Determining credit for resident transfers

Residency Program Insider, May 22, 2007

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The concept of advanced placement is enticing to all types of students approaching graduation from an accredited educational program, including medical residents who may be transferring from one program or specialty to another.

However, negotiating advanced placement complexities can be confusing and frustrating for both transferring residents and the program directors receiving them. The Southern Regional Area Health Education Center (AHEC) has a long history of accepting residents with advanced credit. Students, residents, and faculty alike should be aware of this history and understand the rules on credit transfer to avoid some of the frustrations inherent in this process.

At Duke/Southern Regional in Fayetteville, NC, over ten percent of our graduates have received some post-graduate training elsewhere. This trend is continuing with our current class of first year residents.

The Southern Regional AHEC family medicine residency attracts residents from all over the country. Frequently, residents have completed some residency training prior to beginning at the AHEC.

Many applicants, residents, and graduates are unaware that the decision of how much credit can be granted is decided by the residency program director based on guidelines delineated by their applicable specialty board. For example, the American Board of Family Medicine (ABFM) guidelines, available at, include the following:

The maximum amount of advanced credit that can be granted is one year

Once a resident begins a program at a defined level with a specified amount of credit, no additional credit will be authorized

If the program wishes to use a portion of a resident's previous postgraduate education to meet residency program requirements while having the resident complete 36 months of education (e.g., applying the prior training to requirements to permit a greater amount of elective time), the program is not required to obtain authorization of credit from the Board

The program director determines how much advanced credit to seek for an individual by weighing several factors, including:

  1. What are the current needs of the program?

  2. How many residents are there in each post-graduate year?

  3. What type of training did the applicant receive elsewhere?

  4. How applicable is that training to Family Medicine?

  5. Can the new resident integrate into the new class well?

  6. How will the new resident learn those features that are unique to our program (e.g. our "Skills to Practice") and unique to Family Medicine (e.g. the biopsychosocial model)?

  7. What are the needs and desires of the applicant?

According to the American Board of Family Medicine (ABFM), programs may admit a resident into training with up to 12 months of credit toward certification for residents transferring from:

  • ACGME-accredited Family Medicine programs
  • Other ACGME-accredited specialties
  • American Osteopathic Association approved programs
  • Canadian programs approved by the College of Family Physicians of Canada

Once a resident begins a program at a defined level with a specified amount of credit, no additional credit toward certification for previous training will be authorized. Should a program recruit a physician for an entry level graduate year-one position and the physician begins training at that level, the resident will be expected to complete the full residency program of 36 months regardless of the amount of prior training or the performance of the resident after entry.

To check on the requirements for your specialty regarding transferred credit, go to your specialty board Web site. For details on the amount of credit that can be transferred from each specialty to a family medicine residency, visit the ABFM Web site at

All the best,

Lenny Salzberg, MD
Associate residency program director
Duke/Southern Regional AHEC
Family Practice Residency Program
Fayetteville, NC

Editor's note: Look for Dr. Salzberg's complete article on transferring resident credit in the July issue of Residency Program Alert newsletter.

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