COVID-19 and its Impact on the Pediatric Anesthesiology Fellowship Cycle: A Letter to Applicants

By Matthew DiGiusto, MD
Chairperson, SPA Trainee Special Interest Group
Johns Hopkins Hospital

and Justin Lockman, MD, MSEd, FAAP
President-elect, Pediatric Anesthesiology Program Directors’ Association (PAPDA)
Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia

Dr. DiGiusto

Dr. DiGiusto

Dr. Lockman

Dr. Lockman

Congratulations to all of our Pediatric Anesthesiology Fellowship applicants on an outstanding career choice, and welcome to the Society for Pediatric Anesthesia (SPA).  SPA is a community committed to advancing the safety and quality of anesthetic care, perioperative management, and alleviation of pain in children, and we expect that you will enjoy being a member and participating in our meetings as much as we have!

It seems as though the ever-evolving COVID-19 pandemic has touched every aspect of personal and professional life, and the Pediatric Anesthesiology Fellowship application process is not immune. At the time of this writing, #StayAtHome and #FlattenTheCurve are trending on Twitter, multiple states have issued official “stay-at-home” orders, and medical institutions have restricted domestic and international travel for their essential personnel.

Providers around the country, including anesthesiology residents and fellows, are being asked to flex into novel roles and risk their personal safety to do the opposite of what others do – we walk into buildings we know have the virus, instead of staying home and safe with social distancing. THANK YOU for being on the front lines of this pandemic even as you look towards the future and your pediatric anesthesiology fellowship.

The pediatric anesthesiology fellowship process is changing because we know that your careers cannot wait! Most programs are offering virtual interviews this year, and we encourage you to ask for a virtual interview (without fear of repercussion) if you are offered an interview but are unable to travel. This is a time when flexibility, for both applicants and programs, is more critical than ever; it may be that even a scheduled interview cannot occur because of unprecedented clinical needs at either end.

We want to reassure you that programs will not view your request for a virtual interview, for rescheduling an interview, or for other accommodations negatively in these unprecedented times, and we hope you will be as accommodating of the various programs to which you are applying. We also suggest making sure you have telephone numbers so that, in case of total technological failure, you can at least talk via phone.

Programs and applicants alike are aware that the interview is bi-directional; applicants are getting to know program culture as much as programs are getting to know applicants.  This will clearly be the most challenging aspect of this interview season on both ends of virtual interview meetings.

Some programs are planning “Open House” dates later in the summer and others are offering virtual tours or videos to help you with decision-making. We understand that neither of these is a perfect replacement for a formal interview day; we encourage you to feel free to take time exploring program websites, contact programs to see if you can chat with current fellows, visit cities on your own when restrictions are lifted, or do anything else you think would help you get a good sense of whether a program is right for you.

For more help answering the question “Where Should I Go?” please take the time to view the Trainee SIG Webinar - Applying to Pediatric Anesthesiology Fellowship which, in the beginning, addresses this exact question.

Congratulations again to all the applicants on choosing the best subspecialty of the best specialty in medicine. Stay safe, healthy, and know that this too shall pass. Please feel free to reach out should you have any questions or concerns – we are particularly interested to know whether future applicants might prefer virtual interviews next year to save time and money, so email us if you have a strong opinion!

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