Impact of considering United States Medical Licensing Examination Step 1 pass/fail on diversity in dermatology residency recruitment

Clin Dermatol. 2022 Oct 15;S0738-081X(22)00130-4. doi: 10.1016/j.clindermatol.2022.10.004. Online ahead of print.

Abstract

The University of Chicago dermatology residency program considered the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) Step 1 pass/fail during the 2020-2021 application cycle with the goal of recruiting diverse dermatology residency candidates. We conducted a retrospective multiyear cross-sectional study among applicants to the dermatology residency program during the 2018-2019 and 2020-2021 application cycles, the latter excluding use of USMLE Step 1 cutoff scores as a screening tool. Of the applicants, 69.8% (n = 419) and 94.5% (n = 605) had their residency applications reviewed by our program during the 2018-2019 and 2020-2021 application cycles, respectively. There was a statistically significant upward trend in the number of underrepresented in medicine (URiM) applicants offered an interview from 10.4% (n = 5) to 37.7% (n = 20) across the application cycles. Multiple linear regression demonstrated there was a statistically significant decrease in the mean USMLE Step 1 score among applicants reviewed across application cycle and URiM status independently, and as a factor of their interaction (P = .016 and P = .001). By de-emphasizing the USMLE Step 1 score and using the test as originally intended, a marker for licensure, our program significantly increased the number of URiM applicants who were offered an interview and implemented a holistic review process focused on individual attributes and cultural competence.