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Physician Specialty Data Report

2016 Key Definitions, Commonly Used Acronyms, and Practice Specialties

Key Definitions

  • Active physicians: Physicians (federal and nonfederal) who are licensed by a state are considered active, provided they are working more than 20 hours per week. Physicians who are retired, semi-retired, temporarily not in practice, not active for other reasons, or have not completed their graduate medical education are excluded. Active physicians include those working in direct patient care, administration, medical teaching, research, or other non-patient care activities. Active physicians include those with a Doctor of Medicine (MD) and a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO). The total number of active physicians may differ between tables in this report as a result of missing information in the data file. For example, to determine the percentage of active physicians who are female, the total number of active physicians excludes people whose sex was not reported in the data file.
  • U.S. MD: Physicians who received their MD degree from a U.S. medical school that is accredited by the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME).
  • DO: Physicians who received their DO degree from a U.S. osteopathic school that is accredited by the American Osteopathic Association Commission on Osteopathic College Accreditation (COCA).
  • First-year residents and fellows: Physicians who are in their first year of a graduate medical education program in their specialty are considered first-year residents or fellows. In some cases, the resident or fellow may have had prior GME training in a different specialty.
  • International medical graduate: An individual who graduated from a medical school outside of the United States, Puerto Rico, or Canada is considered an international medical graduate. This includes U.S. citizens who completed their medical education outside the United States, Puerto Rico, or Canada. To be eligible for licensure and practice in the United States, all IMGs must be certified by the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG) and complete a residency training program in the United States. Graduates of Canadian medical schools are not considered IMGs because they do not have to be certified by the ECFMG to enter a residency training program in the United States. Please note that although graduates of Canadian medical schools who are practicing in the United States are not considered IMGs or U.S. MDs, they are included in the total for active physicians.

Commonly Used Acronyms

  • AAMC: Association of American Medical Colleges
  • ACGME: Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education
  • AMA: American Medical Association
  • DO: Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine
  • GME: Graduate medical education
  • IMG: International medical graduate
  • MD: Doctor of Medicine

Practice Specialty

This report presents data on the specialties with the largest number of active physicians in 2015, which is defined as having more than 2,500 active physicians. Specialty designations for active physicians rely on the primary specialty selected by the physician on the AMA-administered Census of Physicians. Specialty designations for residents and fellows reflect the ACGME training program in which the physician is training.

The AMA Physician Masterfile lists more than 200 specialty categories, and there are more than 140 ACGME specialties and subspecialties. To give a more comprehensive and informative view of the specialty category, we grouped some related specialties together. Because of differences in the specialty designations between the AMA Physician Masterfile and the ACGME, specialty groupings used in this report will sometimes vary for active physicians and trainees as indicated in the table below.

Two new specialties grew to exceed 2,500 physicians for the first time since previous reports and thus are included for the first time in this report: Pediatric Cardiology and Pediatric Hematology/Oncology.

Note: Codes in parentheses represent the AMA Physician Masterfile Self-Designated Practice Specialties/Areas of Practice.