Q: Does your program consider IMG’s for fellowship? If yes, what do you look for in their application?
A: Thank you for your question and interest in our program. Our program does consider international medical graduates (IMGs) for positions in our program. Indeed, we have trained recent, outstanding fellows who received medical degrees in countries such as Argentina, Canada, Egypt, England, Ireland, Lebanon, New Zealand, Pakistan and Singapore among others. We do require that IMGs have completed an ACGME-accredited, internal medicine residency program and have passed 3 parts of the USMLE. In addition, we are not able to consider applicants holding J-1 or H-1b visas (non-permanent US residents) due to restrictions of funding by our NIH training grants. If you or others meet these criteria, we would welcome the chance to review your application through the Electronic Residency Application Service (ERAS). Thanks again for your interest.
Q: Does the Duke Cardiology Program have faculty that are actively engaged in defining etiologies of cardiovascular disease internationally? Specifically in developing countries. My interest lies in etiologies, epidemiology and management of acquired heart disease in developing nations and I am searching for potential mentors from the program. Thank You.
A: Thank you for your interest and question. We have a very unique program in global cardiovascular health for fellows in our cardiology program. In collaboration with the Duke Global Health Institute, we have developed Centers of Excellence in several countries to study the epidemiology of acquired heart disease. For example, one of our recent fellows has been integral to developing a Center of Excellence in Eldoret, Kenya in collaboration with Moi University. As part of this project to evaluate risk factors for heart failure in Kenya, he was award a Fogarty International Clinical Research Scholarship after his 2 clinical years of cardiology fellowship to support a year’s experience in Kenya. After his year in Kenya, he returned to our program to complete his fellowship and has now joined our faculty. As part of his career development, he successfully applied for a NIH Mentored Patient-Oriented Research Career Development Award (K23) and now spends half his faculty time in Kenya.
More recently, the Fogarty International Center has awarded a new Global Health Fellows and Scholars Program to a Consortium of Vanderbilt University, Emory University, Cornell University, and Duke University (VECDor). The award recognizes the long-standing commitment to global health and of collaboration across each of these universities and their collaborating international partners. The VECDor program provides supportive mentorship, research opportunities and a collaborative research environment for early stage investigators to enhance their global health research expertise and their careers. As part of this program, selected fellows can participate in mentored research in several countries including Brazil, China, Haiti, India, Kenya, Mexico, Rwanda, Tanzania, Vietnam, and Zambia through their home institutions and at collaborating international sites.
Q: How important to my application is current or recent research work, even if it hasn’t resulted in an abstract or publication?
A: There are numerous benefits of an applicant’s participation in research. A research project may help a resident or fellow decide on his or her enjoyment of investigation and its potential role in their career development and future. In addition, experience in a particular area of cardiology may help a trainee determine their sub-specialty focus within cardiology. Research certainly increases interaction between the trainee and mentor in research project itself, but also for ongoing career advising and collaboration.
Many cardiology fellowship programs require research experience during fellowship training, and as a result, previous experience and/or productivity in research may be a foundation for future projects. For a few programs, productivity in research such as oral presentations, abstract, and manuscripts may be important milestones in training which begin a “track record” of success (particularly for trainees with PhD degrees).
Finally, at the least, engagement in a research project will demonstrate that an applicant has been involved in cardiology to a greater extent than “required” or mandated by clinical rotations. Likewise, research experience may provide a topic or avenue for discussion between the applicant and interviewer at a greater depth than just a general interest in the broad field of cardiology. If a trainee has been involved in a research project, he or she should feel prepared and comfortable discussing the objectives, methods, potential limitations, results (if available), and significance of the project.
Q: How important to my application is the inclusion of a letter of recommendation from a cardiologist?
A: In general, letters of recommendations (LORs) add an important dimension to an application by providing insights into an applicant’s personal and professional strengths. Most programs require or expect one letter from the residency program director; one letter from a research mentor, if the applicant has a significant background in research; and one or two letters from other faculty.
Clearly, LORs which reflect a good knowledge of the applicant (often gained from a long interaction between the faculty and applicant) and are strongly supportive of the applicant are ideal. These aspects of LORs may be more important than the sub-specialty or academic rank of the faculty writer. However, given the connections between cardiologists at different institutions, a LOR from an experienced cardiologist may carry additional weight with a fellowship program, and provide an avenue for conversation during your interview and a follow-up call later.
Some interactions during residency training may provide opportunities for such strong LORs. Engaging in a research project or working in a continuity outpatient clinic with cardiology faculty offers the chance for the faculty to interact and know the resident over an extended period of time, during which the resident’s background, talents, and career plans become more clearly evident.
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