As a Preventive Medicine Resident at the University of Wisconsin – Madison, I know that many of you have never heard about our specialty, or you might know that it exists, but don’t know exactly what it is about. Over the next paragraphs I will try to answer the most common questions, but feel free to reach out to us if you would like more information.


What is Preventive Medicine? Is that a real specialty?

Public Health and General Preventive Medicine is a BOARD CERTIFIED SPECIALTY that according to the ABPM website “focuses on promoting health, preventing disease, and managing the health of communities and defined populations. These practitioners combine population-based public health skills with knowledge of primary, secondary, and tertiary prevention-oriented clinical practice in a wide variety of settings”.

Is Preventive Medicine the same as Occupational Medicine?

Occupational Medicine is our sister specialty, is which is also a board certified and “focuses on the health of workers, including the ability to perform work; the physical, chemical, biological, and social environments of the workplace; and the health outcomes of environmental exposures”.

They are not the same, Occupational Medicine has a very specific curriculum and dedicated training programs, but we share many skills and elements of training, and some Preventive Medicine doctors go to practice Occupational Medicine (If they have the training).

Who are your patients?

It depends who you ask. Preventive Medicine is a very broad specialty, where there is a place for everyone. We have physicians dedicated to the health of populations, so although they might not see patients on a daily basis, they are responsible for the policies/programs that affect thousands of individuals in a healthcare system, community, city or county.

There are also those physicians that have specialty clinics: travel clinic, STI, wellness, lifestyle medicine, women’s health, occupational medicine, and primary care. These group is more diverse, since it depends on the training and background of physicians.

And lastly, some physicians don’t have patients at all, they are dedicated to research, academia and teaching.

What type of work do you do?

Once again, it depends on who you ask. Preventive Medicine offer tools to identify problems and solutions looking at the “big picture”, so our graduates are well known for their skills with epidemiology, surveillance, policy development, program development, evaluation, leadership and advocacy. Our graduates are well equipped to work in public health departments, CDC and other federal agencies, insurance companies, healthcare systems, universities and non-for-profit organizations. So feel free to explore the ocean of opportunities out there.

How long is the residency?

Two years. During that time you need to obtain a MPH or equivalent degree in order to be eligible for board certification. However, if you already have a MPH, there is opportunity to do the residency in one (1) year.

How stressful is the residency?

That will depend of your program. But keep in mind that preventive medicine graduates have the lowest rates of burnout.

Are there combined residencies?

Yes. There are a few programs that are certified for Family Medicine & Preventive Medicine or Internal Medicine & Preventive Medicine. More info:

Are there fellowships?

Yes. The Resident Section of the American College of Preventive Medicine (ACPM) has compiled a list of fellowship opportunities, and you can find it here:

Are there any requirements to apply?

Yes, any applicant should have at least one (1) year of internship in any specialty accredited by ACGME. You can apply if you already have another specialty too.  For International Medical Graduates, please remember that you need the ECFMG certification to apply.

How do I apply?

The application process starts in September of each year. Some programs are in ERAS®, some accept applications by email or mail. You can identify a list of programs using FREIDA Online®. Review their information and application process, since it might change from one year to another. Preventive Medicine is not part of the NRMP match, but starting with the 2016-2017 cycle we will have a match day on January 22, 2017.

Where can I find more information?

ACGME Description

American Board of Preventive Medicine:

American College of Preventive Medicine (ACPM):

Resources for Medical Students –

Follow the resident section on Twitter @acpm_Residents or Facebook to stay up to date.


By Maria Mora, MD, MS