Objective: this article reviews the current status and recent trends in the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology (ABPN) psychiatric subspecialties and discusses the implications of those trends as well as several key questions whose answers may well determine subspecialty viability.
Methods: data are presented on specialty and subspecialty programs; graduates; and ABPN certification candidates and diplomates drawn from several sources, including the records of the ABPN, the websites of the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education and the American Medical Association, and the annual medical education issues of JAMA.
Results: fewer than half of psychiatry graduates pursue subspecialty training. While most recent specialty graduates attempt to become certified by the ABPN, many subspecialists elect not to do so. There have been recent decreases in the number of fellowship programs and trainees in geriatric psychiatry and addiction psychiatry. The pass rates for fellowship graduates are superior to those for the "grandfathers" in all of the newer psychiatric subspecialties. Lower percentages of subspecialists than specialists participate in maintenance of certification, and maintenance of certification pass rates are high.
Conclusion: the initial interest in training and certification in some of the ABPN subspecialties appears to have slowed, and the long-term viability of those subspecialties may well depend on the answers to a number of complicated social, economic, and political questions in the new health care era.