ohio, who would of known that he would possibly be instrumental in my fellowship process. For those who will be wondering, I got offered the spot at Cleveland Clinic.
Constructing an easy to read, polished CV is a must when applying for pathology fellowship.
Comment 1: For my CV I spent much time searching for the format that I liked best. I found that many of the options available online were either not very pleasing to the eye, or hard to follow , as the format was geared towards people in business, not in medicine...a much different field (well, in theory LOL). In medicine we need places for publications, awards, teaching, licensure, committees, professional memberships, and on and on, (you can pick and choose for some of these options), and our CV's end up being longer than suggested (1-2 pages) by necessity, and are expected to be such. What I found the most helpful was to look at other people's and copy a format that I liked (I took my program director's). Again, where do you find these, they are not often posted online. If you are comfortable asking a few people for a copy (hard or electronic) to see what theirs looks like, that is an option. But I found the best was getting the informationtal packets from meetings where residents/fellows are running for office and look through that, ex. CAP, AMA. Each year they have a packet with candidates CV's and personal statements, which can be another helpful set of examples. This way you can see what other people in your position are doing and pick one that you think works best.
Perhaps the most difficult and confusing part of getting a pathology fellowship, as different programs use different timelines, different application forms, and different interview processes. Below is some basic advice that applies to all subspecialties:
- Prepare and submit application early
- Reserve enough time off for interviews
- Fellowship Directory
- Consider and research possible programs
- Summer prior to PGY-3:
- Prepare applications
- Submit by early Fall (Note: deadlines VARY)
- Fall/Winter of PGY-3:
- Winter/Spring of PGY-3:
- Offers made to applicants.
- Again, timeframe varies dramatically program to program
Accepting and Signing the ContractEdit
Congrats! You got offered a pathology fellowship position! But should you accept it, or wait for that other spot at a different program that you REALLY want the most? Is it ok to ask for some time to decide? How do you manage this delicate situation without offending anyone?
- Don’t necessarily accept your first offer
- OK to ask the director for some time to decide
- Some may allow it, others not
- Contact other programs as soon as you have received an offer
- Let them know the time you have to decide
- Tell them you are interested
- Knowing you have an offer elsewhere may speed them up
- You DON’T have to volunteer info about where else (or to what other fields) you are applying, but…
- Do NOT lie (about anything)
- Pathology is a small world; you may regret it
- Do NOT accept an offer and reneg on it once something better comes along (i.e. – better fellowship, job offer, etc)
- Unprofessional (my opinion)
- Creates hardship for program directors
- Loss of trust and respect for all applicants
- Having a backup plan…what to do if you are not accepted
- It’s NOT the end of the world
- Get perspective ahead of time
- Plan ahead if applying for competitive spot
- Apply for a backup specialty
- Good if backup specialty has overlap with specialty of choice (e.g. – soft tissue and derm)
- Try to schedule these interviews later if possible
- Don’t Worry
- It is a stressful process, but closing the deal on a great fellowship is a GREAT feeling!
- Hang in there…you will be there soon.