The widely-known excellence of pediatric surgery at Cincinnati Children’s inspires highly skilled surgeons from all around the world to compete for the chance to come here to further polish their skills.

The year-long International Fellowship Training Program, run by the Division of Pediatric Surgery, was started in 1995 to provide a broad surgical experience to physicians from outside the United States who desire to improve their practice in their home country.

One fellow per year is selected to join the surgical team at Cincinnati Children’s. Fellows perform as many as 250 cases during their stay, sharing on-call responsibilities and rotating through training in colorectal, trauma, fetal and vascular anomaly subspecialties.

“In some countries, pediatric surgeons can be highly educated but sometimes cannot get as much exposure as they’d like in certain procedures,” says Daniel von Allmen, MD, surgical fellowship program director. “They are very interested in seeing how we do things in the U.S.”

The program is built to send surgeons back to their home countries with enhanced skills. In many cases, fellows become leaders in their specialties, von Allmen says. Meanwhile, the fellows help colleagues here learn more about differences in cultures, health care standards and surgical approaches.

“It’s a true exchange,” von Allmen says.“Sometimes our fellows arrive with experience in conditions that have a much higher incidence in their countries than in the United States.”

Getting here is not easy.

To practice in the U.S., even in a training role, surgery fellows must meet requirements set by the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG.) These include passing the first two parts of the three-step United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) and passing an English language proficiency test.

International surgery fellows who study here include recent surgical graduates seeking exposure to pediatric specialties, and established pediatric surgeons looking for in-depth training in a particular sub-specialty.

While the fellows benefit from exposure to advanced programs, Cincinnati Children’s benefits from expanded worldwide relationships. Graduating fellows go home knowing about experts here who can help their patients down the road, especially children with rare or especially complex cases.

“Nothing compares to having a surgeon spending a year here, not only to get to know the institution and its capabilities, but also to get to know each other as people,” von Allmen says. “That can lead to relationships that last for many years.”