Welcome to Your Fellowship: Tips for the Road Ahead
Congratulations on entering a new phase of your professional career. While the transition from residency to hematology/oncology fellowship can be a very exciting time, it can also be anxiety inducing. Learning a new specialty and concurrently planning for academic pursuits can be overwhelming.
To alleviate some of the inevitable stress and strain, bear in mind the following tips:
- Plan ahead: If you are unclear about your career interests after fellowship, work with your new program leaders to ensure a broad exposure to both hematology and oncology early on, including time in outpatient clinics.
- Prepare for clinical rotations: It is likely that you will start your clinic or inpatient rotation with a diverse group of patients, which can be overwhelming. Take time to read about them beforehand; avoid the tendency to memorize survival curves and numbers, and focus on the big picture early on. The ASH-SAP provides a good overview of malignant and nonmalignant hematology topics. Also, ask your consultants to suggest landmark articles for you to read.
- Find the mentor that suits your needs: A good mentoring relationship is critical to your success during fellowship and beyond. Set up meetings with potential mentors early on and meet a few people in your area of interest before you decide to work with someone. If you don’t have an area of interest yet, go with someone who has a good track record of mentoring at your institution. Ask your senior fellows or program director for recommendations.
- Set yourself up for success: As you start fellowship, write down your goals for the first year and keep track of your progress. The ASH career timeline is a good reference point.
- Start small: Since the first few months of fellowship tend to be quite busy, start with a small, doable project like a retrospective study or a review article. This will make you productive early on and help determine if your area of interest and/or mentoring relationship work well for you.
- Don’t over-commit: Several research projects or review articles may come your way as you meet potential mentors. Though it can be tempting to take on every exciting idea that comes your way, be wary of overcommitting yourself. It is better to take on less and deliver quality work on time than to overpromise and underdeliver.
- Prepare for the future: Research can be a slow, arduous process. As you get comfortable with clinical rotations and find the right mentor, start planning for future larger projects. Some things you can do to prepare include obtaining institutional review board approval, requests for institutional datasets, or cell lines from collaborators.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help: The process of adjusting to a new institution and learning a whole new specialty can be hard. Be sure to ask for help and guidance along the way. Remember, you may be new to this, but your training program is not!