Applying to Integrated Plastic Surgery Residency Programs: Trends in the Past 5 Years of the Match

Kashyap Komarraju Tadisina, Susan Orra, Bahar Bassiri Gharb, Grzegorz Kwiecien, Steven Bernard, James E Zins
Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery 2016, 137 (4): 1344-53

BACKGROUND: The average integrated plastic surgery applicant spends over $6000 for interviews. The average program director reviews over 200 applications per cycle. It is important to make the application process efficient and cost effective for both applicants and programs. The authors analyzed recent trends and the literature in an attempt to increase the likelihood that applicants match, suggest means of reducing applicants' costs, and improve the process.

METHODS: A cross-sectional study of the National Residency Matching Program Charting Outcomes and results and data for the years 2009 to 2014 was performed. Applicant profile elements were examined for differences between matched/unmatched U.S. senior medical students. In addition, a literature review was performed.

RESULTS: The number of integrated plastic surgery positions rose from 69 in 2010 to 130 in 2014. Both matched and unmatched U.S. senior medical students have higher Step 2 scores, research and volunteer experiences, than 5 years ago. The likelihood of matching into an integrated plastic surgery residency has increased (2009, 52 percent; 2011, 44 percent; and 2014, 71 percent). Successful match rates were associated with Alpha Omega Alpha status and graduating from a top-40 ranked medical school (p < 0.05). Applicants with a lower number of ranked programs had increased match rates in 2014 than in previous years. Literature review revealed that program directors also value strong recommendation letters, publications, persistent work ethic ("grit"), away rotations, and an accurate curriculum vitae.

CONCLUSIONS: Within the setting of increased applicant competitiveness, the authors recommend maximizing subjective qualities in order to differentiate themselves from a highly eligible applicant pool. In addition, applicants should diversify the types of programs at which they interview to maximize their chances of matching.

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