“To pursue a fellowship or not to pursue a fellowship? That is the question.”
Explore This IssueFebruary 2021
Do you need a fellowship to succeed in otolaryngology? Although the decision whether or not to pursue one may not rise to the level of Hamlet’s existential deliberation (with apologies to William Shakespeare), a fellowship can contribute to a physician’s professional and personal satisfaction long after his or her years of medical training are over. What is arguably a bit Shakespearian is the passion for learning that essentially should guide the decision and be the litmus test for undergoing yet another arduous year or two of training that may or may not be used in clinical practice.
For otolaryngologists who want to practice academic medicine, pursuing a fellowship is built into the nature of practicing in a setting where training in a subspecialty is mandatory and clinical research is expected. For those wanting to go into private practice, however, pursuing a fellowship may or may not contribute to their future otolaryngology practice.
If you’re an otolaryngology resident considering a private practice career, how do you decide what the value of a fellowship is to you? Is the value of a fellowship for private practice changing, and does it depend on the type of subspecialty you pursue? The answers to these questions are fundamentally interwoven with the career path you choose.
Deciding with Eyes Wide Open
Robert A. Glazer, CEO of ENT and Allergy Associates, LLP, Tarrytown, New York, underscored the need to weigh the pros and cons of pursuing a fellowship to make a well-informed choice. “You need to have your eyes wide open, [knowing] that [the fellowship] may not necessarily make a difference in your career,” he said.
Glazer emphasized that for those who are interested in going into private practice, completing an additional round of training that most private practice groups don’t require may not make sense. Among the main issues to consider, and a disadvantage for many, is a delayed entry into the job market.
“Everybody at some point has to think of the economics,” said Glazer, highlighting not only the delay in salary a fellowship requires but also personal delays. “Most candidates coming out of residencies are age 32 or 33, and many are thinking about the economics of starting a family,” he said. In addition, a fellowship may not mean a boost in salary; for example, prospective fellowship-trained candidates seeking employment at Glazer’s group are paid the same regardless of their fellowship credentials.