Does medical student membership in the gold humanism honor society influence selection for residency?

Susan Rosenthal, Brian Howard, Yvette R Schlussel, Cathy J Lazarus, Jeffrey G Wong, Christine Moutier, Maria Savoia, Stanley Trooskin, Norma Wagoner
Journal of Surgical Education 2009, 66 (6): 308-13

OBJECTIVES: With the creation of the Gold Humanism Honor Society (GHHS) in 2002, the Arnold P. Gold Foundation established a mechanism for recognizing medical students who demonstrate exemplary humanism/professionalism/communication skills. Currently, 80 medical schools have GHHS chapters. Selection is based on peer nomination using a validated tool. The objective of this survey was to assess the percentage of residency program directors (PDs) who are aware of and are using GHHS membership as a residency selection tool.

METHODS: Surgery (SURG) and internal medicine (IM) PDs in 4 United States regions were surveyed for familiarity with GHHS and perceived rank of GHHS membership relative to Alpha Omega Alpha (AOA) membership, class rank, medical student performance evaluation (MSPE), clerkship grade, and United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) score, in evaluating an applicant's humanism/professionalism, service orientation, and fit with their program. Program demographics and familiarity with GHHS were also surveyed.

RESULTS: The response rate was 56% (149 respondents). IM PDs rated GHHS membership higher than did SURG PDs when evaluating professionalism/humanism and service orientation. PDs familiar with GHHS ranked membership higher when considering professionalism/humanism (4.1 vs 3.2; p < 0.05) and service orientation (4.1 vs 2.9; p < 0.01). Familiarity with GHHS correlated with being an IM PD, residency based at teaching hospital, large residency program, knowledge of residents who were GHHS members, and having a GHHS chapter at their school (p < 0.01). Familiarity with GHHS was related to rankings of GHHS (professionalism/humanism F = 3.36; p < 0.05; service orientation F = 3.86; p < 0.05) more than the PDs' specialty was. In all, 157 GHHS students (from all 4 United States regions) were also surveyed about the 1197 interviews they had with residency PDs. They reported that although a few PDs were aware of GHHS, PDs of core medical specialties were more aware of GHHS than SURG PDs.

CONCLUSIONS: IM PDs were more aware of GHHS (70%) than SURG PDs (30%). Awareness was related to the favorable ranking of GHHS as a selection criterion for humanism/professionalism/service orientation. PDs familiar with GHHS were from larger programs, were likely to know residents who were members, and were likely to think that GHHS membership predicted humanistic care. Membership in GHHS may set candidates apart from their peers and allow PDs to distinguish objectively the candidates who demonstrate compassionate medical care. Increased knowledge about the GHHS may therefore serve to be a useful adjunct for PDs when selecting medical students for their residency programs.

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