An evaluation of plastic surgery resident selection factors

Fan Liang, Pamela A Rudnicki, Noah H Prince, Stuart Lipsitz, James W May, Lifei Guo
Journal of Surgical Education 2015, 72 (1): 8-15

OBJECTIVE: Our purpose was to provide a metric by which evaluation criteria are prioritized during resident selection. In this study, we assessed which residency applicant qualities are deemed important by members of the American Association of Plastic Surgeons (AAPS).

METHODS: A survey was distributed to all 580 AAPS members, and 295 responded to rate the importance of resident metrics, including measures of competency and personal characteristics. Demographic information, background training, and interaction with residents were also noted. Using SAS v9.2 (SAS Institute, Cary, NC), outcomes were analyzed across demographic groups with column trend exact (CTE) test for ordinal variables, Mantel-Haenszel trend test for interval variables, and Fisher exact test for discrete variables.

RESULTS: Regarding competency metrics, letters of recommendation from known sources is the most important factor, whereas letters from unknown sources ranks the lowest. Character evaluations identified honesty as the most desirable trait; dishonesty was the most despised. Across demographic groups, academic surgeons and program directors value letters from known sources more than nonacademicians or nonprogram directors (CTE p = 0.005 and 0.002, respectively). Academicians and current program directors regard research more highly than their counterparts do (CTE p = 0.022 and 0.022, respectively). Currently, practicing surgeons, academicians, and program directors value hard work more than others (CTE p = 0.008, 0.033, and 0.029, respectively). Program directors emphasize maturity and patient commitment and are less tolerant of narcissism (CTE p = 0.002, 0.005, and 0.003, respectively). Lastly, academic surgeons and program directors look more favorably upon strong team players (CTE p < 0.00001 and p = 0.008, respectively), but less so over time (Mantel-Haenszel trend p = 0.006).

CONCLUSIONS: We have examined applicant metrics that were deemed important by AAPS members and assessed their demographic interpretation. We hope this article provides a framework for plastic surgery resident selection and a guide for applicants to ascertain which qualities are highly regarded by programs. Although these attributes are highly desirable, future studies could identify if they are predictive of successful and productive plastic surgery residencies and careers.

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