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Ask your mentor and division head if they think this is right for you and ask about the PI Exception
In general, at least one cycle ahead of when you will need it, to allow time for revision. This question is best resolved in consultation with your mentor and division head, to ensure seamless funding support for you and your research.
If you, your mentor, your division chief and your VA section think this is right for you, check out the CDA-2
Overall, work in the best possible lab that is related to your medical subspecialty. If you work off-campus, however, don't become "out of sight and out of mind," especially if you are interested in staying in your division as a junior faculty member.
Please see the ABIM site
for a detailed explanation. At a minimum, it requires 2 years of Internal Medicine Residency and a 3-year Research Experience combined with subspecialty training. Communicate clearly with your mentor and subspecialty training program director to ensure understanding of the requirements for certification in your subspecialty.