FDA Fellowship - Should I take it?

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FDA Fellowship - Should I take it?

Postby SVG » Sat Jul 10, 2010 4:02 pm

I recently found out I had been chosen as a FDA Commissioner's Fellow for 2010. I'm excited and proud to have been selected, but I now find myself hesitating about accepting for a few reasons.

My partner is a junior faculty with little geographic mobility, and taking the position would mean living apart for two years. Not ideal, but a sacrifice I am definitely willing to make for the fellowship (I had made that decision even before applying).

However, due this familial constraint, I will most likely not stay with the FDA, or in the DC area, after the fellowship (unless a post with the FDA is available in my current location). My background is in biomedical engineering (heavier on the engineering) and I'll soon be finishing up a postdoc. I have been searching for an industrial position for 4-5 months (though not in earnest) in my region. I am confident I will find a job eventually, but there are not many positions for people with my background/training in the area.

I still enjoy the bench research, but I'd like to expand my scientific skill sets, and for that the FDA position is a terrific opportunity. However, I fear that the two-year stint as a fellow with the FDA won't really be sufficient time to gain the experience necessary to seamlessly transition to alternative career paths (regulatory affairs, medical device consulting, QA/QC, etc). I don't expect the fellowship to magically open the doors to new opportunities, but since I'm geographically limited I worry that after leaving I may end up having to take a position for which I'm already qualified. In which case I should just find that position now, even though it'll take some.

I'm not concerned that the two years at the FDA will be waste - in fact, I'm certain I will find it quite fulfilling. But it requires me to be away from family, the salary is lower than I would offered in an industry job at my level, and the uncertainty of future career prospects all make me hesitant.

I think my concerns regarding the fellowship are unfounded, but I don't really have evidence to the contrary yet (after having spoken to a few of the current fellows). Thoughts?
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FDA Fellowship - Should I take it?

Postby Jack » Sun Jul 11, 2010 6:37 pm

First, congratulations!

Seldom is any situation ideal, so don't let ideal be the enemy of good enough. You might find a real job with a 10 minute commute that starts the week after your postdocs ends, but you might be looking for a year or more. You need to weigh the pros, cons, and probabilities of each, but there is seldom enough information to do so precisely. Good luck with your choice.
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FDA Fellowship - Should I take it?

Postby Kelly » Mon Jul 12, 2010 7:11 am

It is a great opportunity. Why did you apply or has your situation changed since application?
I think you should do it; 2 years is not that long to be apart.
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FDA Fellowship - Should I take it?

Postby Emil Chuck » Mon Jul 12, 2010 7:49 am

I'll go with Kelly: why did you apply for the position? Have you asked the program directors there about how they handle situations like yours?

Of course, as a person in DC, I also really say that if you don't see yourself working in DC forever, ask whether there are similar positions out where you might want to keep your "home". I also agree with Kelly that 2 years isn't that long, and many people who work in DC are itinerant. We're used to having people come and go every four to eight years. :)
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FDA Fellowship - Should I take it?

Postby SVG » Mon Jul 12, 2010 6:49 pm

Thank you for the feedback. I originally applied due to my interest in the fellowship - I felt it would be a great opportunity to both learn about and contribute to the efforts at the FDA. I had also lived in the DC area a few years ago, and had become quite fond of the city during my brief stint there (i.e., I knew it was a place I could live pretty happily even w/o my partner). My partner was also in the midst of searching for a faculty position at the time, so there was still some uncertainty regarding location.

My concerns are more of a recent development. After I spoke to a few of the current fellows I learned that some of their colleagues were still struggling to find positions even as the program is soon coming to an end. I imagine that is in part a symptom of the current economic state, but I was nonetheless a bit alarmed. Hence the recent fear in making the commitment, which, as I still suspect, isn't truly warranted.
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FDA Fellowship - Should I take it?

Postby BMK » Thu Jul 15, 2010 8:10 am

SVG: Were you able to make your decision in the end?
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FDA Fellowship - Should I take it?

Postby SVG » Wed Jul 21, 2010 12:01 am

I mulled it over some more last week, and in the end I realized that I applied to the fellowship because I truly wanted it. No new career move is devoid of anxiety or compromise, and I shouldn't let my fears prevent me from a great opportunity that I'm actually interested in pursuing. So, I accepted!
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Re: FDA Fellowship - Should I take it?

Postby Kristen J. » Mon May 12, 2014 11:42 pm

Hello SVG,
I realize this is an old post, but I am hoping it is possible to get in contact with you still.
I was doing some research and came across this old post about your dilemma with the Commissioner's Fellowship Program. I could relate to everything you wrote about- I have both a Bachelor's and Master's in Biomedical Engineering and am very interested in the work of the FDA and know this would be an amazing opportunity. One of the cons, like you mentioned, is leaving my family for a 2-year job, with the possibility of being hired at the end.
I am in the process of applying, so I don't yet have to make the hard decision of accepting (that is, if I am actually accepted), but if you have a few minutes, I would love to hear about your experience in the program and if you have any suggestions or recommendations, specifically if you really gained the experience necessary for a seamless transition into Regulatory Affairs/QA.
I truly hope the Fellowship worked out well for you and look forward to your response.

Kristen J.
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Re: FDA Fellowship - Should I take it?

Postby D. Janes » Wed Nov 02, 2016 4:38 pm

For the record, working at OSEL in CDRH is a great way for someone with a Biomedical Engineering background to transition to a regulatory career. However, to get regulatory jobs in industry you usually have to be a "lead reviewer" for a few years (3-5)and get that experience on your resume. The postdoc and staff fellow positions are to get phd's in the door, once you are there you can interview for "lead reviewer" positions that are "real government jobs". In OSEL you can meet all the branches and see where you fit in. I worked there for 2 years so I know.
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Re: FDA Fellowship - Should I take it?

Postby RGM » Thu Nov 03, 2016 8:26 pm

I'm sure there's an exception, but I haven't come across a soul who regretted taking one of the many fellowships this Fed Gov't offers, including this one.

If you get the opportunity, take it, it may literally change your life for the better.
"Some men see things as they are and say why, I dream things that never were and say why not"
"If you think research is expensive, try disease." - Mary Lasker
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