The process of getting a cosmetic surgery fellowship almost always requires the identification of available fellowship programs, a detailed application, and often also a successful interview. In the United States, Canada, and most of Europe, cosmetic surgery fellowship opportunities are available only to individuals who have completed both a medical degree and a residency program with specialization in surgery. Fellowship positions are typically coveted, and many programs will entertain only a limited number of fellows per year. To be successful in getting a cosmetic surgery fellowship, you may have to apply to numerous programs. It is usually a good idea to start your planning early.
Timing is one of the most important parts of landing a cosmetic surgery fellowship. Most fellowship programs operate on a yearlong schedule, typically starting and ending in late summer. Applications, however, can be due up to a year in advance.
There are many different types of fellowship, even within the cosmetic surgery field. Fellowships are offered by hospitals and university medical centers as well as private clinics and surgical practices. Some surgeons focus on facial or hand reconstruction, skin grafting, or burn recovery. Others devote their practices to aesthetic improvements to face and body.
When you are looking for fellowship opportunities, look for the sort of work that you ultimately want to do. If your goal is to become a cosmetic surgeon in a hospital trauma center, for instance, a fellowship in an upscale suburban clinic may not provide you with the skills you need. It is also important to keep in mind that a fellowship is one of the premier ways for a young doctor to build a network of connections and colleagues. As such, it is important to apply for a fellowship that is in a field that you could see yourself practicing and working in for a long period of time.
Lists of available fellowships are usually available from your medical school, or from a national organization for cosmetic surgery. In the United States, the American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery maintains an active clinical fellowship program database. The British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons provides a similar service for UK-based doctors.
Once you have narrowed down your choices, it is time to put together your applications. Applications can be lengthy, which is another reason to allow plenty of time. Many cosmetic surgery fellowship programs want detailed information on your medical aptitude, your skills as a doctor, and your interest in cosmetic surgery as a specialty. This often comes in the form of essays, supervisor reviews, transcripts, and recommendations from your professors and residency supervisors.
Most fellowship opportunities can accept only a limited number of people, and competition is usually very steep. An in-person interview is often required after applications have been reviewed. Fellowship interviews are not typically meet-and-greet affairs. Usually, they involve a certain amount of direct questioning and medical assessment.
It is important to prepare for your interview by brushing up on your surgery terminology and general knowledge. You also need to practice explaining why you want to go into cosmetic surgery, and why a fellowship with this particular institution would help you best fulfill your potential. There is no guaranteed way to get a cosmetic surgery fellowship, but preparation, confidence, and adequate planning will go a long way to help get you there.