Choosing a Fellowship as a SheMD

Updated: Sep 20, 2019

It was February of the year 2007. I was an Intern, a PGY-1 internal medicine resident. Only a few more months as the junior most doctor doing scutwork in the hospital. I couldn’t wait for July to come around when I could wear the mantle of an experienced PGY 2. A second year resident, supervising interns, teaching them valuable skills on how to survive “Intern Year”.

Towards the end of this intern year, we were starting to think about fellowships and the application process. Back then, one had to apply in the first few months as a second year resident. It was time to take stock of our experiences so far, what rotations we enjoyed and the ones we were good at. Our intern class had seven men and two women.

I went to medical school in India which had an equal number of male and female students each year. My aunts were amongst the five women medical students in their class of fifty, back in the sixties. This was the nineties and being a woman doctor wasn’t a big deal anymore. I was now a foreign medical graduate in residency training in the United States, which I assumed, was more liberal as a society.

I was doing my CCU or Cardiac Care Unit rotation. It was a struggle to wake up at 5 AM in order to make it to the sign out from the night team at 6 AM. This was followed by intern rounds at 6:30 AM and then attending rounds at 8 AM. I loved the fast paced thrill of working in an acute care setting. It was fascinating to see patients who had survived a cardiac arrest, those awaiting cardiac bypass surgery and others recovering from their stents or balloon pumps. The staff there was on point and I learned a lot from them. The patients were sicker and we got to do many procedures. I experienced what instant gratification in Medicine was, seeing the results of my intervention as a physician right away. It was very satisfying and I felt at home. I talked to my senior residents about pursuing cardiology or critical care. Both were demanding, grueling, and competitive fellowship programs.

Our hospital had two female critical care physicians and one female cardiologist. I didn’t think much of it. When I met my program director for advice regarding fellowship, he asked me what my interests were. My eyes sparkled with excitement as I described my experience in the CCU and mentioned cardiology.

He sighed and took a long deep breath. And proceeded to tell me