Successfully matching into surgical specialties: an analysis of national resident matching program data

J Grad Med Educ. 2010 Sep;2(3):316-21. doi: 10.4300/JGME-D-09-00020.1.


Objective: We explored the impact that attributes of US medical school seniors have on their success in matching to a surgical residency, in order to analyze trends for National Resident Matching Program (NRMP) match outcomes in surgical specialties between 2007 and 2009.

Methods: Using Electronic Residency Application Service data and NRMP outcomes, we analyzed medical students' attributes and their effect in successfully matching students into residency positions in surgery, otolaryngology, orthopedic surgery, plastic surgery, and obstetrics and gynecology. Attributes analyzed included self-reported United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) Step 1 and Step 2 scores, Alpha Omega Alpha (AOA) Honor Medical Society membership, research experience, additional graduate degree status, and graduation from a top 40 National Institutes of Health (NIH)-funded medical school. Odds ratios were calculated for each criterion, and 95% confidence intervals were used to determine significance.

Results: Between 2007 and 2009, the number of surgical specialty residency positions increased by 86, and the number of applicants increased by 34. Membership in AOA, USMLE Step 1 and Step 2 scores, research experience, and graduation from a top 40 NIH-funded medical school frequently had a significant impact on residents successfully matching into many specialties, while additional graduate degrees had no effect on matching into surgical specialties (range 0.64 to 1.2).

Conclusions: Although the statistical significance varied across specialties, higher USMLE Step 1 and Step 2 scores, AOA membership, research experience, and graduation from a top 40 NIH-funded medical school generally had a positive impact on match success to surgical residency for US allopathic seniors. Test preparation and seeking research experience during undergraduate medical education may be effective approaches for increasing the likelihood of success for US seniors matching into a surgical specialty.