Selecting the best and brightest: A comparison of residency match processes in the United States and Canada

E M Krauss, M Bezuhly, J G Williams
Plastic Surgery 2015, 23 (4): 225-30

BACKGROUND: Selecting candidates for plastic surgery residency training remains a challenge. In the United States, academic measures (United States Medical Licensing Exam Step I scores, medical school class rank and publications) are used as primary criteria for candidate selection for residency. In contrast, Canadian medical education de-emphasizes academic measures by using a pass-fail grading system. As a result, choosing residents from many qualified applicants may pose a challenge for Canadian programs without objective measures of academic success.

METHODS: A 25-question online survey was distributed to program directors of Canadian plastic surgery residency-training programs. Program directors commented on number of yearly residents and applicants; application sections (ranked in importance using a Likert scale); interview invitation and rank-order list determination; and their satisfaction with the selection process.

RESULTS: Ten Canadian plastic surgery program directors responded (90.9% response rate). The most important application components determining invitation to interview were letters of reference from a plastic surgeon (mean importance of 5.0 on the Likert scale), clinical electives in plastic surgery (mean 4.6) and electives with their program (mean 4.5). Applicants invited for interview were assessed on the quality of their responses to questions, maturity and personality. The majority of program directors agreed that a clinical elective with their program was important for consideration on their rank-order list. Program directors were neutral on their satisfaction with the selection process.

CONCLUSION: Canadian plastic surgery residency programs emphasize clinical electives with their program and letters of reference from colleagues when selecting applicants for interviews. In contrast to their American counterparts, Canadian program directors rely on clinical interactions with prospective residents in the absence of objective academic measures.

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