Purpose Well-trained educators fill essential roles across the medical education continuum. Some medical schools offer programs for existing faculty to enhance teaching and scholarship. No standard postgraduate training model exists for residency graduates to attain competency as faculty members before their first academic appointment. The objective of this study is to inform the development of postgraduate medical education fellowships by exploring perceptions of educational leaders who direct well-established faculty development programs. Method The authors undertook a qualitative study, using purposeful sampling to recruit participants and a constant comparative approach to identify themes. They conducted semistructured telephone interviews with directors of faculty development fellowships using an interpretivist/constructivist paradigm (November 2013). Questions addressed curricular and fiscal structure, perceived benefits and challenges, and advice for starting a postgraduate fellowship. Results Directors reported institutional and participant benefits, notably the creation of a community of educators and pool of potential leaders. Curricular offerings focused on learning theory, teaching, assessment, leadership, and scholarship. Funding and protected time were challenges. Advice for new program directors included evaluating best practices, defining locally relevant goals; garnering sufficient, stable financial support; and rallying leaders' endorsement. Conclusions Medical education fellowships cultivate leaders and communities of trained educators but require participants to balance faculty responsibilities with professional development. Advice of current directors can inform the development of postgraduate programs modeled after accredited clinical specialty fellowships. Programs with the support of strategic partners, financial stability, and well-defined goals may allow new faculty to begin their careers with existing competency in medical education skills.
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