Causes of Death of Residents in ACGME-Accredited Programs 2000 Through 2014: Implications for the Learning Environment

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Abstract

Purpose

To systematically study the number of U.S. resident deaths from all causes, including suicide.

Method

The more than 9,900 programs accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) annually report the status of residents. The authors aggregated ACGME data on 381,614 residents in training during years 2000 through 2014. Names of residents reported as deceased were submitted to the National Death Index to learn causes of death. Person-year calculations were used to establish resident death rates and compare them with those in the general population.

Results

Between 2000 and 2014, 324 individuals (220 men, 104 women) died while in residency. The leading cause of death was neoplastic disease, followed by suicide, accidents, and other diseases. For male residents the leading cause was suicide, and for female residents, malignancies. Resident death rates were lower than in the age- and gender-matched general population. Temporal patterns showed higher rates of death early in residency. Deaths by suicide were higher early in training, and during the first and third quarters of the academic year. There was no upward or downward trend in resident deaths over the 15 years of this study.

Conclusions

Neoplastic disease and suicide were the leading causes of death in residents. Data for death by suicide suggest added risk early in residency and during certain months of the academic year. Providing trainees with a supportive environment and with medical and mental health services is integral to reducing preventable deaths and fostering a healthy physician workforce.

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