Come From Away
Carolina Alba
Dr. Carolina Alba is one of many international fellows who has trained — and built her career — at the Peter Munk Cardiac Centre.

The Peter Munk Cardiac Centre's international fellowship program attracts doctors from around the world. Many stay the centre, while others take their newfound expertise back home.

Just over 10 years ago, Dr. Carolina Alba was living in Mendoza, Argentina, which is best known for its stunning mountains and world-class wine. Dr. Alba, who did her residency in the city, assumed she'd start a private cardiology practice there. Instead, in 2009, she moved to Toronto, in part to participate in a highly sought after fellowship program at the Peter Munk Cardiac Centre. 

It's not easy to get into the Centre's fellowship program which accepts 75 physicians, on average, every year. Knowing the Centre's reputation, Dr. Alba knew she would be competing against top colleagues from around the world to get in. When she received word of her acceptance, she was taken aback. "All my ideas around heart failure management would be put to the test, and I would be challenged to consider whether my approach delivers the best outcomes," she says. "I was nervous, but excited." Dr. Alba joined a group of researchers and scientists from around the world for a one- to three-year fellowship to learn skills ranging from cardiovascular surgery and transplant to heart failure and vascular surgery. The fellows are drawn to the Centre's high number of complex cases and Toronto's diverse population, which provides unusually rich learning opportunities. Some fellows stay at the hospital after the program is finished, while the rest take their training back home, bringing the Centre's high-quality cardiac and vascular education to patients around the world. Competition for fellowships is stiff, says Dr. Sean Balmain, the Centre's education lead, both because of the number of applicants and the stage they're at in their careers. "The people who apply are already qualified specialists in their fields," he says. "They come to us for intensified subspecialty experience." Dr. Balmain, who was an international fellow in 2010, held a full-time faculty position in the U.K. before coming to the Centre. And luckily he did — he had to wait two years for his program to start. Similarly, some of today's programs are booked into 2022.