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As you look ahead to your medical career, one specialty area that you might want to consider is adolescent medicine. As an adolescent medicine specialist, you would provide care for pre-teens, teenagers, and young adults. The period of adolescence starts when the patient reaches puberty and ends when the patient is in their early twenties, so you would have the opportunity to work with patients during a crucial period of development. Read on to learn more about starting a career in this rewarding field.

The Educational Steps for Aspiring Adolescent Medicine Specialists

After earning your medical degree, you can expect to spend another six years in residency and fellowship programs before you can become a Board-certified adolescent medicine specialist. Specifically, you need to complete a three-year medical residency program and a three-year Adolescent Medicine Fellowship.

The first step is to complete a three-year residency program in one of the more general medical specialty areas. According to the National Resident Matching Program (NRMP), applicants for an Adolescent Medicine Fellowship must have previously completed a three-year medical residency in one of the following specialty areas:

That’ good news for foreign medical graduates, since internal medicine, family medicine, and pediatrics were the top three specialty areas in which foreign-trained physicians got matched in 2015, according the the NRMP.

After completing a three-year residency in one of those specialty areas, you can apply for a three-year fellowship in Adolescent Medicine. Unlike some other fellowship programs, the matching process for Adolescent Medicine Fellowship programs is facilitated by the NRMP. Therefore, after you have completed your first residency program, you would go through the ERAS process to get matched to an Adolescent Medicine Fellowship program, just like you would for any other residency program.

What to Expect From an Adolescent Medicine Fellowship Program

All Adolescent Medicine Fellowship programs last for three years. The time that you spend in the program is typically divided between clinical experience, research training, and didactic coursework. In general, the first year is spent mostly on clinical training and coursework, while the second and third years involve more academic research.

However, it is important to note that the proportion of time spent in each of these areas can vary depending on the program. Some programs are primarily intended for aspiring adolescent medicine clinicians, while others focus on training adolescent medicine specialists who spend more time on academic research that supports their practice. As you look at the different programs that are available in the United States, make sure to find out about the emphasis of each one of the programs that you are considering.

Clinical Training in an Adolescent Medicine Fellowship Program

During your clinical training, you will probably have the opportunity to gain experience in multiple settings. You may complete rotations in hospitals, outpatient care centers, behavioral health clinics, substance abuse clinics, gynecology departments, school-based health clinics, and even homeless shelters. If you are interested in public health, adolescent medicine can be a great choice, because many programs offer opportunities to work with teens and young adults from a wide variety of socioeconomic backgrounds.

Because adolescent medicine is such a broad discipline, your clinical training will equip you to treat young people with many different physical and mental health conditions. Some common topics of study include:

  • Eating disorders
  • Gynecology
  • Substance abuse
  • Nutrition
  • Sports medicine
  • Chronic diseases

Research Training in an Adolescent Medicine Fellowship Program

In addition to your clinical training, an Adolescent Medicine Fellowship involves academic research. In most programs, the research opportunities have implications for public health. For instance, you may conduct epidemiological research to try to understand disease frequency in certain adolescent populations, or you may conduct lab-based molecular biology research to develop sexually transmitted disease therapies that are safe for young adults. At some universities, your research can serve as the basis for a Master of Public Health (MPH) degree, which you can earn as part of the Adolescent Medicine Fellowship Program.

Starting Your Career as an Adolescent Medicine Specialist

Once you finish your fellowship program, you will be ready to take the Adolescent Medicine Certification Exam. This exam is developed jointly by the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM), the American Board of Family Medicine (ABFM) and the American Board of Pediatrics (ABP). The ABP administers the exam once a year to candidates who have completed an Adolescent Medicine Fellowship program. Passing this exam means that you are Board-certified in the subspecialty area of Adolescent Medicine.

Advice for Aspiring Adolescent Medicine Specialists

Even if you are still in medical school, there are steps you can take that can help you prepare for an Adolescent Medicine Fellowship program in the United States. Completing a student elective or a graduate externship in the field is a great way to learn more about the subspecialty area and increase your chances of getting matched. FMG Portal offers clinical externships for foreign medical graduates in Adolescent Medicine, as well as the three other relevant specialty areas: Internal Medicine, Family Medicine, and Pediatrics. Contact us today for more information about what we offer!