Our work builds upon previously described faculty development initiatives with an innovative structure and timing for fellowship training that has not yet been proposed in the medical education literature. This format has been designed specifically for EPs, but draws on content and needs that may be adapted for implementation into any field of medicine.
There are two design features of our proposed model that are instrumental. First, in order to build the expertise and scholarly products described in our objectives, we have implemented a two-year format rather than a single year. We believe the two-year format allows the fellow to attain the knowledge and practical teaching experience necessary to build expertise and then apply the new knowledge and skill in scholarly endeavours. A two-year period appears to be sufficient for rigorous training in master’s level degree or certificate programs, which confer external validity to the time spent during the fellowship years acquiring the skills necessary for educational leadership (personal communication, G. Kuhn, April 2011). Many institutions offer certificate or degree programs that range from a practical teaching certificate, to educational leadership and administration degrees (EdM and EdD), to a PhD that focuses on research. Potential candidates should consider whether the intent of the proposed degree will help them achieve their career goals, and whether it is specific to medical educators. Strategies to meet program costs include: interdepartmental collaboration to waive tuition, augmented fellow salary support for tuition (may have tax advantages), departmental support, or extramural funding.
A second design feature that is integral to the success of the fellowship is designating a committed mentor for each fellow. In contrast to a new faculty hire with a pre-defined administrative assignment, the fellow’s primary goal is career development. It is the fellowship mentor’s responsibility to groom the individual for success, and coordinate institution-specific resources and opportunities to provide the fellow with a rich and productive training experience. This may include introducing the fellow to other academicians who share similar interests, facilitating collaboration in the area of interest, and supporting the fellow throughout the learning process. Creating a fellowship opportunity that is dynamic enough to meet the diverse needs of medical education sub-specialists requires a close mentor-mentee relationship.
Other successful fellowships may exist that have not been described formally in the literature. As we gain collective experience from emerging post-graduate opportunities, long-term outcomes can be measured. Most of our graduates are currently junior faculty and may not have yet fully realized the benefits of their fellowship training. We did not perform a systematic comparison of our fellowship graduates and other junior faculty in educational leadership roles for productivity or career satisfaction. Outcomes that we hope to follow with quantitative and qualitative follow-up studies include: evidence of scholarship (including publications and presentations), career trajectory (time to promotion, retention rates, awards and recognition), evidence of leadership (institutional, national, medical schools, residency programs), and effect of fellowship training on career satisfaction and quality of life measures.