Why It Pays To Pursue A Fellowship

Kelly A. Powers, DPM

   Being the DLS Research Fellow at Georgetown has encouraged me to take on leadership roles. I work closely with both podiatry and plastic surgery residents and often join them in the OR, at lectures, journal club, surgical workshops and the like. Even though my focus is research, I am encouraged to sharpen my clinical skills and surgical techniques by staying involved in all facets of podiatry and surgery. The idea that I am not taking any time off from surgery and patient care greatly appeals to me.

What My Typical Week Is Like

The MedStar Georgetown University Hospital’s DLS Research Fellowship is a well-balanced experience. The Center for Wound Healing is set on the strong foundation of a “team approach” and thus my training is multidisciplinary.

   When you break my workweek down into percentages, I would say about 40 percent of my week is spent doing research. This encompasses reading protocols, writing abstracts, working with the research team, constructing poster presentations, etc. Furthermore, this includes a research clinic where we see patients enrolled in prospective trials. This incorporates the entire systematic research process of consenting, enrolling and randomizing patients, and following them in their subsequent clinic visits.

   Additionally, I spend about 20 percent of my week in the operating room and scrubbing in to various podiatric and plastic surgery cases. Another 25 percent of my week consists of seeing patients in clinic at the Center for Wound Healing.

   This leaves the remaining 15 percent devoted to academics. I am encouraged to take on leadership roles and work closely with the residents. I attend a variety of lectures, grand rounds, journal clubs and workshops, as well as rounding a couple of nights a week with the residents on in-house patients. This well-formed week keeps me busy, intellectually stimulated and allows me to be involved in all aspects of podiatric medicine. Most importantly, this experience is providing me the tools to become a well-rounded physician.

Why My Career Mentors Are Indispensable

It is no surprise a fellowship provides career-building mentorship opportunities. There is no better way to get to know and learn from the best and highly respected experts in a subspecialty than to work closely with them. I am fortunate to spend one year learning from truly respected, intelligent, and talented physicians in the world of wound care: John S. Steinberg, DPM, Paul J. Kim, DPM, Christopher E. Attinger, MD, Karen K. Kim, MD, and Roy C. Monsour, MD.

   What I have learned from them surpasses any chapter I might read in a book or any class I could have taken in medical school. Their altruistic teaching and passionate guidance are beyond measure and confirms my decision to take on this fellowship year.

Final Notes

The field of podiatry continues to evolve as medical knowledge and technological advancements grow exponentially. Our post-graduate training simultaneously tailors its requirements as the profession grows. Residency programs enrich their curriculum to reflect our expanding field. We have seen residency programs transform from one-year postgraduate training to a two-year program and, just recently, to a three-year requirement. With this growing trend, one can see the necessity of a fellowship being the evident next step.

   The podiatric field calls for the development of fellowships to fill the need of its growing discipline. Although podiatry is a specialty unto itself, there are many subspecialties within our field that merit close attention. Graduating podiatric residents are highly skilled and vastly knowledgeable. A fellowship may be a practicable option to bridge the gap between residency and the workforce. Whether the personal endeavor is to find a niche, learn one-on-one from a mentor, build confidence or hone in on a special interest, I strongly encourage graduating podiatric physicians to consider the immense rewards a fellowship can offer.

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