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.