Increased focus on the number and type of physicians delivering health care in the United States necessitates a better understanding of changes in graduate medical education (GME). Data collected by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) allow longitudinal tracking of residents, revealing the number and type of residents who continue GME following completion of an initial residency. We examined trends in the percent of graduates pursuing additional clinical education following graduation from ACGME-accredited pipeline specialty programs (specialties leading to initial board certification).
Using data collected annually by the ACGME, we tracked residents graduating from ACGME-accredited pipeline specialty programs between academic year (AY) 2002–2003 and AY 2006–2007 and those pursuing additional ACGME-accredited training within 2 years. We examined changes in the number of graduates and the percent of graduates continuing GME by specialty, by type of medical school, and overall.
The number of pipeline specialty graduates increased by 1171 (5.3%) between AY 2002–2003 and AY 2006–2007. During the same period, the number of graduates pursuing additional GME increased by 1059 (16.7%). The overall rate of continuing GME increased each year, from 28.5% (6331/22229) in AY 2002–2003 to 31.6% (7390/23400) in AY 2006–2007. Rates differed by specialty and for US medical school graduates (26.4% [3896/14752] in AY 2002–2003 to 31.6% [4718/14941] in AY 2006–2007) versus international medical graduates (35.2% [2118/6023] to 33.8% [2246/6647]).
The number of graduates and the rate of continuing GME increased from AY 2002–2003 to AY 2006–2007. Our findings show a recent increase in the rate of continued training for US medical school graduates compared to international medical graduates. Our results differ from previously reported rates of subspecialization in the literature. Tracking individual residents through residency and fellowship programs provides a better understanding of residents' pathways to practice.