Preventive medicine is a specialty that bridges clinical practice and public health. Specialists work in diverse settings and tap into a broad skill set to prevent disease and promote the health of individuals, communities and populations.
Physicians completing a preventive medicine residency gain a breadth of skills that opens many potential career paths in population health system management, public health and epidemiology, clinical care, health informatics, public health policy development and much more. Preventive medicine physicians work in a variety of settings including state and local health departments, Fortune 100 companies, health systems and all levels of government.
Value of Residency
Completion of residency training in preventive medicine is an essential step to become certified in one or more of the preventive medicine specialty areas: Public Health and General Preventive Medicine, Occupational Medicine, and Aerospace Medicine.
There are currently 72 accredited preventive medicine residency training programs in the United States. Programs are administered by schools of medicine, schools of public health, state or local health departments, or in federal government agencies or branches of the uniformed services. They take an individualized approach to training, with approximately 350 residents in training every year.
Residency program accreditation and ongoing compliance reviews are performed by the Preventive Medicine Residency Review Committee of the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME).
Prospective residents must contact their desired residency programs directly for information and application instructions. Program directors may connect residents with program match specialists who can provide additional information and guidance. Many programs participate in the Preventive Medicine Electronic Residency Application Service.
ACPM administers a voluntary standardized acceptance process for General Preventive Medicine and Public Health residency programs. This centralized service provides the participating programs with a uniform method of selecting residents. ACPM opens registration in October and application review begins the following January.
Prerequisites and Requirements
Prior to an appointment in a preventive medicine residency program, applicants must have successfully completed at least 12 months of clinical education in a residency program accredited by the ACGME, Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada, or the College of Family Physicians of Canada.
Experience must include at least 11 months of direct patient care, in both inpatient and outpatient settings, where residents developed competency in the following clinical skills:
- Obtaining a comprehensive medical history
- Performing a comprehensive physical examination
- Assessing a patient’s medical conditions
- Making appropriate use of diagnostic studies and tests
- Integrating information to develop a differential diagnosis
- Developing, implementing and evaluating a treatment plan
In addition to the base skills related to clinical practice, preventive medicine residency programs feature competencies in the following areas:
- Application of biostatistical principles in methodology
- Recognition of epidemiological principles in methodology
- Planning, administration, and evaluation of health and medical programs and the evaluation of outcomes of health behavior and medical care
- Recognition, assessment and control of environmental hazards to health, including those of occupational environments
- Recognition of the social, cultural and behavioral factors in medicine
- Application and evaluation of primary, secondary and tertiary prevention, with variations based on preventive medicine specialty
- Assessment of population and individual health needs
Two-year training programs include didactics, clinical training, research, public health and other population-based experiences. The didactic training includes both residency-lead seminars, as well as the acquisition of a Master in Public Health or equivalent degree. Those residents entering with an appropriate degree can enhance their didactics with additional coursework. Whether through a Master in Public Health or other equivalent degree, all residents must complete graduate level courses in epidemiology, biostatistics, health services management and administration, environmental health and the behavioral aspects of health.
Practicum experiences can take place across the two years of the residency and include acquisition of skills in clinical and population prevention medicine. Examples of practicum experiences include appointments in: local, state and federal health departments; health maintenance organizations; peer review organizations; community and migrant health centers; occupational health clinics; industrial sites; regulatory agencies; NASA; OSHA; research settings and many more. Reference the Examples of Preventive Medicine Training Opportunities for a comprehensive listing.
Combined Training Programs
Combined residency training is designed to lead to board certification in two medical specialties. Combined programs may reduce the overall length of required training by as much as one year. Residencies that offer combined training programs must maintain their accreditation status through each specialty Residency Review Committee.
The ABPM and the American Board of Internal Medicine have formal guidelines for a combined 4-year residency training program, which leads to board certification in both Preventive Medicine and Internal Medicine.
Several institutions also offer 4-year programs with combined training in preventive medicine and family medicine.
Standardized Acceptance Process (SAP)
The preventive medicine Standardized Acceptance Process (SAP) is a service offered by ACPM to aid in matching prospective preventive medicine residents with available positions at residency programs across the country. The SAP helps to create homogeneity in residency program acceptance timetables, and ensures programs and candidates have adequate time to complete interviews and make and accept offers. Since 2018, nearly three quarters of all General Preventive Medicine and Public Health residency programs have participated in the SAP match.
SAP policy infomation, program guidelines and resources can be found at the bottom of this page.