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Residency Programs

Preventive medicine is an exciting specialty that links the knowledge and skills of clinical medicine with the special skill sets of medical management, research, and population health. Specialists work in diverse settings to promote health and to modify or eliminate the risks of disease, injury, disability, and death.

Career paths include managed care, public health, occupational medicine, aerospace medicine, clinical medicine, informatics, policy development, academic medicine, international medicine, and research, covering all levels of government, educational institutions, organized medical care programs in industry, as well as voluntary health agencies and professional health organizations.

Overview of Residency Training in Preventive Medicine

Preventive medicine is one of 24 recognized board certifications represented in the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS). Completion of residency training in preventive medicine is an essential step to become certified in one or more of the preventive medicine specialty areas: General Preventive Medicine/Public Health, Occupational Medicine, and Aerospace Medicine.

There are currently 71 accredited Preventive Medicine residency training programs in the United States. Generally, programs are located in schools of medicine, schools of public health, state or local health departments, and in federal agencies and military bases. These programs are usually small and take an individualized approach to training. There are approximately 350 residents in training every year.

Residency program accreditation is accomplished through the Preventive Medicine Residency Review Committee (RRC) of the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME). The ACGME-RRC is the body which establishes accreditation requirements for residency programs and which reviews the programs to determine their compliance with the requirements. Board certification is offered through the American Board of Preventive Medicine (ABPM). Established in 1948, ABPM is the body with responsibility for determining physician eligibility for certification and recertification in preventive medicine.

Structure of an Accredited Residency Program in Preventive Medicine

In addition to the knowledge of basic clinical sciences and skills common to all physicians, the distinctive aspects of preventive medicine include knowledge of and competence in these 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 specificity of these skills varying between General Preventive Medicine, Occupational Medicine and Aerospace Medicine; and
  • Assessment of population and individual health needs.

Prior to appointment in the program, residents 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. Resident experience must include at least 11 months of direct patient care in both inpatient and outpatient settings. Residents should develop competency in the following fundamental clinical skills during this experience:

  • 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; and
  • Developing, implementing, and evaluating a treatment plan.

The two year PM residency training includes 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’s in Public health or equivalent degree. Those residents entering with an appropriate degree enhance their didactics with additional coursework. Whether through a Master’s in Public Health or other equivalent degree, prior to completion of the residency program, all residents must complete graduate level courses in epidemiology; biostatistics; health services management and administration; environmental health; and the behavioral aspects of health.

The practicum experiences 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: 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, and OSHA, research settings, to name a few. Please see "Examples of Preventive Medicine Training Opportunities" for more information.

Combined Residency Training in Preventive Medicine and Other Specialties

Combined residency training is designed to lead to board certification in each of the medical specialties providing training. Sometimes, combined training will reduce the length of training for both specialties by as much as one year. Since 1993, ABPM and the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM) have had in place formal, approved guidelines for combined training. This training is designed to lead to board certification in both preventive medicine and internal medicine, following four years of accredited residency training. Several programs also offer approved Family Medicine/Preventive Medicine training opportunities across four years.

Residencies which offer combined training programs must maintain their accreditation status through each specialty RRC. The ACGME does not accredit combined training programs of any kind.

Residency Programs Application Process

You should contact programs directly for further information and for application instructions. The program directors may also be able to provide you with names of specialists whom you could contact for information. View a the Preventive Medicine (Public Health, General, Occupational and Aerospace) programs that participate in the Electronic Residency Application Service (ERAS).

GPM/PH Standardized Acceptance Process (SAP) 

Since January 2017,  ACPM has been administering the standardized acceptance process for GPM/PH programs that have agreed to participate in the process. This process establishes a uniform method of selecting residents to various PM programs for residencies beginning in July of that year. The policy and the process was developed by a task force of ACPM members comprised of program directors and residents. Not all GPM/PH programs are participating in this process. ACPM held its inaugural SAP in January 2017 and its second SAP in January 2018. ACPM will hold its third SAP in January 2019.  

Learn more about the SAP and the policy by visiting  www.acpm.org/prevmedsap 

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