Directors of postgraduate internal medicine programs face many problems in program design, particularly when numbers of house staff continue to decrease. This paper examines the training requirements of a resident in internal medicine and proposes a curriculum based on set rotations in the three key areas of training--subspecialty services, critical care and the clinical teaching unit. The distribution of time in these three areas and the balance of exposure to inpatients and outpatients are discussed in detail. This program design ensures exposure to all the key elements of internal medicine in 3 years and should prevent significant gaps in knowledge at the time of certification. The implications for "service" in major teaching hospitals is discussed. Hospital departments and administrators must confront the prospect of hospital units without house staff. Most important, program directors must resist sacrificing the pedagogic essentials of a training program for service requirements.