What Is a Cardiology Fellowship?

Jennifer Hicks
Jennifer Hicks
Student doctors partaking in cardiology fellowships spend a good deal of time consulting with patients.
Student doctors partaking in cardiology fellowships spend a good deal of time consulting with patients.

On the road to becoming a board-certified cardiologist, student doctors must complete several years of combined clinical and research work called a fellowship. Basic fellowships in cardiovascular medicine typically require three years to complete. Interventional cardiology fellowships and cardiac electrophysiology fellowships can add another two to three years of clinical work on top of the three basic years for a cardiology fellowship.

Most cardiac electrophysiologists are skilled heart surgeons who have completed an additional fellowship.
Most cardiac electrophysiologists are skilled heart surgeons who have completed an additional fellowship.

While cardiology training is offered by medical schools, cardiology fellowships can be found at hospitals and medical centers. Fellowships are granted based on a competitive application process. Prospective fellows must have completed a residency program in internal medicine before beginning a cardiology fellowship. Like fellows in other medical disciplines, cardiology fellows often receive stipends during their fellowship years.

A cardiology fellowship may include experience with performing heart transplants.
A cardiology fellowship may include experience with performing heart transplants.

Most cardiology fellowships emphasize clinical training on a rotating basis. Fellows spend time at different medical facilities participating in a variety of invasive and noninvasive cardiology procedures and testing as well as patient consultations. Fellows carry out their duties under the supervision of board-certified cardiologists.

The curriculum for a cardiology fellowship usually includes rotations in arrhythmia centers, where patients are evaluated and treated for irregular heart rhythms and problems with the electrical activity of the heart. In echocardiography labs, fellows learn about diagnosing cardiac problems with the help of echocardiograms and stress tests. In coronary care units, fellows follow the progress of patients recovering from heart attacks and other heart-damaging events.

Cardiology fellows study and work under the supervision of board-certified cardiologists.
Cardiology fellows study and work under the supervision of board-certified cardiologists.

Other cardiac fellowship rotations can include work in nuclear medicine clinics. In these clinics, fellows learn about using nuclear scans and nuclear stress tests to diagnose heart conditions. They supervise various tests and work with board-certified cardiologists to determine patient treatment plans.

Some cardiology fellowship programs provide rotations at veterans’ hospitals, where fellows develop their patient evaluation and consultation skills. These facilities also provide experience in areas such as cardiac catheterization, pacemaker implantation and occasionally heart transplant. Fellows work closely with outpatients and admitted patients.

Cardiology fellows sometimes assess and treat irregular heart rhythms as well as problems with the heart's electrical activity.
Cardiology fellows sometimes assess and treat irregular heart rhythms as well as problems with the heart's electrical activity.

After completing a basic cardiology fellowship, fellows can move on to specialized fellowships in interventional cardiology and cardiac electrophysiology. These fellowships are for those who want to specialize in specific treatment areas rather than develop broad medical or academic careers. Training for these specialized fellowships is more challenging and more comprehensive than the rotations of basic fellowships.

Cardiology fellowships may be offered to first-year medical students to supervise them during clinical rotations.
Cardiology fellowships may be offered to first-year medical students to supervise them during clinical rotations.

Some cardiology fellowship programs include additional learning opportunities, such as lecture series on basic cardiovascular medicine topics. Weekly research meetings might provide details on the latest research being done by a medical school’s faculty members. Fellows also might be offered opportunities to teach first-year medical students or supervise them as they do clinical rotations.

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    • Student doctors partaking in cardiology fellowships spend a good deal of time consulting with patients.
      By: Monkey Business
      Student doctors partaking in cardiology fellowships spend a good deal of time consulting with patients.
    • Most cardiac electrophysiologists are skilled heart surgeons who have completed an additional fellowship.
      By: sudok1
      Most cardiac electrophysiologists are skilled heart surgeons who have completed an additional fellowship.
    • A cardiology fellowship may include experience with performing heart transplants.
      By: VILevi
      A cardiology fellowship may include experience with performing heart transplants.
    • Cardiology fellows study and work under the supervision of board-certified cardiologists.
      By: sepy
      Cardiology fellows study and work under the supervision of board-certified cardiologists.
    • Cardiology fellows sometimes assess and treat irregular heart rhythms as well as problems with the heart's electrical activity.
      By: JPC-PROD
      Cardiology fellows sometimes assess and treat irregular heart rhythms as well as problems with the heart's electrical activity.
    • Cardiology fellowships may be offered to first-year medical students to supervise them during clinical rotations.
      By: Monkey Business
      Cardiology fellowships may be offered to first-year medical students to supervise them during clinical rotations.