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J Surg Educ. 2011 Jan-Feb;68(1):67-72. doi: 10.1016/j.jsurg.2010.10.003.

How we select our residents--a survey of selection criteria in general surgery residents.

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Department of Surgery, Weill Medical College of Cornell University, New York Methodist Hospital, Brooklyn, New York 11215, USA.



The future of general surgery depends on the quality of the resident trainees, and successful resident selection is a factor that is important in the process of high-quality surgical education.


A 36-question survey regarding resident selection and the interview process was sent to surgical program directors, department chairs, and associate program directors across the United States and Canada.


In all, 262 valid replies were received (65%), of which 83% were program directors. University hospital programs accounted for 49% of the completed surveys. The mean yearly applicant number per residency program was 571. Most programs indicated that they strictly adhere to their selection criteria (82%). The screening selection is made by the program director in 62%. Only 31% of programs show their selection criteria on their web page. United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) Step 1 is the single most important factor in screening criteria (37%), followed by USLME Step 2 (24%). A total of 96% of all programs have female residents, 66% have non-Liaison Committee on Medical Education graduates, and 38% have Doctor of Osteopathy (DO) residents. Final selection is made by the program director in 49%. Although research experience is considered in selection criteria (80%), only 46% of programs offer research opportunities to their residents and only 13% require 1-year of research. On a Likert 5-point scale, the interview is by far the most important factor (4.69), followed by Step 1 score (4.21), and letters of recommendation (4.02).


Even though all general surgery programs have a wide range of screening/selection criteria, USLME Step 1 is the single most important factor for preliminary screening, and the interview is the most important factor in determining the final selection. The final selection is relatively subjective and based on a combination of interview, USLME scores, research experience, and personal judgment.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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