Transparency in the Ophthalmology Residency Match: Background, Study, and Implications

Cureus. 2021 Nov 23;13(11):e19826. doi: 10.7759/cureus.19826. eCollection 2021 Nov.

Abstract

Background Medical students are applying to dramatically more ophthalmology residency programs than in the past, causing an increased administrative burden for programs and financial harm to students. This study considers the background of this situation and looks at how a lack of transparency surrounding potential residency match filters contributes. Furthermore, this study raises several potential solutions to this lack of transparency that may increase the functionality of the ophthalmology residency match. Objective The purpose of this study was to determine the availability and consistency of potential ophthalmology residency match filters through training program websites and the American Medical Association's (AMA) Residency & Fellowship Database (FREIDA). Methods This study was a cross-sectional observational study of ophthalmology residency program websites and AMA's FREIDA database entries. For 119 ophthalmology residency programs, five potential filters were evaluated for both availability and consistency on individual residency websites and FREIDA. These filters were: (1) whether a program required a minimum United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) Step 1 score; (2) minimum number of letters of recommendation required; 3) whether a minimum USMLE Step 2 score was required; (4) if the program accepts the Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Examination (COMLEX) sequence in lieu of the USMLE; and (5) ability of the residency to sponsor a visa (J-1, H-1B, or F-1). Each program's website and FREIDA entry were independently evaluated by two authors to increase validity, with a third author brought in to break the tie in case of a disagreement. Results Only two ophthalmology residency programs had information about all five filters both available and consistent on their website and FREIDA. Inter-reviewer reliability was 92.5%. Conclusions Information about potential filters used in the ophthalmology residency match is neither publicly available nor consistent. This lack of transparency may contribute to the phenomenon of medical students applying to dramatically more ophthalmology residency programs. A standardized database of these filters is needed to increase transparency to applicants, which may reduce the expenses of medical students and the workload of program directors.

Keywords: ophthalmology match; ophthalmology residency; residency filters; residency match; residency transparency; san francisco match.