Open Access Open Badges Research article

Associations between subspecialty fellowship interest and knowledge of internal medicine: A hypothesis-generating study of internal medicine residents

Uchenna R Ofoma1*, Erik E Lehman2, Paul Haidet1 and Andrew C Yacht3

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Internal Medicine, Penn State College of Medicine, 500 University Drive, Hershey, PA 17033, USA

2 Department of Public Health Sciences, Penn State College of Medicine, 500 University Drive, Hershey, PA 17033, USA

3 Department of Internal Medicine, Maimonides Medical Centre, 4802 Tenth Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11219, USA

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BMC Medical Education 2011, 11:5  doi:10.1186/1472-6920-11-5

Published: 31 January 2011



Little is known about whether and how medical knowledge relates to interest in subspecialty fellowship training. The purpose of this study was to examine the relationships between residents' interest in subspecialty fellowship training and their knowledge of internal medicine (IM).


A questionnaire was emailed to 48 categorical postgraduate-year (PGY) two and three residents at a New York university-affiliated IM residency program in 2007 using the Survey Monkey online survey instrument. Overall and content area-specific percentile scores from the IM in-training examination (IM-ITE) for the same year was used to determine objective knowledge.


Forty-five of 48 residents (response rate was 93.8%) completed the survey. Twenty-two (49%) were PG2 residents and 23(51%) were PGY3 residents. Sixty percent of respondents were male. Six (13%) residents were graduates of U.S. medical schools. Eight (18%) reported formal clinical training prior to starting internal medicine residency in the U.S. Of this latter group, 6 (75%) had training in IM and 6 (75) % reported a training length of 3 years or less. Thirty-seven of 45 (82%) residents had a subspecialty fellowship interest. Residents with a fellowship interest had a greater mean overall objective knowledge percentile score (56.44 vs. 31.67; p = 0.04) as well as greater mean percentile scores in all content areas of IM. The adjusted mean difference was statistically significant (p < 0.02) across three content areas.


More than half of surveyed residents indicated interest in pursuing a subspecialty fellowship. Fellowship interest appears positively associated with general medical knowledge in this study population. Further work is needed to explore motivation and study patterns among internal medicine residents.