Early Career

Top 12 tips for research success in fellowship and early academic faculty years


Congratulations! You have matched in a competitive medical subspecialty or you have secured your first faculty position. But what do you do now? Success in your early career – as a new fellow or a new attending – requires both hard work and perseverance. We present our top 12 tips for how to be successful as you transition into your new position.

Michelle T. Long, MD, is with section of gastroenterology at Boston Medical Center and Boston University

Dr. Michelle T. Long

Tip #1: Be kind to yourself

As you transition from medical resident to GI fellow or from GI fellow to first-time attending, it is important to recognize that you are going through a major career transition (not as major as fourth year to intern, but probably a close second). First and foremost, remember to be kind to yourself and set reasonable expectations. You need to allow yourself time to transition to a new role which may also be in a new city or state. Take care of yourself – don’t forget to exercise, eat well, and sleep. You are in the long game now. Work to get yourself in a routine that is sustainable. Block out time to exercise, explore your new city, meal plan, and pursue your interests outside of medicine.

Dionne Rebello, MD, is with section of gastroenterology at Boston Medical Center and Boston University

Dr. Dionne Rebello

Tip #2: Set up for success

Since you are going through this major life/career transition, it is really helpful if you can set yourself up for success by having some projects that are easily completed during this challenging time so that you can demonstrate success. If you have projects in different stages of development, you will always have something you can work on when some projects are delayed for reasons outside of your control. In particular, it is great to have a few papers ready to go during late fellowship so they are published during your first year as an academic attending! This will allow you to continue your research trajectory as you learn the ropes of your new position.

Tip #3: Ask for help

It turns out you cannot do everything on your own! Make sure you are getting help professionally and personally so that you are set up for success. It’s okay to feel overwhelmed or confused; we all do at some point or another. Fellowship and early academic faculty years are stressful and nobody expects you to do it alone. Chances are your mentors or cofellows have had similar struggles, and in opening up, this dialogue may help you both.

Tip #4: Write out your 5-year plan

You need to know where you are going before you can figure out how to get there. Take some time for “soul searching”: Think about where you would like to be in 5 years and work backward (along with help from your mentors; see Tip #5) to determine how best to get there. If you think a career in academia might be for you, it’s never too soon to start networking and involving yourself in research. If a specific institution or clinical position draws your attention, check out the current faculty. You can use their CVs as a roadmap of types of experiences and honors that should be on your radar throughout these 5 years. Remember that your 5-year plan is not written in stone – this is something that you should re-evaluate as your interests and priorities change throughout your career.


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