A Focused Gap Year Program in Orthopaedic Research: An 18-Year Experience

J Am Acad Orthop Surg. 2020 Jul 15;28(14):e620-e625. doi: 10.5435/JAAOS-D-19-00424.


Introduction: Students seek gap years to enhance knowledge and improve chances of professional success. Although many institutions offer research opportunities, no studies have examined outcomes after these experiences. This study evaluates a dedicated year of orthopaedic research on a cohort's ultimate orthopaedic surgery match rate.

Methods: From 2001 to 2018, 129 learners spent a year with our Department of Orthopedic Surgery at a major academic medical center. The students were either completing a gap year after college, during or after medical school, or after an unsuccessful match. Participants were asked to respond to a survey, which included demographics, educational information, and metrics related to the program. For the subcohort of students who ranked orthopaedic surgery, the match rate was compared with the mean for the US orthopaedic surgery match rates from 2006 to 2018 using a chi-square analysis. In addition, a Mann-Whitney U test was used to compare the number of publications before and after the year.

Results: One hundred three students (80%) returned completed questionnaires. Of all learners who applied to and ranked orthopaedic surgery, 91% matched into an orthopaedic surgery residency program. These results compared favorably with the US orthopaedic match from 2006 to 2018 (67.9%; P < 0.001), despite a 4-point lower United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) Step 1 score for the research cohort. Finally, the research cohort had a greater percentage of women (23%) and minorities (40%) than the proportion of woman and minority practicing orthopaedic surgeons.

Conclusion: Students who completed a gap year in research matched into orthopaedics at a higher rate than the national average, despite a lower Step score. Mentors may also target traditionally underrepresented groups to help increase the pool of diverse applicants.

MeSH terms

  • Cohort Studies
  • Education, Medical / methods*
  • Education, Medical / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Internship and Residency
  • Mentors
  • Orthopedic Procedures / education*
  • Orthopedics / education*
  • Students, Medical / statistics & numerical data*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Time Factors