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Financial Planning for the Plastic Surgery Residency Applicant

Vyas, Krishna S. M.D., M.H.S.; Mardini, Samir M.D.; Phillips, Linda G. M.D.; Gosman, Amanda A. M.D.; Vasconez, Henry C. M.D.

Author Information
Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery: February 2016 - Volume 137 - Issue 2 - p 497e–499e
doi: 10.1097/PRS.0000000000002118
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Every year at around this time, fourth year medical students and residents at various levels submit applications for residency or fellowship. Among the most common questions surrounding this process are how many programs to apply to and how much the process will cost. Geographic location, reputation, and other factors often guide the process of selection.1 The idea is apply to all programs that meet the criteria of being a place you would accept training, and once invited for an interview, you can decide which of these to accept.

It is critical for medical students to examine their finances and forecast costs to proactively save or to apply for additional loans. Unfortunately, few resources exist to provide information about costs, including application, travel, lodging, and food, due to a wide variability in terms of the number of programs to which applicants apply and the preferred mode of travel and accommodations.

Plastic surgery is one of the most competitive specialties and is unique in that it has both an integrated and an independent residency modality.2 In the integrated system, which is becoming more popular and widespread, applicants tend to apply to every integrated residency program. In the 2015 National Residency Match Program, 206 applicants vied for 148 integrated positions offered by 67 programs,3 and 100 percent of the spots were filled. In the 2015 San Francisco Match, 90 applicants applied for 70 independent positions, and 97 percent of the positions were filled.

When looking at matching in a residency as the outcome, the number of interview invitations and the number of interviews attended were analyzed to estimate the “magic number” of interviews to optimize the chances of a successful match.4 Respondents who attended more than five plastic surgery interviews had a 93 percent match rate, whereas attending more than 11 interviews resulted in a 100 percent match rate. Thirty-five percent of applicants attended more than 14 interviews. On the basis of this study, attending more than 11 interviews may not be worth the additional cost. This article also estimated that each interview costs $434, which can be helpful for creating a budget.

A 2010 survey of applicants to an integrated plastic surgery program reported a wide range of costs5; 27 percent spent between $2500 and $5000, 26 percent spent between $5000 and $7500, 23 percent spent between $7500 and $10,000, and 10 percent spent more than $10,000. Airfare contributed to the most significant expense. Many expenses are fixed, including program application cost (67 programs × $26 = $1742), U.S. Medical Licensing Examination transcript cost ($80), and Match fees ($65). However, interview-related costs, such as food, transportation, and lodging, are the most significant and most variable expense. Table 1 illustrates some tips designed to optimize savings for residency candidates.

Table 1
Table 1:
Recommendations to Reduce Travel Costs


The authors have no financial interest to declare in relation to the content of this article. No external funding was received.

Krishna S. Vyas, M.D., M.H.S.

Division of Plastic Surgery

Department of Surgery

University of Kentucky

Lexington, Ky.

Samir Mardini, M.D.

Division of Plastic Surgery

Department of Surgery

Mayo Clinic

Rochester, Minn.

Linda G. Phillips, M.D.

Division of Plastic Surgery

Department of Surgery

University of Texas Medical Branch

Galveston, Texas

Amanda A. Gosman, M.D.

Division of Plastic Surgery

Department of Surgery

University of California, San Diego

San Diego, Calif.

Henry C. Vasconez, M.D.

Division of Plastic Surgery

Department of Surgery

University of Kentucky

Lexington, Ky.


1. Atashroo DA, Luan A, Vyas KS, et al. What makes a plastic surgery residency program attractive? An applicant’s perspective. Plast Reconstr Surg. 2015;136:189–196
2. Nagarkar P, Pulikkottil B, Patel A, Rohrich RJ. So you want to become a plastic surgeon? What you need to do and know to get into a plastic surgery residency. Plast Reconstr Surg. 2013;131:419–422
3. . National Resident Matching Program, Results and Data: 2015 Main Residency Match. 2015 Washington, DC National Resident Matching Program
4. Claiborne JR, Crantford JC, Swett KR, David LR. The plastic surgery match: Predicting success and improving the process. Ann Plast Surg. 2013;70:698–703
5. Wood JS, David LR. Outcome analysis of factors impacting the plastic surgery match. Ann Plast Surg. 2010;64:770–774


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