BACKGROUND: Since 2002, market studies have predicted a physician shortage with an increasing need for future subspecialists. A Residency Review Committee (RRC) rule that restricted sponsorship of fellowships was eliminated in 2005, but the influence of this change on the number of fellowships is not known. We believed that the rules change might make it possible for community hospitals to offer fellowships. Our objectives were to determine the extent of change in the number of fellowships in university and community hospitals from 2000 through 2008, both before and after the RRC regulation change in 2005, and to determine whether community hospitals contributed substantially to the number of new fellowships available to internal medicine graduates. METHODS: We used archived Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) data from July 2000 through June 2008. The community hospital category included multispecialty clinics, community programs, and municipal hospitals. RESULTS: Of the 94 newly approved internal medicine subspecialty fellowships in this time period, 59 (63%) were community sponsored. As of 6/02/08, all were in good standing. Thirteen programs were started as a department of medicine solo fellowship since 2005. The number of new programs approved between 2005 and 2008 was roughly three times the number approved between 2000 and 2004. CONCLUSIONS: The number of subspecialty fellowship programs and approved positions has increased dramatically in the last 8 years. Many of the new programs were at community hospitals. The change in RRC rules has been associated with increased availability of fellowship programs in the university and community hospital setting for subspecialty training.
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