Choosing a fellow or fellowship: a survey of pediatric otolaryngologists

Robert Chun, Diego Preciado, David J Brown, Ravindra Elluru, Stacey L Ishman, Joseph Kerschner, Gresham T Richter, Cecille Sulman
JAMA Otolaryngology—Head & Neck Surgery 2014, 140 (2): 102-5

IMPORTANCE: The numbers of pediatric otolaryngology fellowship programs and applicants have increased over the past 5 years. However, the qualities desired in programs and applicants have not been explored.

OBJECTIVE: To determine the factors that fellowship program directors and applicants believe to be most important in choosing a fellow and the factors most important to fellowship applicants in choosing a program.

DESIGN, SETTING, AND PARTICIPANTS: Cohort study using an anonymous online survey of 2012 pediatric otolaryngology fellowship program directors and applicants. Respondents were asked to rank a list of 10 qualities from most to least important for judging the strength of a fellowship applicant. Applicants also assessed the importance of factors in choosing a fellowship.

MAIN OUTCOMES AND MEASURES: Rank of each factor by members of each group.

RESULTS: Thirty-two of 47 applicants (68%) and 15 of 31 fellowship directors (48%) completed the survey. For applicants, the most important factors when choosing a fellowship program were gaining strong experience in airway management and otology, faculty reputation, and location, whereas Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) accreditation, fellowship longevity, and salary were less important. For choosing an applicant, applicants indicated that the interview, prior applicant knowledge (trusted recommendation), and letters of recommendation, sequentially, should be given the greatest weight. Directors reported that they used the same top 3 factors to rank applicants, but knowledge or trusted recommendation of the applicant ranked first. Applicants who successfully matched interviewed at (mean, 9.5 vs 3.0; P = .003), applied at (mean, 11.6 vs 4.3; P = .02), and ranked (mean, 8.3 vs 2.3; P < .001) more fellowship programs than those who did not. United States Medical Licensing Examination scores higher than 230 and AΩA membership status did not significantly affect fellowship match.

CONCLUSIONS AND RELEVANCE: Personal knowledge or a trusted colleague's recommendation may be the most important determinant when pediatric otolaryngology fellowship programs choose an applicant. When fellows choose a program, the opportunity to gain surgical experience in both otology and airway management is crucial, but ACGME accreditation status seems less important. Successful applicants ranked and interviewed at more fellowship programs than nonmatching applicants.

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