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Applying to Integrated Plastic Surgery Residency Programs: Trends in the Past 5 Years of the Match

Weissler, E. Hope B.A.; Taub, Peter J. M.D.

Author Information
Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery: January 2017 - Volume 139 - Issue 1 - p 329e-331e
doi: 10.1097/PRS.0000000000002881
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Sir:

We applaud Tadisina et al.’s recent examination of trends in the plastic surgery residency Match.1 Their analysis highlights the continued high quality and quantity of plastic surgery applicants; they also note that applications are not increasing commensurate with the number of available residency spots. Although the analysis of Tadisina et al. was extremely thorough, National Resident Matching Program data cannot provide a denominator of previously—or potentially—interested students who did not apply to the Match, whether because of interest in other fields or legitimate or illegitimate concerns about their chances of matching.

There is some evidence that program directors,2 residents,3 and applicants4 think about plastic surgery in different, and sometimes conflicting, ways. Furthermore, understanding of the scope of plastic surgical practice has been shown to be low among U.S. medical students.5 In combination with the well-known competitiveness of the Plastic Surgery Match, these facts led us to be concerned that medical students might self-select out of pursuing plastic surgery because of poor understanding of the field and overwhelming anxiety about their fate in the Match. To begin assessing interest and participation in plastic surgery among first- and second-year medical students, we surveyed students at seven New York area medical schools through Plastic Surgery (or, where unavailable, General Surgery) Interest Groups.

Fifty-eight students responded, of which 46 were interested in training in plastic surgery. We found that participation in plastic surgery–related activities was low (0.61 average activities) regardless of whether the student’s medical school had an associated residency program. The most commonly noted reasons for pursuing plastic surgery were the opportunity to use one’s hands (average, 4.42 of 5) and the enjoyableness of the work (average, 4.05 of 5). The most commonly noted reasons to not pursue plastic surgery were the competitiveness of the Match (3.95 of 5) and a greater interest in other fields (3.46 of 5). Thirty-two students (70 percent) thought fine motor skills were among the top three most important attributes of a successful plastic surgeon, 12 felt reliability was paramount (26 percent), and 11 cited interpersonal skills (24 percent). Few students thought that honesty (n = 6) and leadership skills (n = 1) were among the top three most important attributes.

These results underscore the pervasive anxiety surrounding the Plastic Surgery Match. Considered in combination with the decreased relative number of applicants per spot reported in “Applying to Integrated Plastic Surgery Residency Programs: Trends in the Past 5 Years of the Match,” it seems reasonable to conjecture that this anxiety about the Match is stopping some students from applying. The high quality of plastic surgical applicants should not deter efforts to continue to ensure that highly qualified junior medical students consider careers in plastic surgery. Although by no means an exhaustive study, we hope our findings round out discussions of applicants to include more junior medical students as well.

DISCLOSURE

The authors have no financial interest to declare in relation to the content of this communication. There was no funding.

E. Hope Weissler, B.A.
Peter J. Taub, M.D.
Division of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery
Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai
New York, N.Y.

REFERENCES

1. Tadisina KK, Orra S, Bassiri Gharb B, Kwiecien G, Bernard S, Zins JE. Applying to integrated plastic surgery residency programs: Trends in the past 5 years of the match. Plast Reconstr Surg. 2016;137:13441353.
2. LaGrasso JR, Kennedy DA, Hoehn JG, Ashruf S, Przybyla AM. Selection criteria for the integrated model of plastic surgery residency. Plast Reconstr Surg. 2008;121:121e125e.
3. Tahiri Y, Lee J, Kanevsky J, Thibaudeau S, Gilardino M. The differing perceptions of plastic surgery between potential applicants and current trainees: The importance of clinical exposure and electives for medical students. Can J Plast Surg. 2013;21:178180.
4. Greene AK, May JW Jr. Applying to plastic surgery residency: Factors associated with medical student career choice. Plast Reconstr Surg. 2008;121:10491053; discussion 1054.
5. Kling RE, Nayar HS, Harhay MO, et al. The scope of plastic surgery according to 2434 allopathic medical students in the United States. Plast Reconstr Surg. 2014;133:947956.

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