Sep 4, 2015
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I`m a PGY-1 in psych and am actually really liking my program, it has a strong curricullum and I have been doing great. However, as an IMG before residency I did away rotations at another institution and started doing research on a certain topic with an attending there that became a true mentor to me. I eventually did interview at this program and had many great recommendations but ended up not matching as it is a bit more competitive.

As I said my program is great and actually has research oportunities in my area of interest, however my previous mentor keeps mentioning if I could transfer in PGY-2 to continue our work and I keep torturing myself with that. He did everything to get me in the program, although he is not a part of the "selection committee", but it was just a very competitive year I guess.

Truth be told I would love to be able to transfer, but I don`t want to burn any bridges with my program and it would be difficult to explain to my program that I would like to apply for transfer to do something I theoretically can do in my current program.

1) How frequent are transfers inside the same specialty that are not due to personal matters (spouses etc)?

2) If you apply somewhere do you usually "lose" your contract at your current program?

3) How risky/stupid is this possibility?



5+ Year Member
Apr 28, 2012
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Take a look through the archives as this issue has been discussed extensively and you will learn a lot from the old threads. In short,

1. You will need your current program director's blessing (at minimum, a letter of good standing, better yet a letter of recommendation) if the transfer program will even take a look at your application. So this means you will have to notify your current PD about your desire and intention to transfer _before_ you have secured a spot at the new program.

2. You cannot (and you should not) apply successfully without notifying your current PD.

3. At most programs you will have to sign your contract renewal letter sometime in the winter. That means you will have to commit to your current spot or decline it _before_ you have secured a spot at the new program.

If you want a shot at transferring, therefore you will have to notify your current PD at the time of application, and decline your renewal at your current program, before you have any security of getting into the new program. This frees up your current PD to look for a PGY2 replacement in a timely fashion. If your transfer application is successful and your current PD finds a good replacement, then everyone is happy. If your transfer application is successful but you notify your current PD late enough that she has to scrape the bottom of the barrel to find a substitute, she will not be pleased. If your transfer application is unsuccessful and your PD cannot find a replacement, then maybe they will sign you back. If your transfer application is unsuccessful and your PD has found a replacement then you are out of luck.

It's risky but it is not necessarily stupid.
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7+ Year Member
Mar 13, 2013
still on the right side of the dirt
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Despite all of the discussions about how regulatory entities try to keep both sides from breaking their promises, I’m not sure there is much teeth in it once you finish your PGY-I year because contracts are year to year in most cases. Some states try and generate some gentleman’s agreements not to poach from each other, but if tested I’m not sure what could happen. I have heard of the ACGME forcing programs to provide summaries of completed training when a PD was trying to make a resident honor a current contract.

The bottom line is that slavery ended in 1865 and they probably cannot make you stay by legal means. Having said that, this can get very messy and I have heard of trainees being left without a position. If it is legal or not is one question. If you should do it or not is another. It seems your current program had faith in you and is filling your needs. The potential place you would move to will not hire you without a conversation about your performance with your current PD. Most PDs will not talk to you before you have had this conversation with your current PD. I’m sure you are doing fine, but what if you aren’t given an offer? It kind of spoils things for everyone. Only you can decide this.
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7+ Year Member
Oct 17, 2011
I sleep with the fishes
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Don't transfer, finish off 3 more years, go back to the institution as an attending and join up with your mentor.
Also, usually at Pgy 4 years you can do electives; furthermore, some research can be done from distance.
Sep 4, 2015
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Thank you so much for the opinion! I have decided to stay with my program and am happy with my decision.
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