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Voices: Being a Fellow in the Era of Facebook

Fellowgynecologic oncologyGynecologic Oncology Fellowship
Apr 17, 2013

Being a Fellow in the Era of Facebook | Erin Stevens, MD

“I’m not the smartest fellow in the world, but I can sure pick smart colleagues.” 

-Franklin D. Roosevelt

It all started on the interview trail.  Someone started a Facebook group to keep everyone in touch though the interview process.  Who was going to be at what interview, sharing hotel rooms, all the while quietly calculating where you think you fit in the grand scheme of things.

Because now beyond just seeing the people you interviewed with on your interview day, you knew who was interviewing at the places you weren’t from the posts.  In the days leading up to Match Day, we bonded with each other over our shared anxiety.  The posts were flying on October 28 shortly after noon when our fates had finally been announced.  We lost a few from our group who didn’t match our year and we knew where the rest of us soon-to-be fellows were heading.  But for our social media journey, it was only just the beginning.

I can only imagine that doing a gynecologic oncology fellowship in years past was more isolating.  At most programs, you have one fellow a year.  Long days in the OR and longer days at the hospital itself are isolating from the greater community you live in.  You know your co-fellows at your home program well, but you only saw fellows from other programs at most a few times a year at the SGO Annual Meeting or GOG. I’d imagine you didn’t really know them beyond names on a nametag or a familiar facial feature that you recognized from the interview trail years ago.  Only with the passage of time–long after fellowship ended–might you really start to get to know these other gynecologic oncologists as colleagues.

Now, with social media, when I’ve had a bad day in the hospital, I can commiserate with any number of gyn onc fellows from across the country.  It just depends on who’s online.  They know exactly what it’s like to be yelled at by an attending, screw up an experiment in the lab, or just simply understand the feeling of losing the first person you operated on as a fellow as she succumbed to disease.  They’ll tell me to keep my chin up and make me laugh in a way that only someone in the exact same situation could.

But it’s not just the bad days.  We celebrate the day we finally did the robotic staging on our own with our attending watching and our oral presentation acceptance for the Annual Meeting.  Some have announced engagements and had weddings.  I’ve watched babies born and kids grow up through pictures posted on walls.  We’ve talked about job offers and contracts and what we want for the future of gynecologic oncology as a specialty.  And it’s not just on Facebook, though that’s still my social media of choice.  We communicate through mySGO, sharing ideas and collaborating on projects.

Even though I am in one of the fellowship programs with only one fellow a year, I have a close group of co-fellows across the country that have also helped to get me through these last two years.  This past year at WAGO we had a picture taken of all the residents and fellows who attended the conference.  We’re going to try to continue this tradition so years from now we can look back on our friendships from the early days and smile.  As our countdown toward the end of fellowship continues, I’m already looking forward to the years to come.