This year’s rheumatology fellowship recruitment season has been virtual. The desire for safety during the COVID-19 pandemic has led programs to use video-based interviewing for visiting applicants, as well as internal and local candidates, to maintain consistency and fairness.
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Explore This IssueDecember 2020
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In a Sept. 16 editorial in Arthritis Care & Research, Adam Kilian, MD, assistant professor of medicine in the Division of Rheumatology at The George Washington University (GW) School of Medicine & Health Sciences, Washington, D.C., and colleagues discuss the benefits and challenges of the 2020 rheumatology fellowship recruitment season.1
Programs are creating standardized approaches to application review and applicant interviews to create equity in assessment. As programs strive to recruit fellows, they update their fellowship program websites and create virtual tours of in- and outpatient clinical facilities, educational conference settings and fellow office space.
These changes translate into cost savings for applicants and open the possibility that programs may see an increase in the geographic and cultural diversity of applicants. The authors of the editorial even suggest virtual recruitment may help diversify the rheumatology workforce.
The Rheumatologist (TR) spoke with fellowship directors from three U.S. regions—Midwest, Rocky Mountain and East Coast—to see how the pandemic has changed their interview season.
Fellowship Program Directors
Anisha Dua, MD, MPH, is the fellowship program director at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, Chicago, and a co-first author of the editorial. Northwestern’s shift to virtual interviews meant candidates still spent the same amount of time engaged in the day—from approximately 9 a.m. until 1:30 p.m. Northwestern created a fellowship introduction video and a virtual tour that was sent to applicants with their individual interview itinerary.
Jason Kolfenbach, MD, is the fellowship program director at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, Aurora. As a result of the shift to virtual interviews, Colorado reduced the duration of the interview from six hours to less than four. His program also created videos designed to give candidates an idea of the Colorado experience.
Irene Blanco, MD, MS, is the fellowship program director at Montefiore Health System, The Bronx, N.Y. Montefiore’s virtual interviews meant candidates no longer had to spend a half day interviewing in person. Instead, they could complete the entire virtual interview process in just two hours. Montefiore also created a virtual tour.
TR: How has the pandemic changed your interview season?
Dr. Dua: The pandemic has resulted in significant changes to this year’s interview season. With the mandate that all interviews be done virtually for safety reasons, as well as fairness to applicants, we had to restructure the process significantly. This includes practicing and teaching about the etiquette for, and functionality of, the virtual platform for our faculty and fellows conducting the interviews, as well as ensuring candidates were comfortable navigating and participating in this format.