5 Tips for Interviewing and Matching into a Pediatric Orthopaedic Fellowship

1.    Start with the POSNA website
It has a list of all 45 POSNA accredited fellowships in the United States and Canada. Under each fellowship, you can see the number of spots they take annually, if the program is also ACGME accredited, whether the fellowship takes foreign medical graduates, and program interview dates.  It also lists the fellowship coordinator and administrator for each program. Previous match data can be found here as well, but more on that later.

2.    Get your paperwork done early
Go ahead and ask your potential letter writers for letters of recommendation well before the application process. It gives them time to put some thought into writing you a good letter. Attendings be procrastinators too, so asking them early gives them plenty of time to get the letter done. Speaking of procrastination, keep your CV up to date as you go through residency. You do not want to be adding everything you have done during residency to your resident application the night before you submit your fellowship application.  

3.    Think about what is important to you in a fellowship
This will be different for everyone. One of the biggest things to consider regarding a pediatric orthopaedic fellowship, is if you want to go to a program where you are the only fellow or would a prefer working with co-fellows. There are benefits to each model. If you are the only fellow, then there is not competition with other fellow to scrub interesting cases and the attendings can personalize your fellowship education a little more to what you need. In the programs with multiple fellows, you get to enjoy the camaraderie of other fellows and these programs more than likely have a set fellow academic curriculum. The programs with more fellows also have larger alumni bases that may help with your job search. Other factors you may want to consider are case exposure, research, and geography. By this point in your residency, you probably have a decent idea what you want your practice to look like (spine heavy, no spine, sports, hip preservation, deformity, etc.), and you need to make sure your fellowship will prepare you for that type of practice. Also, if you want to publish numerous papers during fellowship, there are certain programs that have better research infrastructure than other. On the contrary, if you want your fellowship to be case and clinic heavy you probably will be happier somewhere with less dedicated research time. Regarding geography, I think geography matters more to some people than others. If you think you’ll be happy anywhere you can skip ahead to number 4 now. I do think it is important that you are happy where you are living. If you have a significant other or family that will be moving with you for fellowship, I feel it is also important to let them have input on where you go for fellowship. Having a happy family at home will improve the overall fellowship experience.

4.    Gather plenty of information  
You probably have mentors, attendings, and or previous co-residents that have gone through a pediatric orthopaedic fellowship. Before you even apply to fellowship ask them about their fellowship experience. Find out the good and the bad from their fellowship. Ask them about other places they interviewed on the trail and liked. If there is a specific program you are interested in, ask them if they know anyone that trained there that you could reach out to. Pediatric orthopaedics is a smaller world than you may realize, so there’s a pretty good chance they may know someone that trained there. Also, remember once you get to the interviews that it is not just the programs interviewing you, but you are also interviewing the programs. Ask specific questions. Don’t be afraid to ask the current fellow how many periacetabular osteotomies or frames or spines or ACLs they have done. Find out what research infrastructure is in place and how much research the fellow is expected to do. Find out what there is to do in the city outside the hospital. The current fellow is a good resource to answer these questions, but it is ok to ask the attending these types of questions as well. It shows them that you are being thoughtful about your training and trying to make the most out of your fellowship. Asking and getting these specific questions answered will allow you to be more confident in your final rank list.

5.    Relax
Historically over 90 percent of applicant match at one of their top 5 choices. Fairly frequently there are more spots than applicants. The statistics say you are going to match, and more than likely you will match somewhere near the top of your list. You do not need to apply to every single program on the POSNA website to get a spot. After you initial gathering information phase, make a list of your top 15 to 25 programs that you think will meet your fellowship needs and apply there. After, you interview and get more information adjust your final rank list accordingly. So once again, relax, enjoy the process, and congratulations on picking, in my opinion, the best field in orthopaedics.