Otolaryngology Applicant Characteristics and Trends: Comparing OTO-HNS with Peer Specialties

Ann Otol Rhinol Laryngol. 2021 Jan 13;3489420987408. doi: 10.1177/0003489420987408. Online ahead of print.


Purpose: To evaluate the recent Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery (OTO-HNS) applicant characteristics, to identify which applicant characteristics are associated with successful match into OTO-HNS, and to compare OTO-HNS applicant trends and characteristics to that of peer surgical specialties (PS).

Materials and methods: Data were obtained from official reports by the National Residency Matching Program (NRMP) for OTO-HNS, plastic and reconstructive surgery, orthopedic surgery, neurosurgery, and dermatology from 2006 to 2019. Alpha Omega Alpha (AOA) membership, United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) scores, research productivity, graduation from a top-40 NIH-funded U.S. medical school, and additional graduate degree were recorded. Odds ratios (OR) were calculated to evaluate the relationship between applicant qualifications and match success.

Results: From 2014 to 2018, the OTO-HNS applicant pool shrunk from 443 to 333, representing the largest drop of all PS. Furthermore, OTO-HNS reported the most unfilled positions and highest match rates in 2017 (n = 14; 92.1%) and 2018 (n = 12; 94.6%) among any PS. Despite recent trends, 2019 NRMP data revealed a 38.74% increase in OTO-HNS applicant numbers compared to 2018. AOA membership (OR, 7.3; P = .030), USMLE Step 2 scores between 241 and 260 (OR, 6.5; P = .009), and research productivity (OR, 5.6; P = .005) significantly increased the odds of matching into OTO-HNS.

Conclusions: Despite recent fluctuations in application trends, OTO-HNS continues to successfully match highly qualified applicants, including applicants with AOA membership, high Step 2 scores, and high research productivity. An understanding of the qualifications used to evaluate residency applicants may be helpful to both applicants and residency programs of OTO-HNS.

Keywords: USMLE; match; otolaryngology; residency; residency selection.