How important to my application is current or recent research work, even if it hasn’t resulted in an abstract or publication?

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.

How important to my application is the inclusion of a letter of recommendation from a cardiologist?

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.