Increase in Fellowship Applicants Reflects Growing Interest in Rheumatology

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The increase in annual applicants to rheumatology fellowship positions has increased since 2014.

The increased attractiveness of the rheumatology field can be attributed to several factors including lifestyle, job satisfaction, job availability, mentorship opportunities, and intellectual interest, according to a study published in Arthritis Care & Research.

This retrospective study sought to evaluate the attractiveness of the rheumatology field by analyzing physician salaries, number of fellowship applicants, number of fellowship positions, percentage of positions filled, and percentage of matched applicants.

Data were drawn from the National Resident Matching Program to view trends in rheumatology and other subspecialties from 2008 to2013 and from 2014 to 2017. The study results showed a total decrease of 3% in the number of rheumatology fellowship applicants between 2008 and 2013, but the number of applications increased by 44% between 2014 and 2017. No other internal medicine subspecialty, procedural or nonprocedural, saw a comparable increase in annual applicants. During this time, the ratio of applicants to positions significantly increased for rheumatology, though other subspecialties demonstrated a decrease in ratio of applicants to positions. All subspecialties exhibited a significant increase in average post-fellowship salary from 2008 to 2017.

The study authors note that rheumatology may  be a more attractive and competitive field, despite income disparities, because of better work-life balance with regular hours, perceived availability of jobs, and influence of mentors. According to the 2012 Medscape Physician Lifestyle Survey, rheumatologists had better health and social indicators compared with other disciplines. Intellectual interest may have an influence on the growing popularity of rheumatology, demonstrated by the progress in understanding the cellular and molecular mechanisms and disease pathogenesis of rheumatologic conditions. In addition, medical schools now provide more exposure to the field.

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The study findings complemented the 2015 American College of Rheumatology workforce report, and the authors suggest that an opportunity for salutary change should be exploited and more rheumatology fellowship positions should be offered considering the significant increase in attractiveness of rheumatology since 2014.

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Tran HW, Mathias LM, Panush RS. Has rheumatology become a more attractive career choice? Comparison of trends in the rheumatology fellowship match from 2008 to 2013 with 2014 to 2017 [published online June 28, 2018]. Arthritis Care Res. doi:10.1002/acr.23691