Gearing Up for the U.S. Medical Licensing Examination Step 1 Pass/Fail Transition, Evaluating the Role of Research Productivity as an Alternative During the Neurosurgical Residency Selection Process: An Overview

World Neurosurg. 2023 Jul;175:130-136.e2. doi: 10.1016/j.wneu.2023.04.051. Epub 2023 Apr 20.


Neurosurgery residency programs are the most competitive among the surgical specialties for applicants to match into. U.S. Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) step 1 scores are staple and pivotal in narrowing down applicants for granting interviews and ranking in the match process. The upcoming transition from a numeric to binary step 1 scoring shifts the emphasis on using the status quo Step 2 Clinical Knowledge numeric scoring as the only objective measure. It can prove insubstantial for accurate assessment of competencies, further urging residency programs to widen their selection protocols to allow multiple assessments of competency. Research experience has consistently proved to result in higher successful match rates, and a positive correlation is seen with the number of research publications and Hirsch indices. However, with a predicted emphasis on research with the shift in scoring practices, these tools provide inadequate insight into authorship, contributions, type of publications, and community impact, warranting the need to include supplementary modifications, surrogates, or alternatives to such tools for a more comprehensive and equitable assessment of research. This study summarizes the role of research in the neurosurgical match process, describes nuances in research evaluation, and introduces novel Hirsch indices and additional strategies to address these nuances for equitable evaluation of research productions.

Keywords: ERAS; H-index; Match; Research; Residency; Step 1; USMLE.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Authorship
  • Educational Measurement / methods
  • Humans
  • Internship and Residency*
  • Licensure, Medical
  • Neurosurgery* / education
  • Neurosurgical Procedures
  • United States