Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation

Frequently asked Questions by MS1s and MS2s

Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation (PM&R) Physicians, known as physiatrists, treat a wide range of physical conditions involving the brain, spinal cord, nerves, bones, joints, ligaments, muscles and tendons. Those students interested in PM&R may consider shadowing a physiatrist during first or second year. Involvement in the PM&R Student Interest Group is a great opportunity to get involved and make connections within the PM&R community. National membership to the American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (AAPMR) is free for students. Check out the AAPMR website here

Research is not required, but it may help show interest and may make the student more competitive for highly ranked programs. If a student is interested in pursuing research it would be optimal to have one or two projects where the student played a major role rather than several projects with minimal involvement.

Your Career and Professional Advisor can help provide you with local PM&R Specialty Advisor contacts who may need help with ongoing projects. These Mentors, as well as Dr. McEchron, can provide great resources. Work with your peers, recent graduates, local Residents and Fellows as well as PM&R faculty and express your interest in getting involved.

This is not required, but if a student feels they can adequately balance academics while participating in community service or extracurricular activities, it may help develop a well rounded application and positively contribute to the community. Volunteer work within the disability services sector or participation in athletic events may help to develop career interest in PM&R. There are also many opportunities in specialized summer camps or Special Olympics which would be appropriate for medical student volunteers.

The National Residency Matching Program tracks statistical trends for students matching into each specialty. Learn more about PM&R match trends here

Frequently asked Questions by MS3s and MS4s

If you are asking for a letter of recommendation (LOR) during a clinical rotation, consider asking for it about three weeks into the rotation from a faculty member with whom you have worked closely, when the impression of your performance is fresh in the letter writer’s mind. When asking for a Letter of Recommendation it is ideal to do it in person. It is appropriate to ask specifically if they would be comfortable writing a “strong letter of recommendation.” Letters should be uploaded to ERAS directly by the letter writers by the beginning of September of your fourth year, so make sure to give your letter writers ample time to write their letters, and be sure to thank them for their effort. You should have your CV updated and your personal statement available for reference to aid the letter writer.

Students will need a minimum of three letters, and at least two should be from the PM&R specialty.



An away rotation is not required. Some of the benefits of doing an away rotation include networking in an area of the country where you would like to end up, as well as figuring out if a particular residency program is a good fit. We recommend working closely with your Career Advisor and Specialty Advisor to help with this decision.

Information specific to PM&R

PM&R requires four years of postgraduate training. Most programs are Advanced Match as graduating fourth-year medical students match into a separate internship program as well as their PGY 2-4 PM&R program at the same time. Most advanced match residents complete a preliminary medicine, transitional, or surgical internship to fulfill this requirement. Some residencies offer a 4-year Categorical program, which integrates the first year of basic clinical training into the 4 year curriculum.

Subspecialties of PM&R include: Brain Injury Medicine, Hospice and Palliative Medicine, Neuromuscular Medicine, Pain Medicine, Pediatric Rehabilitation Medicine, Spinal Cord Injury Medicine, and/or Sports Medicine.

PM&R Student Interest Group

Click here to visit the PM&R Interest Group website

PM&R Specialty Newsletter Report

Additional Resources 

Read "A Medical Student’s Guide to PM&R" by the AAPMR here
Review "A Step-by-Step Guide to Applying for PM&R" here
Learn about the PM&R Programs Map here