Tuong W, Fazel N, Eisen DB. Factors Influencing Applicants’ Ranking of Dermatology Residency Programs in the National Resident Matching Program. JAMA Dermatol. 2015;151(12):1378-1380. doi:10.1001/jamadermatol.2015.3363
Applying for a dermatology residency is a highly competitive process.1 One study indicated that dermatology residency selection committees evaluate multiple aspects of the applicants, including performance during the interview, letters of recommendation, Step I score on the United States Medical Licensing Examination, and medical school transcripts.1 However, the factors that dermatology residency applicants consider when creating their rank lists are not well characterized in the literature, to the best of our knowledge. Studies performed in other medical specialties indicate that applicants take various factors into account when ranking residency programs, such as geographical location of a program or personal interactions with staff, faculty, and residents.2- 4 We sought to identify factors that are important to dermatology residency applicants when choosing a program for further training. Identifying mutable factors that applicants deem important may help residency programs highlight key attributes of their program and attract the most qualified candidates.
The study obtained exemption status from the University of California, Davis, Institutional Review Board; it was deemed exempt from the requirements of written consent because it was a survey study. All 448 National Residency Matching Program applicants to the University of California, Davis, dermatology residency program during the 2014-2015 cycle were contacted via email for study participation after submission of their rank lists. The email described the purpose of the survey and contained a link to the survey website (SurveyMonkey). Emails were sent from February 26 to March 19, 2015, after applicants and residency programs had finalized their rank lists, and the survey was closed before match day. In addition to collecting demographic data, we asked participants to rank on a 6-point Likert scale (0, not applicable; 5, very important) various factors that may influence their rank-ordered lists. Twenty-nine factors were included in the questionnaire and were modeled after a study that Huntington et al2 performed in the specialty of orthopedic surgery.
All statistical analyses were conducted using SPSS, version 20.0 (IBM). Means and standard deviations are used to present factors influencing the rank-ordered lists. Demographic data are presented with frequencies and percentages. Analysis was conducted May 29, 2015.
The response rate was 47.3% (212 of 448). Demographic data of the dermatology residency applicants are presented in Table 1. The 4 factors considered most important to applicants were the perceived happiness of current residents (mean [SD] score, 4.63 [0.69]), personal interactions with faculty during the interview (4.44 [0.75]), personal interactions with residents during the interview (4.30 [0.86]), and the interview experience (4.25 [0.82]) (Table 2). The 4 factors considered least important to applicants appear to be the needs or preferences of the applicant’s spouse or significant other (2.92 [1.83]), salary or cost of living (2.92 [1.13]), vacation time (2.46 [1.13]), and postinterview contact by the program (2.18 [1.55]).
To our knowledge, relatively little is known regarding what factors applicants to dermatology residencies consider when determining their rank lists. Identifying the factors that are important to applicants may allow dermatology residency programs to better recruit the most ideal candidates. This point is particularly salient given that 3 of the 4 most important factors are modifiable (ie, personal interactions with faculty during the interview, personal interactions with residents during the interview, and the interview experience). Specifically, the interview at certain institutions can be a high-stress situation that may leave a negative impression and deter highly qualified and desirable graduates. Programs may seek to improve the interview experience by fostering positive, meaningful interactions between applicants and faculty and residents.
Our results should be interpreted within the context of the study design. All data were collected from 1 institution and may not be generalizable to all applicants to dermatology residencies. Further qualitative research may be performed among residency applicants to ascertain specific ways that programs can improve the interview experience to attract the highest-quality dermatology residency candidates.
Accepted for Publication: July 30, 2015.
Corresponding Author: Daniel B. Eisen, MD, Department of Dermatology, School of Medicine, University of California, Davis, 3301 C St, Ste 1400, Sacramento, CA 95816 (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Published Online: October 21, 2015. doi:10.1001/jamadermatol.2015.3363.
Author Contributions: Drs Eisen and Tuong had full access to all the data in the study and take responsibility for the integrity of the data and the accuracy of the data analysis.
Study concept and design: All authors.
Acquisition, analysis, or interpretation of data: Tuong, Eisen.
Drafting of the manuscript: Tuong, Eisen.
Critical revision of the manuscript for important intellectual content: All authors.
Statistical analysis: Tuong.
Study supervision: Fazel, Eisen.
Conflict of Interest Disclosures: None reported.
Additional Contributions: Negar Foolad, BA, MAS, and Lam Nguyen, BA, Department of Dermatology, School of Medicine, University of California, Davis, provided administrative assistance with the study. They are compensated by the University of California, Davis.