The Committee on Advanced Subspecialty Training-accredited postgraduate neurosurgery fellowship application experience: a national survey

J Neurosurg. 2022 Sep 9;1-8. doi: 10.3171/2022.7.JNS22544. Online ahead of print.


Objective: The neurosurgery fellowship application process is heterogenous. Therefore, the authors conducted a survey of individuals graduating from Committee on Advanced Subspecialty Training (CAST)-accredited fellowships in the past 5 years to examine 1) experiences with the fellowship application process, 2) perspectives on the process, 3) reasons for pursuing a given subspecialty and fellowship, and 4) post-fellowship practices.

Methods: A survey querying demographics, experiences with and perspectives on the fellowship application process, and factors contributing to the pursuit of a given fellowship was distributed to individuals who had graduated from CAST-accredited fellowships in the past 5 years. The survey response period was May 22, 2021-June 22, 2021.

Results: Of 273 unique individuals who had graduated from CAST-accredited fellowships in the past 5 years, 65 (29.7%) were included in this analysis. The most common postgraduate year (PGY) during which respondents applied for fellowship positions was PGY5 (43.8%), whereas the most common training level at which respondents accepted a fellowship position was PGY6 (46.9%), with a large degree of variability for both (range PGY4-PGY7). Only 43.1% respondents reported an application deadline for their fellowship. A total of 77.4% respondents received 1-2 fellowship position offers, and 13.4% indicated that there was a match process. In total, 64.5% respondents indicated that the fellowship offer timeline was mostly or very asynchronous. The time frame for applicants to decline or accept a fellowship offer was heterogeneous and mismatched among institutions. Respondents agreed that a more standardized application timeline would be beneficial (median response "agree"), and 83.1% of respondents indicated that PGY5 or PGY6 was the appropriate time to interview for a fellowship.

Conclusions: Respondents reported heterogeneous experiences in applying for a fellowship, indicated that a standardized application timeline including interviews at PGY5 or PGY6 would be beneficial, and preferred streamlining the fellowship application process.

Keywords: fellowship; medical education; medical training; neurological surgery; surgical education.