Academic career preparation for residents - are we on the right track? Prevalence of specialized tracks in emergency medicine training programs

BMC Med Educ. 2018 Aug 3;18(1):184. doi: 10.1186/s12909-018-1288-x.


Background: Residency prepares trainees to deliver clinical care. It's unknown if there is adequate career preparation, particularly for academic medicine. Prior literature has shown that interest in pursuing an academic career wanes during residency. Few trainees believe residency provides them with the necessary skills to be successful in academic medicine. Formalized areas of concentration may allow for deepened experience and mentorship in a specific field and may contribute to increased scholarly productivity which has been associated with selecting an academic career. Some training programs have instituted specialized tracks to allow residents to explore and develop an academic or clinical niche. The pervasiveness and characteristics of tracks currently available are unknown. A crucial first step in understanding how to best prepare residents for future careers is to understand current practice. The objective of this study was to identify the prevalence and characteristics of specialized tracks in emergency medicine (EM) training programs in the United States of America (USA).

Methods: Allopathic EM training programs in the USA were identified by the Society for Academic Emergency Medicine residency catalogue. Program websites were identified through this catalogue and an internet search. Each page of a program's website was dissected to identify basic program information and descriptions of their curricula including presence and descriptions of specialized tracks. Descriptive statistics are reported.

Results: 163 programs were identified, 156(95.7%) programs provided detailed descriptions of their curricula on their program website. 33/156(21.2%) offered dedicated tracks. Tracks were more common in four year programs (15/40;37.5%) compared to three years (18/116;15.5%). 23/33(70%) programs with tracks provided titles of their tracks and these commonly (20/23;87%) mirrored typical fellowships in EM. For programs that described the timing of tracks (15/33;45.5%), most spanned multiple years of training (12/15;80%).

Conclusion: The presence of specialized tracks is not widespread in EM training programs in the USA, but is more commonly seen in four year programs. The timing of tracks varied but typically spanned multiple years of training. This information is a critical first step to allow future research to understand the impact of specialized tracks and their role in EM career choice and preparation for an academic career.

Keywords: Academic medicine; Career preparation; Emergency medicine; Graduate medical education.

MeSH terms

  • Career Choice*
  • Emergency Medicine / education*
  • Emergency Medicine / statistics & numerical data
  • Fellowships and Scholarships
  • Humans
  • Internship and Residency* / statistics & numerical data
  • Specialization*
  • United States