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Ann Surg. 2010 Sep;252(3):537-1; discussion 541-3. doi: 10.1097/SLA.0b013e3181f27a50.

Prevention of surgical resident attrition by a novel selection strategy.

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  • 1Division of Education, Department of Surgery, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA.



We modified the resident selection strategy in an attempt to reduce resident attrition (RA).


Despite implementation of the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education work rules, lifestyle and generational priorities have fostered a persistent and relatively high attrition rate for surgical trainees.


An independent external review of residents who left the training program and a detailed analysis of the resident selection strategy were performed by an organizational management expert. Modifications implemented in 2005 (the intervention) included standardization of the screening and interview format. Applicants were required to submit a 500 words essay related to stress management, organizational skills, future aspirations, and prioritization abilities. Their responses formed the basis of an extended, personalized, and structured interview script. Candidate characteristics and RA were compared for the 5 years before and after the intervention, using Fisher exact test or chi2.


Age, sex, birthplace, medical school ranking, step 1 score, and American Board of Surgey In-Training Examination performance were not significantly different between the selection strategy groups. Risk factors for RA included ABSITE performance and gender. Resident performance and subsequent RA were significantly affected by the resident selection strategy.


RA was dramatically reduced following the intervention. A custom designed process to identify candidates most likely to succeed substantially improved resident retention in a demanding academic training program.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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