Sunday 2 September 2012

Correlation Between Programs Inviting Applicant For Interview And Level Of Interest In The Specialty.

There are many things programs look into when they invite applicants for interviews prior to residency match. These factors, which denote the level of involvement and interest of the applicant in the specialty, are very important indicators of being successful in matching to the program of choice. 

The factors can be
  1. Specific documented proof
    1. Letters of recommendation from referees in specialty, like LOR from a psychiatrist if you are applying for psych residency. 
    2. Grades in the particular subject during your medical school training, for example your grades in Ob-gyn if you are a Ob-gyn applicant.
  2. Perceived commitment – this is usually from personal statement or other correspondence
  3. Clerkship experience – honors in the subject and elective away rotation.
  4. Perceived interest in the program itself

I generated a conditional heat map comparing these factors across multiple specialties using the data from NRMP program directors survey 2012. The result is depicted in figure 1 where the level of importance corresponds with the shade of orange, the darker the orange the more important it is for that factor and vice-verse.

Fig 1: Importance of commitment specific factors and program interview invitations

  1. Letter of recommendations from specialists in that field and specific to the subject is still the most important factor
  2. Amongst the subjects, Neurology, plastic, ENT (OTO), anesthesia and Neurosurgery (NSGY) placed the most importance on specialty specific LOR
  3. Surgical residencies placed more importance on the proof of commitment to the respective fields. As evidence by darker shades of orange in factors like honors in the subject, elective and away rotation in the subject etc.
  4. Emergency medicine (EM) placed an unusually heavy emphasis on level of commitment to EM for applicants applying to these programs
  5. Doing away rotations was most important for EM and neurosurgery, moderately important for Orthopedics, ENT, Plastic surgery, PM & RS and completely irrelevant for IM and Med-Peds.
  6. Pediatrics (PEDS) and internal medicine (IM) did not stress specialty specific commitment as compared to other programs.
  7. On the other hand Family medicine (FM) and psychiatry (PSYCH) emphasized significantly more on specialty specific LORs and perceive commitment to the fields.


Many factors are important and taken into consideration when interview invitations are sent out to residency applicants. Of these, factors that denote the overall interest of the applicant in the specialty do play an important role in increasing the chance of getting interviews. Given there are multiple subjects and there is a different stress on one aspect of the application than the other. It would be especially useful to know, which aspect of your application, the program is going to place more importance on. Likewise, if you have a particular strength in your application like strong letters from specialists or an away rotation in the particular subject, it would be very useful to know how you could put these strengths to best use. This analysis should help shed some light on the question and assist the residency candidate in optimizing his application. If you wish to be in touch and get the latest posts and updates, join me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter. Also Scroll below  for the most popular articles this week!


National Resident Matching Program, Data Release and Research Committee: Results of the 2012 NRMP Program Director Survey. National Resident Matching Program, Washington, DC. 2012.

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