Thriving or surviving? A critical examination of funding models for fellowship council fellowships

Joo H. Lee, Joshua J. Weis, Mark A. Talamini, Linda Schultz, Yumi Hori, Madhuri B. Nagaraj, Daniel J. Scott

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Since 1997, the Fellowship Council (FC) has evolved into a robust organization responsible for the advanced training of nearly half of the US residency graduates entering general surgery practice. While FC fellowships are competitive (55% match rate) and offer outstanding educational experiences, funding is arguably vulnerable. This study aimed to investigate the current funding models of FC fellowships. Methods: Under an IRB-approved protocol, an electronic survey was administered to 167 FC programs with subsequent phone interviews to collect data on total cost and funding sources. De-identified data were also obtained via 2020–2021 Foundation for Surgical Fellowships (FSF) grant applications. Means and ranges are reported. Results: Data were obtained from 59 programs (35% response rate) via the FC survey and 116 programs via FSF applications; the average cost to train one fellow per year was $107,957 and $110,816, respectively. Most programs utilized departmental and grants funds. Additionally, 36% (FC data) to 39% (FSF data) of programs indicated billing for their fellow, generating on average $74,824 ($15,000–200,000) and $33,281 ($11,500–66,259), respectively. FC data documented that 14% of programs generated net positive revenue, whereas FSF data documented that all programs were budget-neutral. Conclusion: Both data sets yielded similar overall results, supporting the accuracy of our findings. Expenses varied widely, which may, in part, be due to regional cost differences. Most programs relied on multiple funding sources. A minority were able to generate a positive revenue stream. Although fewer than half of programs billed for their fellow, this source accounted for substantial revenue. Institutional support and external grant funding have continued to be important sources for the majority of programs as well. Given the value of these fellowships and inherent vulnerabilities associated with graduate medical education funding, alternative grant funding models and standardization of annual financial reporting are encouraged.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2607-2613
Number of pages7
JournalSurgical endoscopy
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2022


  • Fellowship council
  • Fellowships
  • Funding
  • Graduate medical education

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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