Why It Pays To Pursue A Fellowship

Kelly A. Powers, DPM

This author discusses her experience in a diabetic limb salvage research fellowship and the rewards residents can gain if they choose a fellowship.

As I approached the end of my residency, I was at a career crossroads. Would I start the job search process or perhaps continue in academia?

   Although I was confident in my podiatric training and abilities, I wanted to focus on a special interest and truly dive into a niche. I had taken a liking to wound care as I was heavily exposed to it during my training at Boston University Medical Center. Additionally, I had always felt a strong desire to partake in research. However, I found it challenging to commit to given scholastic obligations and arduous residency schedules.

   With much thought and consideration, I had made up my mind to continue in academia and explore the world of fellowships.

   Fellowships are quite common in other fields of medicine and have recently started to pick up momentum in podiatry as well. The title “Fellow,” as used in health professions, denotes focused training in a medical specialty. Although they are not a mandatory step in our podiatric training and are not required in order to obtain a license, fellowships in podiatric subspecialties are an increasing trend. Choosing a fellowship is a personal endeavor. You make this decision after years of exposure to various aspects of podiatric medicine and surgery.

   Podiatric fellowships can run the gamut from research to sports medicine and surgery, among other areas. Fellowships allow the clinician to focus on a particular area of interest in our vast field. These one or two years of focused study aim to instill expansive knowledge and strong mentorship, and ideally build confidence to set the newly practicing physician apart.

   The Diabetic Limb Salvage (DLS) Research Fellowship at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital is a recognized fellowship of the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons (ACFAS). This recognition fosters high-quality training and requires certain criteria to be upheld by the college’s standards. With its esteemed reputation and superior training, Georgetown’s DLS Fellowship was the perfect fit for me. It combines my dual interests of wound care and research in a highly regarded and challenging academic atmosphere.

Why Choose A Research Fellowship?

Having always wanted to take the time to really leap into the research world, this was a unique opportunity to do so. The MedStar Georgetown University Hospital’s DLS Research Fellowship is through the Department of Plastic Surgery and based out of the hospital’s Center for Wound Healing. This “team approach” allows for exposure to podiatric medicine and surgery in conjunction with plastic surgery, vascular surgery, hyperbaric oxygen (HBOT), prosthetics, etc. This unique fellowship allocates a hands-on application of research. I like the idea of seeing a hypothesis go from the paper to the person. Research provides an opportunity to be at the forefront of innovative treatment modalities, products, methods, etc.

   Having read numerous journal articles throughout my training, I was always fascinated (and perhaps a little intimidated) with the research process. This fellowship enables me to enhance my research skill set by intricately learning the systematic research process. This experience has placed me in the center of all the steps of research (i.e., institutional review board applications, consenting and enrolling patients, analyzing data, writing, etc.). It is captivating to partake in the transformation from reading a protocol to applying a test article in a research clinic. To see the conversion of your idea become a tangible study is astounding. Research often provides patients with the “hope” of a new modality. It is wonderful to provide a novel service and share in the possibility of a patient’s success. I feel lucky to be a part of the process.

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