This time of year can bring anxiety for many of our colleagues in their final years of plastic surgery residency. The decision of what to do after we’re done can be an enormous stress. Should I do a fellowship? What kind of fellowship? Or should I get a job? What kind of job do I want? These are the kinds of questions that may be floating in your brain everyday.
It seems that more of us are electing to pursue fellowships after residency and the reasons vary widely. Some of us have had differences in training, developed a specific passion, or want a particular career path. A simple scroll through the ASPS or ACAPS job listings show us that many people are looking for fellowship trained surgeons, especially at academic institutions.
Microsurgery is unique. It is both a technique used by plastic surgeons and also a full fledged subspecialty. With time, it seems there are more surgeons acting as dedicated microsurgeons in their institutions. With this, there has been an increase in the number of microsurgery fellowships. “A microsurgeon’s success stems from the experience obtained during and after training. Prior studies have shown that early success rates after training are as low as 72% and rise to 96-97% after sufficient experience has been gained.” (1) For those of us wanting to perform complex reconstruction, institutions will be looking for fellowships as a marker for efficient, safe, and reliable results. What better way to achieve this status than to focus one year on doing just that? Dr. Andres Maldonado and Dr. David Song even state “we believe that the only way to receive proper microsurgery training is through genuine fellowship programs modeled after well-recognized programs in the United States, which implies high hands-on exposure to microsurgery cases, progressive advancement in the level of surgical case participation, a decreasing level of direct supervision, and the final goal of performing these procedures independently with reproducible results.” (2) There has even been discussion on whether a Certificate of Added Qualifications (CAQ) for microsurgery would be something that could happen in the future. This would “hold programs to a higher standard and, in turn, lead to stronger microvascular surgeons. Some cite that certification may more easily identify surgeons with expertise or interest in microvascular reconstructive surgery. Finally, specialty recognition in the public eye may positively stimulate research and development in microsurgery, as has occurred in hand surgery.” (3)
So now that we’ve shown you why doing a microsurgery fellowship may be valuable, here’s how you do it. The match occurs through the San Francisco Match (www.sfmatch.org). It is an advanced match, so you will be applying during your second to last year of training. Here is a timeline of the 2016 match for 2017 positions.
There are a number of documents you need to have to complete your application. You need an updated CV, 3 letters of recommendation, your USMLE score transcripts, a copy of your state medical license, and a signed letter of good standing from your program director. You also need a special certificate from the ECFMG for international graduates. These are all documents you can begin to get together before the application service even opens its registration. We strongly recommend that you get these documents early. The earlier you get things done, the less stress!
For those considering applying this coming year for 2018 positions, keep a close eye on the SF Match website for when the application opens. This year it opened mid-January. The initial registration fee is $100 for the SF Match. Please read the instructions for the application carefully as there are many more details than are explained here! After you register, you may begin filling out the Central Application Service (CAS) application.
You have to fill out the following:
• Your basic information
• USMLE dates, 3 digit and 2 digit scores
• Plastic surgery in-service scores and percentiles
• Background education, dates, and degrees obtained
• Prior and current training programs, dates, and director(s)
• Information on your letter writers
• Past and present employment
• Public service and activities
• Publications, presentations, and current research
• Honors and awards
• Personal statement
You also must complete your distribution list or a list of the programs you would like to apply to. At the end of this post are a list of the programs that participated in the 2016 match categorized by state. Here is a list of the pricing for distribution by number of programs applied to.
After you complete all these, you are almost done! You have to submit the full application and complete the distribution list on the website. The rest of the documents you mail in one package to the SF Match address given in the instructions. Again, doing all of this as early as possible ensures that all your documents are in and distributed on time! The website will indicate when your documents have been received and distributed. Most of the programs only require the documents in the SF Match distribution, however we recommend checking with programs to see if they require any additional documentation, as this may change from year to year. The earliest deadlines for applications were beginning of March this year. After that, sit back and let the interview invitations roll in! The interviews spanned from first week in April until the last week in June. Then you do your rank list, submit, and find out mid-July where you’ll be heading the following year!
Best advice: have fun! They are much less stressful than residency interviews. Pick the brains of the attendings and the fellows that are currently there. They want a good match with you as much as you want with them. Also every program is different and programs can change quite a bit from year to year, so talk with residents and fellows who have recently gone through the process.
Good luck! If you have any questions, feel free to contact us at any time!
Please note, all the above information is based on the application process for the 2016 match for 2017 microsurgery fellowship positions. Changes may be made to the 2017 match and cannot be anticipated.
List of Programs Participating in 2016 Match for 2017 Positions
- University of Southern California (USC)
- University of California – Los Angeles (UCLA)
- University of California – San Francisco (UCSF)
- University of Chicago
- Kansas University Medical Center (KUMC) – Midwest Institute of Microsurgery
- Johns Hopkins University
- Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
- New York
- Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center
- New York Breast Reconstruction Alliance
- New York University (NYU)
- Vega Plastic Surgery
- Lenox Hill Hospital
- Ohio State University
- Cleveland Clinic
- University of Pennsylvania
- University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC)
- Fox Chase Cancer Center
- University of Tennessee – Memphis
- University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center
- University of Texas Southwestern (UTSW)
- University of Washington
- Medical College of Wisconsin
- Chang Gung Memorial Hospital
1. Lee JC, et al. A Paradigm Shift in Microsurgical Fellowship Training: Revisiting the Learning Curve. Plast & Reconstr Surg. 2013 Oct; 132(4S-1): 38.
2. Maldonado AA, Song DH. European and American Microsurgery Training Programs: The Fellowship Concept Difference. Plast & Reconstr Surg. 2015 Aug; 136(2): 292e-3e.
3. Layliev J, et al. The Certificate of Added Qualitifications in Microsurgery: Consideration for Subspecialty Certification in Microvascular Surgery in the United States. Plast & Reconstr Surg. 2015 Jan; 135(1): 313-6.