Evolution of the Preliminary Clinical Year and the Case for a Categorical Diagnostic Radiology Residency

Cory M. Pfeifer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Purpose While other specialties traditionally utilizing a segregated clinical internship year have slowly progressed toward integrated training curricula, diagnostic radiology has been slow to adopt this path. The aim of this study was to analyze the trends in stand-alone preliminary clinical years as well as the shift toward categorical residencies currently being undertaken in other specialties. Advantages of mimicking the trends of other specialties and current integrated radiology programs are discussed. The perception of diagnostic radiology as a competitive specialty is explored, and the prospect of change as a recruiting tool is examined. Methods Data assimilated by the NRMP from 1994 through 2016 were processed and analyzed. Results The total number of postgraduate year (PGY) 1 preliminary year programs has remained relatively constant over the past 10 years despite a gradual increase in overall NRMP applicants. The proportion of these programs offered as a transitional year declined from 31% in 1994 to 20% in 2016. The proportion of categorical anesthesiology positions gradually rose from 43% in 2007 to 70% in 2016. The fraction of categorical neurology positions increased from 30% in 2007 to 59% in 2016. The percentage of diagnostic radiology programs beginning at the PGY 1 level has been relatively constant at 12% to 14% since 2007. Dermatology has increased advanced (PGY 2) positions while decreasing categorical (PGY 1) positions. Those matching in diagnostic radiology have performed at a high level compared with the composite NRMP average since 2007. In the 2015 match, there were 65 diagnostic radiology programs that did not fill all of their offered positions. Of the institutions housing these programs, only 22% of them had preliminary internal medicine or transitional year positions available after the match. Conclusions In response to the evolving nature of health care and graduate medical education, other specialties are gradually shifting toward curricular structures that begin at the PGY 1 level. By considering such a transition, diagnostic radiology would be well served to position itself as a valuable clinical specialty while maintaining a lesser dependence on other specialties to train its physicians.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)842-848
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of the American College of Radiology
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 1 2016


  • ABR
  • NRMP
  • categorical residency
  • clinical internship
  • preliminary year
  • radiology residency
  • transitional year

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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