Yu Hwee Tan
Yu Hwee TanMBChB FRANZCOG CU, on behalf of the IUGA FTECP Committee

How to Have a Successful Start to Your Career as a Specialist: Tips and Advice

Starting your career as a specialist or subspecialist can be daunting and filled with challenges – from trying to set up your private practice to ensuring that you are providing great training for your fellows or trainees. So, on behalf of the IUGA Fellows, Trainees and Early Career Professionals Committee, we have put together some tips for building your portfolio as a trainee to help you have the best chance of getting a job you love as well as some advice regarding starting your career as a specialist to help you on your way.

Building Your Portfolio

Your CV/Resume

  • When thinking about building your CV, remember A.M.P. (i.e., Clinical, Academic, Managerial, Personal/Professional) skills. This will help you become a well-rounded consultant.
  • Have a mentor or senior colleague look at your CV and give you feedback.


  • Get involved in research early and consider having a “niche” or specialty area that you are interested in so you can differentiate yourself from other candidates.
  • Present your research at meetings – this will help build your CV and provide great opportunities for networking with peers and colleagues at conferences.
  • Submit your research to journals in order to publish, as this will add to your CV as well and give you experience in conducting research and writing journal articles.


  • Find committed mentors during your fellowship and training whom you can learn from but also who would be willing to contact their colleagues on your behalf.
  • Attend conferences and use these as networking opportunities.
  • If you know which geographic location you would like to work, find out which hospitals, universities or private groups are located there and reach out early. Network at conferences and consider having your mentor reach out on your behalf.

When You Start as a Consultant

  • Scrub with your senior colleagues or have them assist you for complex cases whenever possible. This will help you develop your skills and grow as a surgeon – it will also be especially helpful if you are working in a hospital, you have never worked at before. This is also a unique opportunity before you get too busy for learning useful new tips and tricks that you might not have learned during your own fellowship. 
  • Develop good relationships with your senior colleagues and have their contact details handy for when you encounter tough or challenging cases.
  • Ask your senior partners for help and advice to build your referral base and establish your practice. They have walked this road before and can offer advice to help you avoid any potential missteps!
  • If there is an opportunity for professional coaching, seize it! This is an enormous transition for you, and it is a good opportunity to have a ‘third party’ person to bounce your ideas, thoughts and fears off. Many institutions will financially support this via CME funds. 

Resource identification: Determine sources for information to address the challenges faced as a new consultant e.g., where do I go for hormone replacement therapy guidelines, who do I speak to for technical support, industry contacts for devices and products?

Kristina Warner
Kristina WarnerMD, FPMRS Fellow, University of Wisconsin Unity Point Meriter Hospital

How Do You Build Your Portfolio During Fellowship in Preparation for Your Early Career?

As an Urogynecology Fellow, my training experience has afforded me incredible opportunities to advance my clinical skillset and explore research interests while under the guidance of skilled mentors. As I prepare to transition from trainee to early career attending physician, the best advice that I have received for building my professional portfolio in fellowship has been simple – be intentional.

trainee corner article2

1. Set Your Goal(s)

Where do you see yourself in 1 week, 1 month, 1 year? The answer to these questions will inform your future, so take time to do this deep work and examine your personal and professional passions. What do you enjoy and is there a career model that most resonates with you? Academic medicine or private practice? Office-based practice or surgery? Clinical research or resident teaching? Although I would caution against binary thinking, it is helpful to engage in thought exercises that center your interests as you work to define your end game.

2. Make a Plan

Realizing your goals requires strategic planning. I recommend using the S.M.A.R.T. acronym as a guide to develop Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timely goals. By describing each of your goals in exhaustive detail and including clear benchmarks you will be better able to measure progress.

Goal: To publish original research.

S.M.A.R.T. Goal: To publish ten peer-reviewed articles on pelvic floor disorders within the next year.

3. Get to Work

You must fully commit to your S.M.A.R.T. goals to achieve them! Purposeful action requires intentionality about where and how you spend your efforts – time and energy. Fully consider whether tasks align with your passions before committing and determine whether they will help propel you forward.

4. Measure Your Progress

Take opportunities to check in with yourself and course correct if necessary. Are you meeting the mark? Have your interests evolved? Revisit your short and long-term goals, modify your plans, and get back to work.

Maria Giroux
Maria GirouxBSc, MD, FRCSC, Toronto, Canada

How to build your portfolio during your fellowship for an academic career?

I am a Female Pelvic Medicine and Reconstructive Surgery (FPMRS) fellow at the University of Toronto in Toronto, Canada. Upon completion of fellowship, I will be pursuing an academic career. These are my top three tips for trainees interested in an academic career. 

  1. Select a niche within urogynecology that you are passionate about and build your portfolio in that area through clinical care, research, medical education, advocacy, leadership, and patient-centered innovation. Obstetrical Anal Sphincter Injuries (OASIS) is one of my biggest areas of interest and I want to dedicate my entire career towards advancing care for women with OASIS worldwide.
  2. Be enthusiastic and cultivate a growth mindset. It is paramount to develop a clear vision and 1-, 5-, and 10-year plans for your academic career. Set specific goals, take initiative, seek feedback, challenge yourself, and seize opportunities that enable you to develop the skillset required to achieve your vision. My dream is to establish a multidisciplinary postpartum clinic. To develop clinical skills in this area, I have attended Mr. Abdul Sultan and Miss Ranee Thakar IUGA’s workshops and learned from the OASIS clinic during my observership with Mr. Ashish Pradhan in Cambridge, UK. I am currently learning endoanal ultrasound interpretation from Dr. May Alarab, who is a Canadian expert in OASIS and established a dedicated postpartum perineal clinic at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto. I am also completing an MSc in Pain Management at Cardiff University and focusing my studies on biopsychosocial approach to postpartum pain management. To develop research skills, I am conducting multiple OASIS research studies and working with the IUGA’s OASIS writing group to provide guidance for management for subsequent delivery post-OASIS. To develop teaching skills, I founded the OBGYN Academy, which is a multidisciplinary collaboration with more than 10 million views worldwide. We created a webpage specific to OASIS educational resources: To develop presentation skills, I am presenting several national OASIS workshops. To develop skills required to lead the implementation of a new postpartum clinic in the future, I have completed the Executive Healthcare Leadership and Healthcare Change Leadership Programs at Cornell University. Cultivating skills that are valuable for your future practice is vital to your academic success.
  1. Build collaborative relationships that complement your academic interests. Mentors have a significant influence on a trainee’s career path as they use their vast experience and serve as a source of knowledge to inspire trainees and provide feedback to support growth. Since I became fascinated by urogynecology after attending the 2013 IUGA meeting as a first-year medical student, I have had numerous incredible mentors who guided me to pursue an academic career path. One of my biggest mentors is Dr. Corrine Jabs, who shaped my leadership skills, and we co-chaired the OASIS Subcommittee together to design and implement the Provincial OASIS Care Pathway. Another incredible mentor is Dr. Colleen McDermott, the past president of the Canadian Society for Pelvic Medicine (CSPM), who inspired me to pursue leadership within urogynecology. As the new Chair of the CSPM Standardization Committee and the Fellow Representative of the CSPM Educational Committee, I am collaborating with several multidisciplinary teams to advance urogynecology education at the national level. Seeking out mentorship relationships is paramount for enhancing your professional development.

As you are developing your academic portfolio, engage in self-reflection and enjoy the journey of professional growth towards your academic destination.