Our fellowship programs, our future in the making

After more than a decade of post-secondary education, fellowship training represents for most their final extended program of training before they launch their careers as a subspecialist. After the rigors and breadth of the years of residency training, fellows take a deep dive into their chosen field, to become skilled in providing advanced care across a variety of specialty areas. This week we celebrate both facets of Wednesday’s Fellowship Match Day. We welcome a new class of fellows to the Department of Internal Medicine who will fill slots in more than a dozen training programs. We also celebrate our graduating residents and Chief Residents as they take their next and final step in a long run of training, as they learned where that would take place. As I said in my last post, our department deliberately focuses much of its effort toward the education and well-being of our residents. We are happy that many of them will be staying with us as they become fellows, and we send off those who are headed to other institutions confident in the quality of their training and knowing how much they have valued their time here with us. Congratulations to all of our residents who are heading into their program of choice and to our core subspecialty programs who with one exception filled all their slots with the best and brightest from here and around the country. I am also pleased that 50% of our residents who matched into fellowships are staying here in Iowa! Thanks for voting with your feet! This was no easy year for fellowship recruitment, to say the least as we pivoted away from in-person recruiting to the virtual space. I applaud Dr. Brian Gehlbach, our departmental fellowship director, all of our program directors, and divisional and departmental support staff, who nimbly and elegantly pivoted to deliver very strong recruitment results. I am sure that this was also stressful on the recruits themselves, who had to make life-defining choices based upon remote interactions with individuals that they did not meet in person. This was a new experience for all of us, but we learned invaluable lessons from the experience and are even more prepared for what lies ahead.

Dr. Lisa Antes with fellows
Drs. Jayesh Patel and Swe Oo (2019)

Though our residents and their training program get a lot of well-deserved attention, we should also recognize the critical role fellows play in ensuring our department excels in all our missions. Because our fellowship programs all place a primacy on creating a program that meets each fellow’s needs, the fellow’s interests determine how they can best shine. Many of them have a passion for education and they make terrific attendings for our residents and instructors for our medical students. Some, like Drs. Elizabeth Batchelor and Hanna Zembrzuska most recently, pursued additional training in education and earned their Masters in Medical Education while in fellowship. Dr. Derek Ehsun will join our Faculty and Fellows as Clinician Educators program. Others, such as Drs. Arvind Murali and Bharat Kumar, after joining us as faculty, have moved into leadership positions within their respective fellowship programs, shaping the direction of the program they had only recently completed.

Dr. Jeff Wilson with pulmonary fellows (2020)

The fellows’ excellence and service as clinicians cannot be overstated. In addition to their regular rotations, all eight senior pulmonary and critical care fellows have been volunteering one extra weekend day to offer relief and assistance to our ICU providers facing increasing demands as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic. (One of those fellows, Dr. Vikas Koppurapu, was also just recognized with a You Make a Difference award this week.) Similar leadership and sacrifices have been exemplified by cardiology’s Chief Fellow Dr. Shubha Deep Roy who has provided coverage and kept a large cohort of fellows organized and still learning during this pandemic. And it is clear that our infectious disease fellows are getting a front-row seat to more than they planned to learn when they made their subspecialty choice.

Drs. Divya Ashat and Yaza Hasan – ACG Jeopardy

Still other fellows are excelling on the national stage and in research. Earlier this fall, GI fellows Drs. Yazan Hasan and Divya Ashat competed in a virtual quiz bowl at the ACG meeting and took a very narrow second-place spot after besting many other competitors. A scan through some recent publications just in the last month will reveal current fellows and recent fellowship graduates as authors and co-authors. Dr. Jen Streeter—a member of our Physician Scientist Training Pathway—has been instrumental in my own lab and, as she now completes her clinical training, I am confident that she has already laid a strong foundation to begin an independent faculty career very soon. Many of our fellows, more than I can list here, will or have stepped into productive research careers with K-awards and career development grants with the guidance of faculty mentors.

Our philosophy as a department toward our fellows is exactly that: career development. These exceedingly talented professionals comprise the top of our list of the pool of our next faculty recruits. The investment we make in their development, giving them the space to explore what ignites their curiosity, will be rewarded. We are grateful for their presence, inspired by their enthusiasm, and are excited to get to know those who will join their ranks soon.

About E. Dale Abel, MD, PhD

E. Dale Abel, MD PhD Francois M. Abboud Chair in Internal Medicine John B. Stokes III Chair in Diabetes Research Chair, Department of Internal Medicine Director, Fraternal Order of Eagles Diabetes Research Center Director, Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism Professor of Medicine, Biochemistry and Biomedical Engineering

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