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Frequently Asked Questions

What is the registrar system?

The registrar system is one of the unique strengths of the Contra Costa program. Instead of the traditional structure of senior residents teaching junior residents and faculty distantly involved, each resident at Martinez is paired with a registrar for the entire rotation. The resident and registrar round one-on-one each day, reviewing their patients, instead of having endless group rounds discussing other resident's patients. While this requires a higher faculty-to-resident ratio than most programs, we believe it is a superior model for imparting knowledge while allowing maximum responsibility for the resident.

Am I hurting my chances to be accepted if I do not do a clerkship at Contra Costa?

A clerkship is a great way to learn about our program, and for us to learn about you. But we select many applicants who have not done a clerkship, as well. To apply for a clerkship slot call Tami Sloan at 925-370-5445 or email

What can you offer the resident interested in international medicine?

We provide high quality training in full spectrum family practice. Our residents are comfortable working in a variety of hospital and clinic settings, from high tech to low tech. Many of our family physician faculty are members of international relief organizations and have recently participated in relief efforts in Iraq, Honduras, Guatemala, Afghanistan, Turkey, and Kosovo. Many residents choose to do their third year elective in a foreign land.

Is Contra Costa a "cowboy program"?

If you mean a demanding program with residents given responsibility from day one, then yes, we are a cowboy program. If you mean a program that leaves its residents unsupervised and in over their heads, then we are definitely not. We provide very supportive faculty supervision on every rotation: We have in-house obstetrical staff present at every delivery. We have in-house pediatricians. Our internal medicine and surgical staff frequently come in at night to help with the patient who is critically ill or has an unclear diagnosis. Our registrar system ensures the faculty are keenly aware of each resident's workload and learning needs. And, since a majority of our current residents are women, we prefer to be called "cowgirls."

What is the call/days off schedule like?

The call schedule averages once a week call on the majority of inpatient rotations. One OB rotation has twice a week call. One intern pediatric rotation has Q4 night call. The majority of calls during 2nd and 3rd year are short calls. We have a night float rotation. Work hour restrictions are taken seriously. On days off, it is the attendings who cover a resident's patients, not the other residents.

Are all rotations at CCRMC?

Our residents have only one rotation (besides electives) that takes place outside our integrated hospital and health center system: an inpatient pediatric rotation at Children's Hospital in Oakland. They also work in the Emergency Department at Children's Hospital during the second and third year.

From where in the U.S. do most of your residents come?

Over the past 30 years as a FP training program we have built a national reputation for excellence. Consequently we attract applicants for all over the country. Recent residents have come from UCSF, Yale, Stanford, Georgetown, Dartmouth, Oregon Health Science University School of Medicine, and the University of Arizona. Above all we seek superior residents who desire comprehensive training and have a commitment to serving the underserved in a culturally diverse environment.

Do I need to be fluent in Spanish to apply here?

At Contra Costa, many of our patients are monolingual Spanish speakers. While Spanish fluency is a plus, translators are readily available throughout our system. About half our residents speak Spanish.

Why so much emphasis on inpatient medicine?

We believe that learning to confidently manage the seriously ill inpatient is a foundation for confidently providing comprehensive outpatient care. Our residents manage ill, complicated patients in their clinic, patients whom in other settings would be cared for only by specialists. The skills one fails to learn in the hospital during residency are also difficulty to master after residency. However, to complement our strong inpatient training we developed a problem-based learning curriculum and procedural workshops focused entirely on outpatient care. In recent years we have added outpatient rotations in behavioral medicine, medicine subspecialties, gynecology and pediatrics to further enhance the training in ambulatory care.

Are applicants with families welcome at Contra Costa?

We pride ourselves on being a program that, although rigorous, supports and looks after our residents. Many of our residents have spouses and children. Social events almost always are designed to include children. Each year the residents have a weekend retreat in which families are invited.

How do Contra Costa resident physicians perform on inservice and board certification exams?

We are proud of the caliber of our residents. Contra Costa residents generally score above the national average on yearly inservice exams. Our graduates have a 100% pass rate on the American Board of Family Practice Board Exam over the last ten years.