Using a Consensus-Driven Approach to Incorporate Holistic Review Into an Internal Medicine Residency Program

J Grad Med Educ. 2023 Aug;15(4):469-474. doi: 10.4300/JGME-D-22-00637.1.


Background: Despite growing interest in incorporating holistic review within residency admissions, implementation by residency programs remains challenging.

Objective: To incorporate holistic review into the internal medicine residency program at the University of Wisconsin and to report initial feasibility and acceptability data.

Methods: During the 2020-2021 application cycle, residency stakeholders performed a consensus-driven process to identify highly valued applicant attributes. We used a holistic review process to identify the presence of these attributes among applicants and updated our rank list algorithm to incorporate these attributes. We modified our interview screening criteria and rank list algorithm to de-emphasize other metrics. We surveyed stakeholders to assess time required for this process and compared our final rank list to what it would have been using our prior system.

Results: The final list of 10 prioritized applicant attributes included extraordinary leadership, community service, and grit, among others. Among 25 matched residents, 8 (32%) were recognized to have exceptional achievement within one of these 10 attributes. Four members of the incoming intern class (16%) would have been in a rank position lower than our historical matched resident cutoff had they not received additional points for these attributes. Faculty reported that holistic review of applications took an additional 3.8 minutes on average. It was felt that current application materials limit the ability to implement a fully holistic review.

Conclusions: The addition of holistic review to our residency admissions process was achieved using a consensus-driven approach and showed favorable feasibility and acceptability data.

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Benchmarking
  • Consensus
  • Emotions
  • Humans
  • Internship and Residency*

Grants and funding

Funding: The authors report no external funding source for this study.