American Society of Health-System Pharmacy (ASHP) defines a fellowship as:
“a directed, highly individualized, postgraduate program designed to prepare the participant to become an independent researcher.”1
The first thing many students say when hearing about fellowship programs is “oh no … not more years of training! I'm too poor, and have spent numerous years in school already.” Yet, the time commitment spent in a fellowship program can pay off exponentially during your career. Ultimately, pharmacists with postgraduate training are more productive in publishing papers and are more satisfied with their careers than their peers.2,3 With an increasingly competitive job market and emphasis on more specialized training, fellowship opportunities have expanded. There are more than 100 fellowship opportunities across the United States, in a variety of specialties.
While fellowships have often traditionally had a research focus, more practice-based fellowship experiences are now available. As a fellow, you work closely with an established research mentor throughout the program to develop expertise in a focused area. Ultimately, this experience is aimed at developing you as an independent researcher and/or collaborator at the end of the fellowship program.
Fellowship programs may be offered with accreditation from a professional organization, such as American College of Clinical Pharmacy (ACCP), or on a nonaccredited basis. At this time, ACCP is the only professional pharmacy organization that conducts peer-review of fellowship programs, although others have published guidelines of suggested program requirements. In general, the duration of fellowships varies from 1 to 2 years. Requirements for prior clinical experience and/or residency (i.e., Postgraduate Year One [PGY-1] and/or Postgraduate Year Two [PGY-2]) training vary among the programs as well.
Fellowship programs can be broadly divided into two main categories: (1) traditional fellowships that are focused on a particular area of expertise and prepare the trainee to become an independent researcher in an academic setting and (2) industry fellowships that often provide a broad-based experience in areas relevant for a career in pharmaceutical industry.
Traditional fellowship programs are those intended to prepare you to become a future faculty member and conduct independent research. Most faculty positions require postgraduate training including a PGY-1 residency and preferably a PGY-2 specialty residency and/or a fellowship. While this may seem like a lot of additional training, this experience is often necessary to teach you how to transition from a student learner to someone who can lead a research team, gain funding necessary to support that research team, and teach others about that specialty area.4
Fellowships programs may differ in terms of the therapeutic focus, as depicted in Table 24-1.5 These programs may also vary in terms of clinical involvement and laboratory components of the training experience, as well as in time requirements, teaching opportunities, and resources available to support your research. While some programs may offer mostly laboratory-based research, others may ...