Mark A. Seeley, MD; Andrew G. Georgiadis, MD; Aristides I. Cruz, MD; and Peter D. Fabricant, MD, MPH
“Everything is cool when you’re part of a team.” — The LEGO® Movie
Taking on a medical or surgical fellowship has many implications for personal and career goals. It is a year (or years!) spent honing one’s craft, developing long-lasting mentorships, and functioning with a high degree of autonomy before beginning practice. The structure of each fellowship is dependent on the program, with each hospital offering its unique way to mold its trainees. When evaluating a fellowship program, the number of co-fellows being trained can easily be overlooked.
Fellowship allows different trainees from across the country—or world—to pool their mental resources and learn from previously disparate training environments. Some trainees may have taken time off to procure extra degrees, serve in the military, or explore private practice prior to initiating a fellowship. This personal and educational diversity enriches a fellowship program. Sharing learned experiences (and failures) within the group allows each person to emerge from training with the collective experience of multiple fellows: stronger, smarter, and more adaptable.
In this final step of training, one is going to spend long hours with classmates, perhaps more time than with their family members. Triumphs and failures will be collective, commiseration will be shared. Having a good rapport will make workflow smoother despite long hours at the Hospital. Enjoying your fellowship class will subsequently have an impact on your patient interactions and affect other areas of your job. There is a unifying goal during your fellowship year of drinking from an “information firehose.”
Given the short duration of training, the masses of material to be assimilated, and motor skill to be developed, competitiveness may ensue, and it is important to acknowledge this upfront. Fellowship is not sheltered from the obstacles of teamwork such as compromise, insecurity, confrontation, etc. Establishing a clear, open line of communication will not only make day-to-day activities flow better, but will stimulate a rich learning environment. Being a solitary fellow would eliminate the competing interests of the masses and maximize individual freedom, and sometimes this is necessary. However, it would mean ceding camaraderie and an enriched, shared experience. The Orthopedic Surgery fellows who graduate from CHOP have a reputation for being well-trained, exceptional surgeons who become leaders in the field. This not only stems from the foundation laid down by our mentors, but also from our collective experiences during this relatively short year.