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Invited Critique
May 2013

Characteristics of Highly Ranked Applicants to General Surgery Residency Programs: Are We Assessing the Right Criteria?Comment on “Characteristics of Highly Ranked Applicants to General Surgery Residency Programs”

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliations: Department of Surgery, University of Vermont College of Medicine, Fletcher Allen Health Care, Burlington, Vermont.

JAMA Surg. 2013;148(5):418. doi:10.1001/jamasurg.2013.2333

The annual ritual of screening Electronic Residency Application Service applications, reading personal statements, and interviewing candidates to create a ranking for the residency match is time consuming and may be frustrating if a program does not match with its top candidates. Perhaps most concerning to the process is that some of our most highly ranked candidates actually do not perform well as residents, and a few fail completely.

Stain et al1 identified the characteristics of the top-ranked candidates at 22 different programs. It is not surprising that academic performance was the most important factor and that personal statements were not useful for the final ranking. Perhaps the most important part of their study is their description of limitations, including many applicant characteristics not evaluated in this study that may be important for successful completion of a residency program and ultimate success as a surgeon.