Choosing a mentor

Start thinking about your scholarly activity and begin the interview process early. Pediatric Infectious Diseases offers many track and research options (discussed in details below). It is very important to choose the one that fits your goals early. Your mentor can be a faculty member from pediatric infectious diseases, or from any other department/division in your institution (whether it is in microbiology, immunology, pathology, adult medicine etc) or even outside of your institution if your particular interest lies in a specific topic where expertise in your institution is limited. Take your time with your interviews, make sure you understand the mentors' projects and how you can take part in what they have, or maybe even start a whole new project with them. Most importantly get a feel if you and your mentor are a good fit! The mentor/mentee relationship is a very important one, as it will guide the rest of your fellowship and help you mature!

After you select your mentor, you will sit down with your program director and select a scholarship oversight committee (SOC) with which you will plan to meet at least twice a year. The SOC's job is to help guide your scholarly activity, address weaknesses that can be worked on, and help you improve your work. You may meet with them more often if need be.

Areas of Focus

The beauty of pediatric infectious diseases lies in the multitude of options one has when choosing their career. If you meet with some of the PIDS members, you will find physicians who have developed a focus within infectious diseases. Some examples include:

  1. Clinical Some ID physicians spend the majority of their time seeing patients. This can be in an academic setting or in the private sector, and can include inpatients, outpatients, or both. Clinics can include infectious diseases "bread and butter" such as bone and joint infections, and recurrent fevers; but you can also have TB clinics, MRSA clinics, refugee clinics, international adoption clinics, travel clinics, STI and adolescent clinic focus etc. If clinical medicine is your passion, you can work with your fellowship program director so that your curriculum has more focus on clinical time. That being said, you are still required to complete a scholarly activity to complete fellowship and sit for boards.
  2. Research (clinical vs translational vs basic science) – Learn the skills to design a research project, write a project's outline, submit grants, and write papers. So many venues exist within the research world. Some of us choose to do purely clinical research, or get involved in large clinical trials; others choose to do bench work; and some of us try to reconcile between the two and get involved in translational research. Regardless of where your passion lies, you'll be able to get it satisfied in pediatric infectious diseases, as the options are endless. Your program directors should provide you with protected uninterrupted time to do your research during your fellowship.
  3. Infection prevention/ hospital epidemiology – The need for physicians proficient in infection prevention continues to increase day by day, as the joint commission has very strict requirements on hospitals. If this is your interest, ask your program to provide extra time for you to spend with your hospital epidemiologist/ infection prevention team, investigating outbreaks, discussing weekly updates from constructions to new guidelines to isolation policies. SHEA also offers a Fellows Course in Hospital Epidemiology & Infection Control.
  4. Antimicrobial stewardship – This is a fairly new area that has been gaining tremendous interest over the past few years, as pioneers have shown they can reduce antimicrobial use, and in some instances, cost to the hospitals with such programs. These programs encourage judicious use of antimicrobials with the goal of preventing development of resistance. Most hospitals have developed such programs lead by infectious diseases physicians and pharmacists. If your institution does not have a program, you can request electives at other institutions to develop your skills. PIDS offers an annual meeting (ASP held in Kansas City in late spring every year) that may be of benefit, not to mention the many lectures and workshops held during ID Week.
  5. HIV – HIV infection still has a presence in pediatrics. As excited as we get with the decrease in the number of vertical transmissions, we still see new acquisitions of infections. Most institutions have excellent HIV programs where ID physicians work with nutritionists, psychologists, pharmacists, and social workers to improve lives of children with HIV. PIDS offers a yearly Pediatric HIV/AIDS Training Course in February and plenty of information is available on the HIVMA website including career opportunities in the USA and internationally. If you feel this is an area that interests you, consider spending elective time in an Adult HIV Clinic, to gain additional experience providing HIV care.
  6. Transplant – As the number of Solid Organ and Stem Cell Transplants increase, the number of specific diseases related to severe immune deficiencies created by such transplants increases as well, and physicians proficient at dealing with these diseases are needed. PIDS holds an annual pediatric transplant ID symposium in February. Infectious diseases transplant fellowships are available but not in pediatrics yet. However, you may elect to spend time with your transplant teams, spend time rounding with an Adult Transplant ID service, or get an away elective at a place with strong transplant ID teams during your fellowship. Any extra training in transplant ID would be extremely beneficial to your career search if this were your interest.
  7. Industry – Pharmaceutical companies are always looking for physicians to lead their teams, and training in infectious diseases could open up a lot of doors for you in the industry world. Industry positions would include those requiring expertise in both scientific and management issues. Pediatric ID experts play a role in every aspect of drug and vaccine development and evaluation process.
  8. Global health – When you say Global health, you say Infectious Diseases! Opportunities in global health are endless, from working from the US to improve the health of children throughout the world, to being physically present in the field helping underprivileged populations. USAID, CDC, and WHO, among many other agencies, open up doors for you to do what you love and help prevent and treat infectious diseases. Baylor international pediatric AIDS initiative is an example of an agency whose primary purpose is to provide pediatric and family-centered health care, health professional training and clinical research, focused on HIV/AIDS, TB, malaria, malnutrition among others. You can start during your fellowship and get a feel of what this entails. You can find a long list of meetings you can attend on
  9. CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) – The CDC hires specialized medical officers who will help carry out their mission in the world. They need physicians that can provide care, help control and prevent diseases, as well as perform studies. From tracking the epidemiology of infectious diseases to monitoring vaccine preventable diseases and investigating unusual or emerging pathogens, an infectious disease specialist can be a great addition to such programs. The CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases provides leadership for the planning, coordination, and conduct of immunization activities nationwide. For those specifically interested in epidemiology training and/or outbreak investigation, the Epidemic Intelligence Service is something to investigate – these medical officers serve as "disease detectives" for the CDC and other health departments.
  10. State/local public health departments – Many infectious diseases specialists dedicate their time to improving the public health in their city, state, or country. Public health departments promote the need for vaccination, assess vaccination coverage levels, evaluate outbreaks of disease, educate parents and providers, and purchase, distribute, and administer vaccines. You can see how an infectious diseases specialist could be a great addition to their department.
  11. NIH (National Institutes of Health) – The NIH is a federal agency whose primary mission is to support and conduct medical research and to improve the public health, in the nation and worldwide. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) researches some of the world's top health issues including HIV/AIDS, influenza, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), bioterrorism, and immune system research, among many others. Basic science and clinical research are promoted. The NIH offers summer internships for students, elective rotations for residents and fellows, in addition to multiple other opportunities you can find on their website, which has tons of information on how to pursue a career with them. Pursuing additional training in research (such a Master's degree in clinical research if you are interested in their clinical research) may be and excellent tool that would help you in this career choice.
  12. FDA (Federal Food and Drug Administration) – The FDA is responsible for protecting the public health by assuring the safety, efficacy and security of drugs, food supply etc. It works on advancing the public health by helping to speed innovations that make medicines more effective, safer, and more affordable. As a pediatric infectious diseases physician, you may find opportunities within the FDA whether by drug regulation, food safety and food borne illness, as well as in research that would help advance therapies.
  13. Education – Many of us have a passion for teaching - your pediatric infectious diseases fellowship will provide you with tools to foster this interest. Through both undergraduate and graduate medical education, we have so much to offer, and students have so much to learn from us. Regardless of which track you decide to take, education will be a part of it. You can make this your primary interest if you elect to, by working on becoming a residency or fellowship program director, a clerkship director, getting involved in GME, etc.
  14. Quality and performance improvement – This is gaining significant interest as quality improvement in healthcare still has ways to catch up with other industries. Hospitals have been placing more importance on error prevention and performance improvement as it saves money and provides better care to the patients. As a pediatric infectious diseases specialist, you can help improve the quality of the care delivered in your institution and in the world. Extra training is available through many programs such as LEAN/Six Sigma training, Healthcare delivery institute, Institute of Healthcare improvement, Quality and Safety Education Academy and others.

Advanced Degrees

Depending upon your scholarly interests, pursuing an advanced degree during fellowship may be of interest to you. Such programs can provide additional training that will enhance your ability to succeed in your chosen scholarly activity and future career. Additionally, research activities conducted for a degree will usually fulfill your fellowship scholarly project requirement. Many fellows pursuing advanced degrees choose a Master's degree. These are often two-year programs and thus fit well with the fellowship timeline, particularly if a fellow completes the majority of clinical duties during first year. However, any degree is possible if you can find a way to weave it into your training program. Here are some examples:

  1. MSCI/MSCE: Master of Science in Clinical Investigation or Master of Science in Clinical Epidemiology programs are designed to provide formal training in clinical research methods.
  2. MPH: Master of Public Health provides formal training to conduct clinical or public health research. It can also better prepare you for a career in public health.
  3. MEd: Master of Education programs are designed to foster educational skills, curriculum development, and program leadership among other areas. This degree is suitable for someone who intends to focus on medical education.
  4. Other possibilities: Quality Improvement training (Master's degree in healthcare quality and safety, LEAN/Six Sigma training, InterMountain Health Advanced Training Program, Institute for Healthcare Improvement, AAMC Te4Q...), Master of Science in Translational Research, Master of Science in Health Policy Research, or training in any field that aligns with your research interests (e.g. Pharmacology, Informatics, etc)

In addition to assessing whether your fellowship program can provide the dedicated time needed to pursue advanced training, it is also important to consider how the degree will be funded. Some institutions offer T32 training grants or other training programs that will support an advanced degree. An individual F32 grant may support some tuition costs as well. You may be eligible for tuition benefits from your institution, although these may be taxable, so not entirely "free." Attending a public school with in-state tuition benefits is another way to reduce tuition costs. Be sure to ask about these issues during the interview process so you know what to expect.

Funding Opportunities

Some fellowships will encourage you to identify funding sources for your second and third year. Ask about funding expectations during your fellowship interviews. If you anticipate applying for funding, discuss this with your fellowship director early on, as some deadlines fall even before you start fellowship. Fellows also may apply for grants for specific research studies, or begin applying for funding for the years after fellowship if that is in line with career plans.

PIDS maintains a list of funding opportunities for fellows and issues some fellow awards of its own. PIDS also maintains a separate list of Funding Sources for all investigators – some may be appropriate for early investigators, so take a look!

Additional sites to investigate:

  1. Nationally, individuals look to NIH funding. Many institutions hold training grants (T32), or can help you apply for NIH Fellowship funding (F-series).
  2. Loan Repayment through the NIH is possible for those planning to pursue research careers.
  3. Antimicrobial Resistance Leadership Group 
  4. PCORI
  5. Thrasher Research Fund
  6. Albert Einstein has historically maintained a comprehensive website