The importance of basic science and clinical research as a selection criterion for general surgery residency programs

Mark M Melendez, Xiaoti Xu, Thomas R Sexton, Marc J Shapiro, Eugene P Mohan
Journal of Surgical Education 2008, 65 (2): 151-4

OBJECTIVE: The selection criteria for surgical residents applying for residency differ among programs nationwide. Factors influencing this selection process have not been well defined, and research in particular has not been evaluated fully. This study aimed to evaluate the relative importance of basic science and clinical research in the selection criteria used by program directors (PDs).

DESIGN: A web-based survey consisting of 11 questions was sent to PDs using the list server of the Association of Program Directors in Surgery. Respondents were asked to rank selection factors using a 1-to-5 scoring system, with 5 as most important. Their responses were recorded and tabulated.

SETTING: University-based teaching hospital.

PARTICIPANTS: The survey went to 251 accredited general surgery residency programs in the United States.

RESULTS: Overall, 134 (53.3%) of the surveys were returned, representing 61 university-based programs, 57 community-based programs with university affiliation, and 16 community-based programs without university affiliation. In total, 120 PDs (89.5%) considered basic or clinical research almost always or all the time when evaluating applicants to their general surgery program. Another 73 PDs (54.5%) gave basic science and clinical research equal importance. Another 40 PDs (29.9%) rarely or never credited research unless it had been published as an abstract or paper. In ranking research, 11 (8.2%) respondents gave it the 5 score. Most respondents (n = 93; 69.4%) gave it the 3 score. An applicant's interview and interest in surgery were the factors considered most important by 93 (69.4%) and 78 (58.2%), respectively, of the PDs.

CONCLUSIONS: Basic science and clinical research constituted an important but secondary criterion for resident selection by PDs into general surgery residency programs. PDs perceived the primary factors for residency selection to be the interview, demonstrated interest in surgery, AOA membership, letters of recommendation, and USMLE Step I scores.

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