According to the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME), a surgical fellow is defined as a physician in a program of graduate medical education accredited by the ACGME, who is beyond the requirements for eligibility for initial board certification in a surgical discipline. Fellowships are available for those who wish to attain additional training after the completion of a residency program in one of the surgical specialties and are designed for the postgraduate board eligible/certified surgeon. The experience can expose participants to techniques and training which may not have been covered at great length during residency training and encourage the pursuit of research activities.
Meant to build upon and broaden competency in a surgical specialty/subspecialty gained during residency, accredited fellowships must be affiliated with and under the supervision of an approved residency training program. Therefore, to enter most fellowship programs, applicants must have satisfactorily completed residency training in a United States program that is approved by the Residency Review Committee in the surgical specialty they intend to pursue and is accredited by the ACGME, or in a Canadian program approved by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada.
Fellowships offer a method of passage between school and patient care—combining classroom learning with clinical experience—but the similarities between fellowship training programs may end there. Programs can differ with regard to minimum hiring requirements, salary, malpractice and health insurance offerings, the provision of fees for attendance at medical meetings, specific balance of classroom and clinical orientation curriculum, and program completion requirements. Usually required to participate in grand rounds and other program meetings pertinent to the specialty/subspecialty area in which they are studying, fellows may also be required to take part in research projects that will be presented at local and national meetings. Some programs may even require that fellows author or co-author peer-reviewed papers and articles during the course of the fellowship. These are among the factors that should be investigated if you decide to pursue fellowship training.
While fellowship training is not required for practicing all surgical specialties, many specialists complete them to improve their practice of surgery. If you are interested in pursuing fellowship training, the following links may provide you with information to help you find the program that is right for you.
American Academy of Ophthalmology (Eyenet) Career Choices
Society of Thoracic Surgeons - Cardiothoracic Surgery Network (CTSNet) Job Opportunities
American Academy of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery, Inc. (Job Classifieds for members only)
American Association of Neurological Surgeons Online Career Center
Society of American Gastrointestinal and Endoscopic Surgeons (SAGES) Job Board
American Society of General Surgeons - Surgical Opportunity Program