April 4th, 2011

“Speed Dating” Lunch for Fellows in Training: Board Prep, Career Development, and Financial Planning

Several Cardiology Fellows who are attending ACC.11 this week are blogging together on CardioExchange. The Fellows include Sandeep Mangalmurti, Hansie Mathelier, John Ryan (moderating and providing an outsider’s view from Chicago), Amit Shah, and Justin Vader. See the previous post in this series, and check back often to learn about the biggest buzz in New Orleans.

Free lunch! That’s all that needed to be said to attract masses of fellows. Today I attended an excellent and tasty lunch-time session for the Fellows In Training (FITs) called “What you need to know in starting a cardiology career.” It was a very informative session with several 15-minute mini-lectures (“speed dating”) on a hodgepodge of different career topics. Many of the key points were practical and thought-provoking. Here I offer some “tweets” – needless to say, there are many important points I am leaving out…

Boards Prep by Dr. Goyal and Dr. Murphy

  • Take the boards as soon as you are eligible, and during fellowship; when you are attending, it only gets more difficult
  • 90% of people pass the boards; if they fail, it’s usually because of the ECG section….wait, isn’t that supposed to be our bread and butter!? We get stooped by the guessing penalty and short amount of time allotted
  • O’Keefe is an excellent ECG book that provides many didactic ECG cases
  • Know class I and III guidelines for some of the main topics
  • Questions can be tricky: in a sense, it is a mind game between you and the question-writer
  • If demographics are provided for an ECG, it’s because it’s an essential part of the question
  • One of the best ways to learn is to actually write practice questions
  • Clinical trials that have been released within the last 12 years will not be covered because of the lag time between writing questions and having them appear on the test

Careers Talks with Susan Childs, Dr. Cuffe, and Dr. Walsh

  • In the face of many changes and uncertainty, many private practices are moving to the hospital-employed; strength lies in numbers
  • Accountable care organizations will change the face of cardiology; read more here
  • Several different estimates of average salary were given, ranging from 220K to 300K+; geography matters — certain states such as Minnesota, Indiana, and New Hampshire offer more attractive salaries
  • All negotiating power is gone once the contract is signed; make sure to ask for a contract as well! Otherwise you may just get a signed letter

Academia vs. Private Practice is a complex, multifaceted debate:

  1. Either you are building your nest (private practice) or you are trying to climb the ranks (academia)
  2. Academia offers a large range of career types, from bench researcher to clinician educator to administrator
  3. Academia can include other, non-salary financial benefits, such as tuition benefits for children.
  4. Although academia is usually chosen for the opportunity to teach and do research, private practice does not entirely cut-off these opportunities. Nonetheless, in academia one is engaged in a structured, vibrant, intellectual community
  5. Every academic center is different: “If you’ve seen one, you’ve only seen one.”
  6. Too much protected time may be a bad thing if you cannot show for it with productivity, as justifying it may be difficult down the road
  7. Entering a practice in a big city is obviously more competitive and difficult; in such cases, it is important to understand the specific needs of that market

Last and not least, Michael Merrill and Anders Ramstad from North Star presented an excellent financial planning talk…

  • Do you know your net worth? Most fellows have a net-worth average of NEGATIVE 150K
  • Try to keep an emergency reserve of 3 to 6 months of expenses
  • Debt rule – if you have any debt with greater than 8% interest, pay it off ASAP!!!
  • Do not finance a home for more than 3 times your salary; otherwise “prepare to eat food that starts with HOT and ends with DOG”
  • Disability insurance is highly recommended
  • Put away 20% in long-term saving; Roth IRA is the way to go because we are in the lowest tax bracket we will be in moving forward.


Did you attend? If so, what did I miss? Or do you have other advice that you’ve heard on these topics that you’d like to share?

For more of our ACC.11 coverage of late-breaking clinical trials, interviews with the authors of the most important research, and blogs from our fellows on the most interesting presentations at the meeting, check out our Coverage Roundup.

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