Q: Can I 'Fast-Track'?
As programs such as Interventional Cardiology and EP have become longer, fellows have begun to seek ways to integrate part of this training into general fellowship. We have the opportunity within EP to design a curriculum that would give fellows a substantial 'head start' in EP training. Such a program could occur under the joint direction of the program director for general cardiology and the EP program director.
Q: If I want to do basic science research, can I have more research time?
Basic science research demands longer block time commitments to ensure success. Fellows who identify a basic science interest are paired with one of our basic science faculty, and perhaps with other members of the Department of Physiology within the School of Medicine, depending on interest. Once formal goals and objectives have been established, the fellow and the program director can adjust the clinical schedule accordingly to afford six to twelve months of contiguous research experience. Longitudinal care clinic must be continued for 1/2 day per week during this time, in accordance with ACGME rules, but little to no other clinical responsibilities would be mandated within this time frame. Fellows who have been productive in such an experience and who require or wish additional time in the basic sciences have the option of extending their fellowship to accomplish their goals.
Q: Do fellows go to national conference?
Third-year fellows are sent to a board review conference or other conference of their choice with up to $1000 covered by the Division of Cardiology. Fellows who have an abstract accepted for presentation at one of the national meetings will receive similar support from the Division to defray expenses incurred for travel, lodging, etc.
Q: How are mentors chosen?
Mentors are chosen -- not assigned. They are chosen by the fellow after discussion with the program director of their research and long-term goals towards the end of the first year of training. The mentor is expected to meet with the fellow to establish research plans, with concrete goals and objectives. The mentor is expected to then meet with the fellow on a regular basis over the course of the second and third years to help the fellow achieve concrete milestones with regards to research development, abstract presentation, and formulation of manuscripts.
Q: How do your fellows perform on boards?
Over the past five years, only one fellow has failed to pass the ABIM for Cardiovascular Disease on the initial effort (this was on the ECG portion of the exam). The fellow passed without difficulty on the second effort. Since inception as a program, over 95% of our fellows have succeeded on the initial effort.
Q: How is vacation time handled?
Fellows are allowed 3 weeks of vacation per year. No more than 2 weeks may be taken at one time. During the first year, vacation is taken during echocardiography rotation. During years two and three, vacation is taken from electives or research blocks.
Q: How much 'in-house' call is there?
There is NO mandated in-house call for our fellows in any of their years of training. While on PCS / CCS the two fellows alternate call responsibilities from home, and each have one full day off on the weekend. During Cardiac Catheterization and Heart Rhythm Services rotations, general fellows share home call with the subspecialty fellows. There are no call responsibilities for fellows on the VAMC rotation, Nuclear, Echo, Research, or Elective months.
Q: What are the opportunities for learning more about study design and statistical analysis?
Often the research mentor will involve additional faculty members for support, such as Dr. Wijo Kop, who has substantial experience in study design and statistical analysis. Additionally, there are 'mini-courses' for both basic science research and clinical research offered by the Department of Epidemiology in the School of Medicine. These 'mini-courses' act as a primer in study design and statistics, as well as a means of letting fellows know what avenues of additional support are available through Epidemiology. For those who wish to pursue more rigorous training, the Department of Epidemiology / School of Medicine offers structured coursework leading to both Master of Science and Master of Public Health degrees. Within the last five years we have had one fellow complete the MPH program during the three years of fellowship. While commitment to such a program demands rigor, it is certainly possible.
Q: What do your fellows do after 'graduation'?
On average, 25 - 30% of our fellows have remained in academic medicine. Our graduates currently hold positions at University of Maryland, National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute of the NIH, Brown, and UCLA. Some fellows have entered the 'industry' or the regulation of such -- one of our fellows currently works for the FDA with regards to regulation and approval of EP devices. Many of our fellows pursue additional training, such as in Interventional Cardiology or Clinical Cardiac Electrophysiology. To date, all of our fellows who have desired such advanced training have been successful in matching with an accredited program.