Megan Rybarczyk, MD
International Emergency Medicine Fellow
Division of International Emergency Medicine and Humanitarian Programs (DIEMHP)
Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Faulkner Hospital
Clinical Fellow, Harvard Medical School
1. What advice would you give to someone who was on the fence about doing an international emergency medicine fellowship? i.e. What did you see as the cost-benefit?
My advice would be that if you are at all planning to do any work that crosses borders that is related to Emergency Medicine (i.e. clinical practice, systems development, education, humanitarian and disaster response, research, ethics, policy, and so on), it is your professional responsibility to seek out formal training in these fields. In my opinion, International Emergency Medicine (IEM) fellowships are a significant resource in this area.
My time in the Harvard/Brigham and Women’s program has been invaluable. It has given me time to pursue my interests and to receive sub-specialty training in global emergency care – experience and training that I feel I would not have had otherwise. Additionally, it has provided the networking that is essential in such a relatively small field.
While many feel that completing a fellowship delays your career advancement, this is not true at all. While it may delay some immediate rewards, it can set you up to be a step ahead when you finish, if you take full advantage of your fellowship to obtain advanced degrees and/or to develop long-term projects and relationships. I think of it not only as a professional responsibility to the field, but also as an investment for the future – my own, as well as my future mentees.
One caveat is that you do need to find the fellowship that helps you toward your specific goals as well as toward the specific level of expertise that you seek. Given the number and diversity of fellowships that currently exist, this is likely to be a possibility for nearly everyone contemplating in IEM fellowship.
2. What was the most career-enhancing, or eye-opening thing, you gained from the fellowship?
I would not trade the last two years in fellowship for anything. Although quite busy and challenging, I feel my time in the Harvard/Brigham and Women’s program has given me the depth and breath of experiences to further advance my career in this field. The best parts have been the open exchange of ideas and advice as well as the mentorship – not just from individuals in my institution, but across this relatively small field. I hope that as this field continues to grow and to expand that these features – open exchange of ideas, sharing of experiences, and mentorship – remain the most valuable.
3. Who is an international emergency medicine fellowship for?
An IEM fellowship is for someone who wants to become a professional in global emergency care and/or response and to develop a level of expertise in a niche within this field. I feel it is likely most useful for those who want to pursue academic positions in the future, but given the variety of fellowships that exist (with non-standardization of the fellowships being a strength of this consortium, not a weakness, given the diversity of the field), this is not necessarily the case anymore.
Regardless of your ultimate career path and the type of fellowship you choose, it definitely does require someone who is flexible, has a very strong work ethic and is willing to balance more than seems possible all at once (i.e. clinical shifts and international work/projects/grants along with teaching and/or classes for an advanced degree; not to mention your personal and/or family life!), and is committed to the professionalization as well as to the advancement of the field.