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Invited Commentary
June 2018

Unverifiable Publications on Residency Applications

Author Affiliations
  • 1Wilmer Eye Institute, The Johns Hopkins Hospital, Baltimore, Maryland
JAMA Ophthalmol. 2018;136(6):635-636. doi:10.1001/jamaophthalmol.2018.0853

Each year, more than 700 physicians from around the world register for, and more than 600 participate in, the United States Ophthalmology Match, vying for approximately 460 residency positions.1 The average participant applies to about 70 programs, many of which receive more than 400 applications for 5 to 8 positions.1 The buyer’s market for most ophthalmology programs creates a challenge for program and applicant. There is great pressure for academic programs to identify applicants most likely to fulfill their mission to train the next generations of leaders in the field of ophthalmology. The surfeit of candidates for a limited number of residency positions necessitates that the applicant, particularly one interested in an academic ophthalmology residency program like Vanderbilt’s, emphasize the attributes that suggest a commitment to an academic career in ophthalmology. Although college and medical school grades, US Medical Licensing Examination scores, evidence of community service, and recommendation letters remain important criteria for selecting applicants to interview and rank, first authorship of at least 1 peer-reviewed ophthalmology publication during undergraduate training or medical school (but not during a PhD or master’s program or research year) has been shown to predict future academic productivity.2,3 Thus, it is not surprising that some applicants knowingly exaggerate their involvement in research publications. In addition, a manuscript submitted for publication and referenced in a residency application may not be accepted for publication or may require a major revision after the applicant is no longer involved in the project, leading to a change in the order of authorship. Finally, some articles are submitted to journals not indexed in the common databases such as PubMed; this does not mean that the article is not peer reviewed and important.