#AHA21: Matching Into Cardiology Fellowship: The Inside Scoop from Program Directors

We were lucky enough to hear from some exceptional PDs and APDs during #AHA21. The process of applying to cardiology fellowship can be daunting. These discussions provide amazing tips and insight on the process so we can best prepare.

What catches your eye on CVs?

Although this will vary by program and individual, a few themes were consistent amongst the panelists. Most programs and directors will be looking for continuation of a story and a common thread between your research, personal statement, and letters. You want to convey who you are and why you have an interest in cardiology. “It’s a two-way street” meaning fellowships also function as a part of a larger clinical and research program. They look for applicants who will fit into their culture and further the values of their program.

Additionally, PDs and APDs will look at the residency training programs, whether you are local and want to stay local, and your research. For your research projects, multiple panelists mentioned quality was more important than quality. The emphasis was showing you could follow a project to completion. “More than case reports or review articles, I look for a substantive experience in research.”

How much weight do you put on the personal statement? Should anything be avoided?

This should be used as a place to tell your story. “What attributes does this person have that will put their trajectory where we want our fellows to go? Does this person have resilience, are they able to turn disadvantages into advantages?”

The main themes that came across in the panelists answers to this question were humility, resilience, and a willingness to learn. Additionally, multiple people highlighted that this is a good place to address anything unusual that could cause confusion in your application – do you have an unusual timeline? Are there gaps in your career? Did you take breaks to do other things? They also mentioned that this would be a great place to highlight how your background prior to medicine/hobbies lend to your interest in cardiology. With this in mind, it’s important to remember this is different than a medical school application and you should be cautious with how provocative or creative you are in your writing. It was also mentioned that you can emphasize your love of a subspecialty but should also remain open-minded to the field as a whole. “The point of fellowship is to introduce you to the field so you can navigate the next steps in your career” and multiple panelists mentioned numerous fellows change their focus throughout fellowship and exploring is encouraged.

Tips for the virtual interview?

“It can be challenging to convey your narrative when you’re not in person. Find a way to project your narrative to someone who may have nothing in common with you.” Make sure you practice this with a loved one or your colleagues. Recognize your ticks, be careful when you’re reading from your screen when answering questions because interviewers notice. Applicants should also be aware that they will be asked behavioral questions (Ex. Tell me about a mistake you made when caring for a patient. Tell me about a challenging patient interaction). Practice these beforehand and think ahead about the kinds of answers you might give.

Be aware of how you look on your camera. Record a mock interview on zoom and watch it. Even small details like lighting and not have distracting objects placed in your screen can have a big impact in the age of virtual interviews. Attend the program orientation session the evening before. Do not turn off your camera, dress professionally, and don’t be late to zoom sessions. Research the program and ask the faculty about it! Show them you are invested and know about the program. It is still not clear whether interviews will be virtual or in-person for the next interview cycle.

Post-Interview Communication?

The main advice here was similar to what we heard during residency interviews: do not lie. Do not tell multiple programs they are your number one choice. Keep in mind, many people change their mind throughout the interview season and ultimately you do not want to make decisions early in the process. With this in mind, telling a program you are enthusiastic and interested can be very helpful. This is especially true during virtual interviews, where it can be difficult for programs to gauge interest and investment. If you genuinely feel you found your top choice, most programs encourage hearing from you. If you are trying to match to a different geographical location, this can also be a good opportunity to reiterate the reasons you want to move. Notably, you need to be mindful about over-communication.

Hearing from those on the other end of the interview process was an excellent opportunity to focus on what is important. Ultimately, its about your love for cardiology and passion for furthering the field! Find you network and enjoy this time as you explore and determine what you want to do in your career.

This program is part of the FIT Program at #AHA21.  The panelists include Drs. Eric Yang, Salim Virani, Carlos Alfonso, Naomi Botkin, Melvin Echols and was moderated by Drs. Aubrey J Grant and Agens Koczo.  All FIT program at AHA Scientific Sessions were produced and moderated by FITs for FITs. 


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