Assessing: Residency Programs

Students frequently ask about how to assess residency programs, including how to figure out how competitive a program is. Unlike some other specialties, there is no “Top Ten Family Medicine Residency Programs” list that tells you the best and most competitive residencies. Instead, each program has different strengths that will be a good fit for different students with different career goals. Figuring out what is important to you during residency will help determine which programs are a good fit to meet your needs and training desires.
Determining the “competitiveness” of a program can mean two related, but different, things. A program’s competitiveness can be a marker of its prestige OR it can indicate how difficult it is to match to the program because they have a strong applicant pool. Clearly these two are related, as more prestigious programs will have more applicants and thus may be more difficult to match into. However, many popular or prestigious programs may be a poor fit for many applicants because they do not meet the applicants’ individual training needs and desires. Try to keep these concepts separate when you are assessing programs – it’s fine to determine the prestige of a program and to use that when deciding where to interview and rank, but make sure you are also determining how hard it is to match to a program so you can make informed choices about your chances of getting to train there. And above all, don’t forget about fit. All the prestige in the world won’t do you a bit of good if the program does not offer the training you want.

  • FREIDA (good for general information about residencies)
  • AAFP (has more detailed information about FM programs)
  • WWAMI Programs (information specific to WWAMI network residency programs)
  • Residency Footprint Tracker (for students interested in rural or underserved careers – tells you the percent of grads from the residency that go on to practice in those areas)
  • Prior year match rates (one way of assessing a program’s competitiveness is to look at prior match rates)
  • Board Pass Rates. For your “safety residencies,” you may want to consider looking at the individual board pass rates.

Once you have identified programs you are interested in make sure to visit their website for detailed information. The websites usually have a list of current residents and faculty. Review the current residents for two reasons. First, see if they are people you can see yourself working with. Second, see if they seem like they were a more or less competitive applicant than you are to get a sense of the competitiveness of the program. You can also contact prior UW grads that are residents or faculty at an individual program to get more information about the program.