Pearls of wisdom for aspiring physician-scientist residency applicants and program directors

JCI Insight. 2022 Mar 22;7(6):e158467. doi: 10.1172/jci.insight.158467.


Postgraduate physician-scientist training programs (PSTPs) enhance the experiences of physician-scientist trainees following medical school graduation. PSTPs usually span residency and fellowship training, but this varies widely by institution. Applicant competitiveness for these programs would be enhanced, and unnecessary trainee anxiety relieved, by a clear understanding of what factors define a successful PSTP matriculant. Such information would also be invaluable to PSTP directors and would allow benchmarking of their admissions processes with peer programs. We conducted a survey of PSTP directors across the US to understand the importance they placed on components of PSTP applications. Of 41 survey respondents, most were from internal medicine and pediatrics residency programs. Of all components in the application, two elements were considered very important by a majority of PSTP directors: (a) having one or more first-author publications and (b) the thesis advisor's letter. Less weight was consistently placed on factors often considered more relevant for non-physician-scientist postgraduate applicants - such as US Medical Licensing Examination scores, awards, and leadership activities. The data presented here highlight important metrics for PSTP applicants and directors and suggest that indicators of scientific productivity and commitment to research outweigh traditional quantitative measures of medical school performance.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Fellowships and Scholarships
  • Humans
  • Internship and Residency*
  • Physicians*
  • Research Personnel
  • Surveys and Questionnaires