The Evolving Status of Fellowships and Mini-Fellowships in Diagnostic Radiology: A Survey of Program Directors and Chief Residents

Acad Radiol. 2021 Mar 25;S1076-6332(21)00125-2. doi: 10.1016/j.acra.2021.03.007. Online ahead of print.


Rationale and objectives: Recent changes in radiology fellowships include musculoskeletal radiology adopting a match system, interventional radiology transitioning away from diagnostic radiology to offer direct-entry programs, and a common fellowship application timeline created by the Society for Chairs of Academic Radiology Departments (SCARD). The concept of mini-fellowships has also emerged with the elimination of the oral American Board of Radiology examinations that had been administered in the final year of residency training prior to 2014. This paper seeks to assess the opinions of fellowship program directors, residency program directors, and chief residents regarding these recent changes.

Materials and methods: This is a cross-sectional study using a web-based survey posed to fellowship program directors, residency program directors, and chief residents in 2020. Questions sought to explore current attitudes toward the following topics: (1) a common fellowship application timeline; (2) a common fellowship match; and (3) the status of mini-fellowships in diagnostic radiology. In addition, the number of fellowship positions for each subspecialty was estimated using subspecialty society directories, Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) data, and individual program websites.

Results: Deidentified responses were collected electronically and aggregated. The three respondent groups preferred a common fellowship application timeline at rates of 67% among fellowship program directors, 80% residency program directors, and 74% residents. A common match system across all subspecialties was preferred at rates of 50% fellowship program directors, 74% residency program directors, and 26% chief residents. There was widespread reported compliance with the SCARD fellowship timeline policy. Subspecialty programs using the match system reported interviewing greater numbers of applicants per position. Fellowship directors and chief residents reported that the most common duration of mini-fellowship experiences was 2 to 3 months.

Conclusion: There is a division between chief residents and program directors regarding the preference for a common radiology match. Adopting a radiology-wide fellowship match would increase the number of interviews required. The SCARD fellowship timeline policy has been successful, and there is support across stakeholders regarding the common timeline. Mini-fellowships are highly variable in length and structure.

Keywords: Radiology Fellowships; Radiology Mini-Fellowships.