“It’s all true. Read the testimonials from prior fellows and realize it is all true. The Prairie Fellowship offers an opportunity to work with an incredibly talented group of physicians with a large patient population and referral source leading to what seems like a never ending case mix of widely varied and complex procedures, some of which have never been done before or rarely done at any other institution.  Creating that list, showing my procedure log, or compiling all the statements from previous fellows would be enough to validate the learning, experience, career development, and “good to great” expectation of the program. However, there are other aspects of the fellowship worth highlighting in addition to the phenomenal operators and large, varied case mix. For an accurate and compelling list of these procedures I encourage you to read all of the other fellow testimonials. What follows are several additional aspects of the Prairie Fellowship that allow the fellows to take full advantage and learn the most possible from the faculty and procedures.

Culturally Prairie Heart and Vascular wants the fellows to learn. It begins with the primary faculty (Drs. Goldstein, Goswami, and Nandish) who set a tone of acceptance, respect, and passion for learning that flows to all the physicians, cath lab personnel, nurses, and administrative staff. Frequently people reach out to make sure you know about schedule changes, text when new cases are added, mark you name down to be called when cases start, call you to scrub  into a room to see something unexpected, and encourage your participation and opinion. Everyone involved wants you to scrub in and do as much as you can. As an example, once it was known I was hoping to gain transeptal experience the EP staff would find me and point out the best cases and times for transeptals. The enthusiasm and encouragement for the fellows to see, do, and learn is an added dimension to the fellowship that does not show up in lists of procedures but is equally important and unique.

The entire Prairie Heart and Vascular is open to the fellows. Because each fellow comes with a different experience and skill set, the fellowship is not one size fits all. With the breadth of Prairie Heart and Vascular the fellows can design an experience that fits their need. Whether spending more time in Vascular Medicine, non-invasive testing, venous ablation, focusing on structural heart and spending time in valve clinic on non-structural heart procedure days, needing to focus on procedural numbers for credentialing purposes, or learning coronary CTO. The flexibility of the program, allowing the fellow to focus and learn the specific areas they need, is yet another unique and distinguishing feature of the Prairie Advanced Heart and Vascular Fellowship.
Participation in research is readily available to the fellows. Many cases are done as part of clinical trials through the research arm of Prairie, The Prairie Research and Education Cooperative.  This gives the fellows exposure to increased case volume (carotid stenting for example), new devices (four different heart valves were available), and some devices with a very limited number of trial sites.  In addition, case reports, data review, and presentations are available for fellows looking to build a resume.

Although it is a big commitment to participate in the Prairie fellowship, especially mid-career, once there you quickly realize how fortunate you are and wish you could stay longer. It is clearly worth it for any fully trained interventional cardiologist that is looking to gain confidence and experience in a much wider range of procedures.  At many institutions it would take several different physicians or even specialties to cover what one Prairie Interventionalist covers. They have a passion for wanting their fellows to learn these skills as well, for their fellows to go from “good to great.”

Peter Higgins, M.D.

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