When UICOMP expanded its GME footprint by adding fellowships to the residency training opportunities, cardiology fellowship was the first. Fellowship program director Sudhir Mungee, MD, who came to Peoria in 2006, was among the few who envisioned the idea of offering a fellowship to expand the wings of GME and provide specialty training for cardiologists.

With a patient base of 1.2 million and OSF HealthCare’s reputation for excellence in cardiac care, it only made sense, Mungee says. Taking that step required a supporting institution with the volume and spectrum of patients to provide training and faculty to mentor fellows. With the support of UICOMP and OSF HealthCare, the vision of many came to fruition.

The Cardiology Fellowship started in 2013 and is a three-year clinical fellowship with three fellows accepted each year, making nine fellows at any given time. Fellows go through rigorous didactics in all aspects of cardiovascular disease and are trained on varied procedures. Since its inception, 24 fellows have graduated from the program. Following graduation, most fellows have accepted advanced fellowships at other prestigious institutions throughout the nation in fields like interventional, electrophysiology, or heart failure. Some have joined the parent program as faculty.

“We receive an average of 500-plus applications for three positions each year, and we bring in the most talented physicians with a goal on being all inclusive and diverse,” Mungee says. “Having a fellowship raises the bar and quality in residency training and throughout graduate medical education. From medical student to residents to fellows to faculty, there is a natural and seamless hierarchy of learning. The Cardiology Fellowship raises both the level of competitiveness and competence.”

Research is an important component of the fellowship as well. Cardiology fellows are involved in case studies, both prospective and retrospective studies, and population health studies. Mungee says the program’s fellows have represented UICOMP and OSF in every national cardiology conference since its inception and have published more than 50 research papers or articles.

The program boasts a 100 percent pass rate for board certification in Cardiology, Echo, Nuclear, CT and Vascular Boards, “but the greatest beneficiaries of the fellowship are the patients” Mungee says. “Not only is there 24/7 access to patient care, but a fellowship also brings the quality of patient care to a higher level.”

“Our faculty are up-to-date in medical literature and evidence-based practice of medicine and are committed to bring on the most recent advances in the field of cardiology,” he says. “This, not only is a need, but a must in an academic program.”

The fellowship is a draw to attract top level faculty as well. “While recruitment to Peoria has been a struggle in the past, the presence of a fellowship is the biggest draw to attract quality, skillful physicians into the program,” Mungee explains. “The fellowship also brings a sense of youthfulness to the program. The faculty/fellow interaction … in teaching we learn, and in learning, they teach us.”

“The sense of excitement is present all the time. We have two hours of academic sessions daily for our fellows. The camaraderie and sense of wellbeing is of the utmost importance as we mature our fellows to become future cardiologists. Our goal is not just to train a board certified cardiologist, but to bring about wholesome growth so that they develop into a compassionate and competent cardiologist.”

Mungee sees tremendous opportunities ahead. “The potential Peoria has in healthcare with its patient base and support of a robust university with OSF HealthCare is immense,” he says. “The future of healthcare must center around academic excellence and patient care; and with Jump Simulation and everything else, we should be the biggest draw to the most talented faculty and fellows to serve our patients. My vision is to create advanced cardiology fellowships – interventional, electrophysiology, heart failure and research … The privilege to provide excellent patient care, paired with the pride of being able to build careers and have fellows expand their horizons puts Peoria on the national map.”

This article is part of the Winter 2021-22 edition of PathwaysRead the full issue.