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MFM Fellowship Interview Process: An Opportunity for Improvement through Regionalization of Interviews

Do you know how much the average fellow applicant who matches spends on their interview process? The answer is nearly $7000 based on a survey of first-year fellows from the 2014 Annual SMFM Fellows Retreat. Our fellows applied to over 18 programs and were granted 12 invitations to interview (medians). They elected to accept 9 interviews and cited cost and conflicts in interview dates as the top reasons for not attending more interviews.  Their concerns as well as those of many fellowship Program Directors (PDs) were vetted at the annual 2015 SMFM Board of Directors meeting and the subsequent MFM Fellowship Committee to try to evaluate ways by which to evolve the process of fellowship interviews and potentially contain costs for the applicants as well as the programs in an extremely important aspect of the process of becoming a maternal-fetal medicine specialist. 

To some, the time and energy spent is well worth it. To others, there are opportunities by which to evolve the process that could aid the individual applicant in some ways in reducing the expense associated with it. In no way are we suggesting that face-to-face encounters are eliminated as part of the interview process, as all applicants and program directors are in agreement that this is an invaluable part of the process, but rather that methods of streamlining could be adopted.  It seemed that the first step would be by regionalizing interviews into clusters by dates to help facilitate travel and out-of-office time for the applicants. Through a grassroots effort, PDs from various geographic regions of the country including Boston, the Carolinas, New York, Texas, and northern and southern California, among others have tried to group their interviews to facilitate the travel required for this important process. Resources have been developed to aid PDs in scheduling these interviews, and the impact of having residents take the necessary time out of their training to accomplish these interviews is also being evaluated. The dialogue continues about other steps that could be undertaken for improvements to this process in the future. Ideas include a triage process such as the NFL Combine and the use of videoconferencing has been circulated. Additional surveys are planned of PDs and this year’s first year fellows to evaluate our progress and explore ways to further make this process efficient and effective. The SMFM recognizes its responsibility in coordinating efforts for this.

Authors: Deborah A. Wing, MD and Gloria Too, MD

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